Friday, December 13, 2013


I received a New Leader Award last night from the Iowa Soybean Association (sponsored by DuPont Pioneer). I am very honored and humbled to get it. But, I'd like to talk about everyone in my life that has made a difference and been a leader to me.

Obviously it starts at my roots: my grandparents and parents. They were the ones to teach me about hard work, humility, commitment, and faith.

I've had a lot of mentors in school along the way that have reminded me for every step back, you must start over and take that step forward again.

My friends and peers. They've taught me to believe in the good in the world and to BE the good in the world. They have taught me to use critical thinking skills. To think about the big picture to further yourself. To educate yourself.

My husband and kids. They are teaching me that all that I will ever try and work for is worth it. They are my blood, love, and life.  (Note the beginning and end are my family. Those closest to me.)

I may have the tools to be a leader in agriculture, but I can't be a leader without any of the above. This award means I have a lot of hard work ahead of me. This is only the beginning.

I am motivated to become a leader. 

Blair Family-2

Photo courtesy of Joe Murphy, Iowa Soybean Association

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Letters to Santa

Christmas is getting closer.  I am excited, and the kids are too!  However, they are excited for completely different reasons.  I am excited about family time, food, and celebrating the true meaning of Christmas:  the birth of Jesus.  They are excited about PRESENTS! 

We wrote our letters to Santa tonight: 

Charlotte is kind of on track (minus the happy birthday :)).  And, look carefully, because I can definitely see Rudolph in this picture!:

2013-12 Christmas List Charlotte

Wyatt seems to know exactly what he wants (can you tell he’s a farm boy???):

2013-12 Christmas List Wyatt

I am glad that the kids are excited for Christmas!  It makes this time of year very exciting!  Now, it’s time to think about baking…mmm…

What do you do around Christmas time to keep it about others and giving?

Wednesday, November 27, 2013


Happy Thanksgiving! I have a lot to be thankful for. Everything I've been given and work for is worth giving thanks.

   My family: they continue to teach me life lessons and love me every day.

   My friends: they are wonderful and will always be there for me.

   My husband: my best friend.

   My children: the love of my life, forever.

   My faith: which was formed and proven by all of those above.

Another thing that I am very thankful for this holiday season is the fact that I have a safe food source to choose from every day. I live in a place where I don't have any insecurities about the food I buy.

I am for my life. Happy Thanksgiving to you all, and remember to give thanks to Him:

   "for in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and    invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities -- all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together." -Colossians 1:16-17


2013-10 Kids


Monday, November 11, 2013

Iowa Soybean Association Environmental Discovery Tour

Happy Veterans Day!  I am thankful for all of those who have served, and who are serving for our freedom.

Harvest is complete!!!  Corn was finished up on November 3rd.  However, just because harvest is over, does not mean that we are ‘done.’  It actually means that the next crop year has just begun!  Now that our 2013 crop is officially harvested, we now start preparations for our 2014 crop. We've put on manure for fertilizer and tillage has begun. 

2013 11 04 Strip Till BLOG                                        Strip Tillage

2013 11 02 Strip Till                  Strip Tillage

2013 11 08 Disk Rip BLOGDisk Ripping

In late October we were able to be a part of the Iowa Soybean Association Environmental Discovery Tour. This tour was presented by the Iowa Soybean Association and Agriculture's Clean Water Alliance.  This tour included about 50 politicians, reporters and city officials.  The idea was to get these participants out to a real farm to see what tools we have been using to protect water quality by using some tools that are part of the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy. It was a wonderful tour! For this group to take their entire day to meet and visit with us about our farm shows me that they too, are committed to protecting water quality. 

Our focus of the tour was to show how manure and the Iowa Soybean Association's On-Farm Network ® correlate to water quality on our farm.  We enjoy doing tours like this we want to tell our story. Plus, we can get a better idea of what concerns consumers (or in this instance - Water Quality Experts and Legislators) might have. 

We believe it's important that we take the "voluntary" approach to the Nutrient Reduction Strategy seriously.  Now is the time to figure out and to show that we care about water quality and we are committed to this strategy.  However, this is also a time to step up and work together with all point and nonpoint sources to reduce nutrients in our waters.  We feel that if water quality is not improved in the state within a few years the voluntary Nutrient Reduction Strategy will become a mandatory Nutrient Reduction Strategy through legislation. This is a very important opportunity for farmers to show that we don't need legislation to make changes, and that we are willing to help improve water quality.   

