Hi, my name is Courtney and I'm a city girl that's infiltrating the world of agriculture. Last week I worked the Calcium Products booth at the Iowa Power Farming Show and had a few observations to share.
But first, lest you think I'm kidding about the 'city girl' label, you should know that I've never NOT lived in an urban or suburban area. Even though I went to college here in Iowa and graduated with a few majors they were all in the journalism and design fields. The things I currently grow, or have grown, all fit in a backyard garden plot or a lovely counter or porch pot. Much to the consternation of my farm-raised husband, I call everything from a riding mower to a combine a "tractor." I was hired by Calcium Products to help with marketing and to promote our homeowner line of products. But because we're a small company and we all fill in where needed I've been learning more about ag.
So, without delay, here's a few things I learned at my first farm show:
1. While most crops flourish the 6.5-6.8 pH range, as home lawns do, alfalfa tends to like a tad higher alkalinity.
2. Farmers are loyal to the brands they love. I didn't even know there were so many options for logo-branded merchandise! I don't think I saw a single person sans logo or name of an ag-related company. I even saw one strapping lad in John Deere hat, shirt and belt buckle — I get it, you bleed green & gold!
3. Even if your soil is naturally neutral or alkaline, the regular application of P&K will acidify it. Often a regular low-dose application of our SuperCal 98G lime will help keep things balanced.
4. Men really are just little boys with toys, they're just bigger. Walking through the large equipment room of the show made me feel about ant-sized. Holy canoli, those are giant tractors! (teasing, teasing!)
5. Many fields are sulfur-deficient. With cleaner air, our soil isn't pulling sulfur from the environment like it used to so we need to add it (via our SuperCal SO4 is a good way!).
6. While everyone is loving this extremely warm/dry winter, we're all worrying about the drought. Did you know regular application of gypsum helps your soil be most efficient with the water it has?
7. Farmers can't get enough pocket-sized notebooks.
8. The ag community is extremely welcoming and friendly. So many folks attend shows just to chat and make new friends.
9. The number one most shocking thing I learned - so many farmers aren't soil testing. They have no idea what nutrients their soil (and therefore their crops) are lacking. They have no idea what their pH range is. This truly blew my mind. I heard so many reasons/excuses/theories I was aghast. One person was applying amendments based on their neighbor's soil tests (from now on I'm going to borrow my neighbor's grocery shopping list. I'm sure it'll be the same thing I need, right?). One guy said he applies ag lime every year even though he hasn't tested in years and had no idea what his pH is. I asked why waste the money since he might not even need it and he said he likes the tax deduction. (Weird, I'd prefer to save money and improve yield!) Several people said they only apply what they apply every year; no changes ever. (If you ate the exact same meal every day, every year, would you get all the nutrients your body needed?) And the story I heard repeatedly that still amazes me - farmers applying based on a soil test from YEARS ago. (If my husband and I applied that same practice to our rental property business, we could just buy 20 faucets this year because that's what we needed in 2006?)
What other things will shock me as I learn more about agriculture?