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Agvocacy sets it straight
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Agvocacy sets it straight

Ask the Farmers: Refuting myths, giving facts on agriculture

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My family recently experienced an agvocacy win.

These wins are rare and special. All too often, a non-farming person’s interest in crops or livestock is limited to a couple of hours, maybe some social media interaction or “likes” on Facebook pages.

I’m one of the Ask the Farmers group volunteers who answers agriculture questions posed in all social media, by email or on the askthefarmers.com website and blog.

Agvocacy is intended to dispel myths, misconstrued facts or outright misinformation about agriculture. Sometimes discussions get awfully heated. People can be real jerks when they’re relatively anonymous on the Internet.

Other volunteers can handle ag questions posed in fast-moving social media with far more equanimity than I can.

But I love email questions. For one thing, people usually are serious and friendly in email.

Email also offers the luxury of time. It takes me a while to distill my thoughts, then compose and edit a query or response.

When the group got an email question from a Nebraskan asking Nebraska crop questions, I was excited to have an opportunity to answer.

Omaha resident Leslie Kwasnieski wrote in August, “My husband and I just finished a rather long drive across the state of Nebraska where the only thing we had to talk about was the crops we were passing. It was a wonderful time but we have so many questions!”

They had taken Highway 2 from northwest to southeast, along the Sandhills, as part of the Nebraska Passport Program. The 2015 program included 80 stops scattered across the state, easily 3,500 miles.

A web search helped Leslie find Ask the Farmers online as a place to ask questions.

She wrote to ask about irrigation practices, corn plant stature and aerial chemical application. I’m no agronomist and, in fact, a farmer’s wife and not a farmer, but these are things I can speak about with confidence.

I’m pretty sure Leslie didn’t expect my 1,000-word response. I might be an introvert, but I’m sure a wordy introvert.

Hosting a visit

On Oct. 23 — 2½ months and 26 emails later — Leslie and her husband, Mark, pulled into our front yard.

Our corn wasn’t quite dry enough for picking, but my husband Jeremy’s longtime friend, Kelly Anderson, and his dad, Eddie, were picking corn at their home place north of Loomis and were glad to have visitors for the afternoon.

Mark climbed up in the combine with Kelly and Leslie got in the truck with Eddie. After a couple of hours, they traded places.

Kelly and Eddie are great people to visit if you have questions. Their longtime family operation includes crops and a small feedyard. It currently supports three generations of Andersons.

Kelly explained how the cornhead and combine worked. Eddie talked about the grain leg at the bin site and the cattle in the feedlot.

At the end of the afternoon, the Kwasnieskis came back to our house. We shared a meal and talked crops, cattle, canning, gardening and kids. They have two sweet grandbabies in Omaha.

We agreed to meet up again the following day, before they headed home to Omaha, for a quick tour of a pasture near Smithfield where my husband’s cows and calves graze for the summer.

Open to learn

Leslie supervises a science lab on a Metro Community College campus and teaches night classes. Mark works in telecommunications at West Corporation and also is pursuing an IT degree.

Although their jobs are not ag-related, our visitors are not strangers to south-central Nebraska. They visit Crane Meadows or Rowe Sanctuary, or both, each spring during crane migration season. Leslie is a Nebraska Master Naturalist and teaches for that program as well.

They knew where to find answers to questions about nature and wildlife. However, their curiosity extended to the machines and the crops they saw only as passers-by.

Meeting them was an immensely rewarding experience for me, my husband, the Andersons and the Kwasnieskis.

To have people with genuine curiosity and interest in the agriculture in their backyard to the point of taking two days out of their lives to come see it — what good fortune!

We see Nebraska agriculture every day and experience the plant-grow-harvest cycle every year.

Showing it to others reinforces how fortunate we are to have the opportunity to grow crops and cattle, and to have our children involved in an agriculture background.

Freelance editor and designer Karen Nelson writes four times a year from her rural Phelps County home. She welcomes comments and discussion at soilsandstreams@gmail.com.

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