Some of the highlights from our part of the tour included:

  • We have moved to no till and reduced tillage to help protect soil from erosion as well as increase soil health.
  • We test the nutrients in the manure and the soil to prevent over application.
  • We use cover crops to limit nutrient runoff and leaching.
  • We focus on the right rate, right timing, right placement and right source of nutrients.
  • We use technology to plan our nutrient applications, to apply those nutrients, and to evaluate those decisions. 
  • Manure is not a ‘waste’ product.  It is a fertilizer that we use and is carefully planned and placed for the crop needs. 
  • Our operation is constantly changing as we learn about how we affect water quality and what we can do to help protect it. 
  • A large part of what we do on our farm is evaluating our current farming practices and looking for ways to improve upon it. 

Below are some articles about the tour :)

Iowa Soybean Association:  Environmental Discovery Tour

The Daily Freeman - Journal:  Taking a one-water approach

DTN Progressive Farmer:  Discovering Conservation 

Brownfield:  Tour examines Iowa farmers' efforts to improve environment

Monday, October 28, 2013

Outdoor Observations

Okay. My goal was to do a post for my blog once a month. I'll change that goal to once a month on average. :)

Harvest for us began on September 27th. The bean crop is harvested, and we are already over half way done with corn. The harvest isn't as bountiful as we hoped, but it is a harvest. The kids and I are trying to enjoy all of the beautiful fall days that we can (and while the sun is still out!).


So, the real reason I haven't posted is because I didn't think I had much to post about. Well, now I am behind because there is a lot to post about!

We were able to be involved with a Water Quality Tour last week (this will be my next post :)), and it was great! That is what kicked off me getting inspired to write again!  Then, over the weekend my Mom came up and I started on my Christmas Shopping List (BOOM).  While I was obviously busy, AJ was out putting on fertilizer with our strip till bar (another post…). Today, I was lucky enough to help keep an eye on….(drumroll please)….MANURE APPLICATION! On the farm, this is what I get excited for!

A few facts:

  • The manure from our hog building is 'liquid.'
  • We take samples and send them into a lab to see what nutrients are in our manure (think of it like the nutrition labels on your food).
  • We then follow rates that are calculated on a per acre basis from that analysis.
  • We do not apply the manure ourselves. We hire a custom manure applicator who need to be certified through the state to apply manure.
  • This year we applied the manure by dragline. This just means we pumped the manure through a hose directly from the pit to the field (see below pictures).
  • While pumping the manure, the pit is being agitated (stirred). 
    • This can release dangerous gasses, so no person is to enter the barn. We went over every 2 hours today to check on the pigs and make sure they were okay by peeking through the curtain from the outside of the barn.


Here they are pumping directly out of the pit.


                        The hose that leads from the pit to the tractor.


                 Manure application in action :)


Agitation pump

Manure is a big reason we decided to have livestock on our farm. By using those nutrients, we don't need to purchase as much commercial fertilizer. It gives us a more sustainable farm by creating a circular process: the crops feed the animals, the animal manure fertilize the crops, and so on.

If you have forgotten what I do, don't forget my blog post: I Work With Manure. I'm lucky to "bring my work home with me." ;) 

What questions do you have about manure application?

Monday, September 2, 2013

Summer Days

I hope you all had a great Labor Day weekend.  I know we did!  We started off by going to the Dayton Rodeo on Friday night.  The kids loved it!  On Saturday morning Wyatt and AJ cleaned out the cattle barn while Charlotte and I went to Dayton to walk for the Cowboy 5k for Kathlynn.  It was warm, but well worth it!  Saturday afternoon and evening we went down to the Iowa State vs. UNI football game with the Iowa Farm Bureau Young Farmer Program.  It was a great time, I just wish I could say we had a better outcome to the game.  :(  Sunday we went to Sioux City to celebrate my annual (dad’s side) family  Christmas (yes, I said Christmas!).  Today we finished up with the Dayton Labor Day Rodeo Parade and lunch at our place with family.  I crashed this afternoon, but luckily it was with the windows WIDE open.  What a gorgeous day! 

This next week is also a big one:  Wyatt starts preschool.  Mamma is having trouble believing her little boy is THAT grown up, so say a prayer for me!  I will also finish up my last session of my Ag-Urban Leadership Initiative.  I’m so sad it is ending, but I’ve met WONDERFUL people!  I will be posting more about the program and my classmates’ projects sometime soon! 

Like always, the farm has been keeping us busy.  Our normal summer tasks include:  crop scouting, equipment repair, riding beans, spraying and I’m sure others!  However, this year (because it’s been such and ‘interesting’ year) we’ve been tiling! 

Normally, we try to put in some tile every year.  However, we have never tiled through standing crop before!  The reason we tile is to help our ground be more productive and produce greater yields.  Our soils are very heavy wet soils.  By tiling, we are able to plant earlier because the soil dries out and warms up faster.  With tiled fields we don’t have as many drowned out spots as we would without it either.  This year we can actually see where the tiled areas are in our crop fields.  We are also able to do more soil conservation practices because of the tile.  Strip tillage and no till doesn’t work well in wetter acres.  Tiling takes a lot of time but is important.  We continue to learn about installing tile with water quality in mind. 

Harvest will be here before we know it.  So the combine is out and getting all the TLC it needs before we start it up and get running out in the field. 

2013 08 26 Tiling in beans BLOG

2013 08 26 Tiling in beans 3 BLOG

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

4 Years Ago Today…

My baby boy turned FOUR YEARS OLD today!  He is becoming such a neat person.  I'm so proud! I'm also so sad it's gone so fast. I'm trying to hold onto the 'moments' when I can, but even when I do it seems like they still slip by so quickly.  I know it'll only get faster from here on out.

He was definitely spoiled for his birthday, and he most likely always will be.  But, I hope he remembers the fun with friends and family that we get to have too!  We got to have a birthday party at my mom and dads (along with my aunt and his cousin who also have birthdays on August 14th!), a party at daycare, and a party at home with AJs parents!  After our bedtime routine and him breaking down crying because he wanted to wear his new underwear (yup, I wrapped underwear…), I decided he is worn out.  :)  

Here are some fun facts about my big little boy:

  • His chores include:  feeding the dogs (on the weekend), setting the table for meals, and taking his plate to the kitchen after meals.
  • His likes include: FARMING, Charlotte, Iowa State Cyclones, mud, and water.
  • He really doesn’t have a lot of dislikes.  The main one is the Iowa Hawkeyes.  Seriously, I just tell him we like the Cyclones and he is the one that says "eww…Hawkeyes."  ;)
  • We are reading The Little House in the Big Woods right now and he loves it. 
  • His favorite toys are his tractors.  His latest pretending is to go 'power wash' the tractors in the sink.

Obviously I think he’s pretty neat, and of course I know I’m biased.  :) 

Happy Birthday Wyatt!!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Soyfoods Council Tour at the Blair Farm

We had a WONDERFUL tour out on our farm the other day. The Soyfoods Council had a group of dietitians, bloggers, authors, editors, and consumers from across the U.S. come to our farm! It was awesome to have people come and ask us questions about our farm.  I was honored to get to have them here.  I have a lot of respect for the people that came. It was really great to know that they want to learn where their food is coming from.  Another cool part of the tour was when they got a ride in our Caterpillar tractor.  AJ had it set up with auto steer to drive around the farm yard. 

Our main points we felt we wanted to give were the fact that technology really changes the way we farm. GPS helps us to precisely place fertilizer, spray chemical, and reduce compaction (by keeping the wheel tracks in the same place each time we go across a field). GPS also allows us to keep records for reference and documentation. This is important for us to learn from year to year of what has worked and what hasn't worked out in the field (by the use of yield maps, aerial photos, etc.). We don't just slather the farm in chemical or fertilizer. We need to understand where we place inputs and what the results are.

Another important point that we wanted to make was about the choices we get to make. The tour group went to a presentation on the science of GMOs before coming to our farm. On our farm, we grow both GMO and non-GMO crops. There is a market for both. There is a lot of controversy over GMO vs. non-GMO.  Farmers prefer to choose what works best on their farm.  We have the choice to use different types of tillage, different types of seed, different types of housing for our livestock, and the list goes on!

What questions do you have about agriculture?

The following photos are courtesy of Matthew Wilde, Senior Writer, Iowa Soybean Association.











Friday, June 28, 2013

Conservation in Action Tour

First, here is an update on what has been happening on the farm: 

  1. Planting:  We finished up planting soybeans on Saturday, June 22nd. Thank goodness! It's in God's hands now!
  2. We loaded pigs out of our barn yesterday.  340 (not so little) piggies went to the market! :) 
  3. We’ve been keeping up on the spraying in between rains.
  4. We are finishing up side-dressing anhydrous to our corn.

Yesterday, I got to attend a "Conservation in Action" tour in Kossuth County. The tour was just that: tours of real farmers that implement real conservation practices on their farms. We saw:

  • Wetlands
    • The wetlands we looked at were in different conservation programs, but the basic concept is that they help create a reservoir to hold water and filter out excess nutrients (so they don’t flow downstream). 

2013-06-27 Conservation in Action Wetland BLOG

  • Hog Facilities
    • The farmers use all of the manure generated from the pigs as their main nutrient source for crop growth on their farms. Along with those nutrients, they also have a plan that shows an estimate of how much soil is eroded off of each field (called the RUSLE2) and the risk of phosphorus loss on each field (called the P-Index). They are required to meet certain levels to apply manure.
  • High Tunnel Greenhouse
    • This greenhouse was funded through EQIP (Environmental Quality Incentives Program) through NRCS (Natural Resource Conservation Service). Vegetables are grown in it and sold locally. I wish I could grow and maintain a garden like her!

2013-06-27 Conservation in Action High Tunnel BLOG

  • Windbreaks
    • The windbreaks we saw were mostly used around their livestock facilities. Windbreaks help protect the livestock from wind/snow, create a filter for odor/dust (so it doesn't blow off-site), and (in my opinion) make the farms look pretty!
  • Strip Tillage
    • Strip Tillage is a reduced tillage program. It is a combination of conventional tillage (leaving little residue on the top of the soil) and no-till (leaving all the residue on the soil). It literally leaves a strip of soil to plant in, while the inner rows have trash/residue to prevent soil loss.

2013-06-27 Conservation in Action High Strip Till Bar BLOG

There were more conservation practices talked about, but these were some of the highlights. On our own farm we have a wetland; we use the same principles and practices as the hog facilities mentioned above; we have implemented windbreaks; and we utilize strip tillage.

Conservation is not a "one size fits all" package. Iowa is diverse in landscape which also means that while some practices work here, they may not work for someone else. We work with others and learn from one another (the good and the bad) because we have love and passion for our land.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

This is the Spring that Never Ends….(Name that tune!)

Okay, okay.  It will end.  I have no doubt about that.  However, it seems that planting is taking quite a while this year! 

We started planting corn on May 14th (Three Cheers for Planting).  We finished corn on May 24th and started planting soybeans that same day.  We still have quite a few soybeans left to plant. 

AJ was out today getting random acres planted to soybeans.  There are still a lot of wet areas in our fields, so we are trying to get the dry areas planted at the very least.  This mostly means more driving and turning around than actual planting! 

2013-06-20 Planting BLOG

On the acres that are dry and planted, we are side-dressing anhydrous and spraying both corn and beans (for weeds). 

2013-06-20 Side-Dressing BLOG

Of course we are getting in the tractor as much as we possibly can.  I have to compete with some pretty cute kids, and have only gotten to ride a couple of times this spring! 

2013-06-19 Tractor Ride BLOG

I know that we are not the only farmers with a long, drawn out spring.  I also understand that it could be worse.  The only way to stay sane farming is to count our blessings every day.  It’s amazing and beautiful to watch them grow.

2013-06-20 Blog Collage

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

World Pork Expo 2013

2013 06 05 Welcome to the WPX BLOG

I am able to attend the World Pork Expo every year and have been for 7 years now.  The WPX is like the state fair all about pork with attendees from all around the world. 

I can’t really tell you for sure what everyone else in the industry does at the expo, but I can give you an idea of what I do while there.

Like I’ve said before, I Work With Manure.  When I attend the expo, I’m mainly going for my job…and to get a free meal consisting mainly of pork. :)  We normally get an idea of what other companies we work with will be down there and whether or not we can meet up with some of them.  It’s a really good time to be able to catch up on some random tasks/projects that we’d all rather talk about in person.  So, even though there is a lot to see, this is a lot of what we do:

2013 06 05 WPX 01 BLOG

We talk.  We network. We learn.  Every year there are a lot of new technologies, research, ideas, etc. that we talk about and try to figure out what works best for us.  I can’t (and won’t) speak for everyone in the pork industry, but as I walk around the show it is pretty clear that a lot of thought goes into the people, the pigs, and the environment. 

I’m proud to be a pork producer!

2013 06 05 WPX 03 BLOG

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Walk By Faith

In the past week and a half my community has come together in prayer, volunteer efforts, and so much more for something that this small town never would have thought of happening. Two girls were abducted. One amazing girl (12 years old) got away. The other amazing girl (15 years old) is still missing (if you want to find out more about this story, I’d suggest the Dayton Leader on Facebook, or KCCI). 

I have been a wreck. I feel so helpless.

However, among the bad feelings - there is such a wonderful outpouring of great people in (and out) of this community. To know that so many people have come together to send thoughts and prayers to all the families involved in this is heartwarming. I'm thankful of the good that I am seeing. I'm thankful for faith, hope, and love.

I’m trying to Walk By Faith

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

3 Cheers for Planting!

Finally, we are out in the field!  Alright, I'm a day late…I'll never claim to be perfect! :)

So, I have a confession: I myself haven't been out to any field yet!  *GASP*  The most I've seen of the planter is here:

2013 05 14 Planting is started Blog

Yup, spring is officially here!

We've had our issues with getting everything to work well out in the field (I should say AJ has had his issues – I just hear about them later on).  From little wires that can prevent an entire 24 row planter from planting, to the GPS not working like it should.  We have kinks every spring, and just keep moving to get the crop in the ground!  Isn't that a lot like life?

The weather has turned nice enough to play outside.  FINALLY.  So, the kids and I have kept ourselves busy in Grandma Becky's garden, the sandbox, and the backyard!  Their bathwater is plenty dirty, and we are ALL tired by bedtime.  I love being on the farm!!

2013 05 07 Back yard swinging 01 Blog

Happy Planting :)

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Preparing for Spring Planting

Planting has been set back a bit this year. But that doesn't mean we are just sitting watching the weather!  We have been out to:

Check soil moisture

We've had a lot of rain/moisture this spring so far.  Our equipment can't get in and out of the field when it is wet.  Another concern is compaction:  corn and beans can't grow in soil that is as hard as cement!

Check soil temperatures.

The soil temperature is important.  For example, if we plant into warm moist soils, corn can emerge within 4-5 days.  If we plant into cool or dry conditions it can take 2 or more weeks to emerge.  This can give pests (insects) and diseases time to eat and infest the seed.  Generally we want the soil to be about 50 degrees for a few days.  A helpful tool that we use is on the Iowa State University website that shows the approximate temperature of soils across the state. The temperatures have been jumping up and down a lot lately.  3 days ago it was 37 degrees in Webster County.  Yesterday it was already back up to 53 degrees.  Ah…the power of sunshine!

Spray herbicides. 

Thankfully we got this done before the snow.  We have some bean fields that we need to spray prior to planting to keep the weeds down (pre-emerge herbicide).  We also have rye that we plant in the fall that needs to be killed before planting corn.  We planted the rye right after harvest and spray to kill it about 2 weeks before planting.


Check new tile.

Last fall we put down a lot of tile to help drain the wet spots in our fields. However, last fall it was dry! This spring we are able to look at what we did last fall to see if everything is working how we imagined.   

Do chores!

No matter what season or day it is, the animals always need feed and care.

Prep the planter.

Don’t worry, we are ready to plant as soon as it dries up! 

2013 04 29 Planter Ready Blog

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Rainy, er, Snowy Spring Day

I decided that this week that I'd start my blog again.  I was thinking:  “Sure, lets start because fieldwork started last week and planting is going to start!”  Obviously, Mother Nature had a different idea of how May should begin!  I'm very sorry it's been about 2 years since my last post, but I think I'm ready to give it a go again!

We got about 6 inches of snow when we woke up this morning.  This COLD wet weather is setting us back a bit on planting.  We don’t have any corn in the ground yet, and now I’m thinking that’s a good thing! 

2013 05 02 MayDaySnow

Yes, yes. I feel the same as everyone about snow in May: YUCK. However, to spread a little sunshine, I want to tell you what I love about spring rainy days (or, in this case, snow days!):

Time with my husband.

Normally during the planting season, the kids and I don’t get to see much of him.  He’s gone before the kids wake up and home after they are in bed.  Okay, okay, I’ll admit it: some days I am still in bed when he leaves and in bed when he gets home! 

However, when he can’t be in the field, he is in at ‘normal’ times (like breakfast, lunch, and dinner).  For some reason, reading a book, or the paper, or watching a movie sounds better than paying bills, or catching up on bookwork!  We don’t get much work at all done on these days! 

Sure, I dislike the snow.  But, how can I dislike watching the kids wrestle, snuggle, and play with their daddy?  Look on the bright side of the snow/rainy days: that is time EVERYONE enjoys! 

What is your bright side on rainy/snow days?