Charlotte Montague: Grain merchandiser by day, farmer by night

Grain merchandiser trader Charlotte Montague

When I set out to share guests post about ag careers via the Hi, I’m Agriculture series, I wanted to try and include a LOT of careers. That meant reaching into areas of the industry that I might not be … Continue reading

Hunger, farmers, technology, and compassion

This was my lunch at the Iowa Hunger Summit Luncheon. It's a blend of rice, vegetables, and a protein powder that can affordably brings hunger relief to impoverished areas.

I’ve been told more than once that I am a bleeding heart; I have a crusader complex, where I instantly want to become the voice for those who can’t speak up for themselves. (Which, oddly enough, has led me to … Continue reading

Celebrating American Agriculture for the 4th of July

I’ve been a little swamped lately prepping for my big move to Kansas City, which happens THIS FRIDAY. (If you’re confused about the dates, I was supposed to start at my job on June 25th, but we bumped it back to July 9th because my apartment would not be available until the 7th.) I’ve been packing, taking inventory, and tying up loose ends here.

I have a million and one thoughts I’d love to blog about regarding the move, work, agriculture, and a slew of other things, but instead, I’ll take a few moments to address tomorrow, the 4th of July. Continue reading

Experts in Their Fields: Farmers, Land, and Livestock

(Because he’s fantastic and helped me think of a catchy title of this post…I have to give a shout-out to my pal Zach Hunnicutt. You’re one cool cat, Z-Dawg.)

I’ve spent a lot of time in fields. I know a lot of fields like the back of my hand, and that trait was learned from the farmers who introduced me to said fields. Once upon a time, when I heard the words “St. Anne” used in regards to a field, I thought of clay, terraces, flooding, and a 40-foot difference between the highest point of the field and the lowest. “The 60″ was distinctly different from “the 40″ and to confuse “Brown’s” with “Johnson’s” was downright wrong. These are all “names” applied to specific fields on the farm I used to work on. Continue reading

A New Perspective on Specialty Crops

California is the “land of plenty.” Seriously, go there, and you will find yourself drowning in delicious and amazing produce of all types. If it grows, chances are it’s grown somewhere in California. This is especially true in the central California region, spanning from Sacramento at the north edge down to north of LA. This region, often referred to collectively as “Central Valley,” hosts a fantastic variety of agricultural operations.

If it grows, you will find it there.

This is just a small section of the farmers market at the Ceasar Chavez park in downtown Sacramento. I had never seen so much fresh, amazing, delicious, locally-grown produce in my life!

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5 Specialty Crops I Could Not Live Without

I’ve blogged about specialty crops in the past. The fact is, “specialty crop” is a loose term that can be applied to just about anything that isn’t a major commodity. These “major commodities” tend to include corn, soy beans, wheat, rice, and cotton. I was rereading some older posts today and realized I never revisited that conversation about specialty crops. Well, I’ve decided to do so, in the form of a list. Here are some specialty crops that I simply cannot live without:

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It’s Poo Season!

The agricultural year is dictated by seasons.  There’s planting season, there’s harvesting season, there’s calving season, lambing season, farrowing season (in some cases).  The seasons are different in agriculture than in everyday life.  It’s much more complex than spring, summer, autumn, and winter.  Spring can be divided into several different mini-seasons, based on what crops or animals you raise.

Well, for a lot of farmers, it’s Poo Season.

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New Look for a New Season

Happy Spring, everyone!

It’s that time of year.  Baby animals are being born all over farms and ranches across the country.  Planting will be underway soon.  Sludge (better known as “water n’ poo”) is being applied.  Spring is in the air.

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What Defines a “Speciality” Crop?

Recently I held a poll about what folks would like to see more of on this here blog. One of the winners was specialty crops. I found this interesting, as I didn’t clarify the crop as being animal or plant, but also because it’s one of the areas I know least about. Granted, having raised rabbits, I’ve been a “specialty producer” in the past. However, that led me to wonder, “What defines a specialty crop?”

Is it something we don’t encounter in everyday life? Is it something we do, and take for granted? Just out of curiosity, I Googled “speciality crops” and the first result was to the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service. Their definition goes as follows:

The Specialty Crop Competitiveness Act of 2004 and the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 have defined specialty crops as “fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture, and nursery crops (including floriculture).” Eligible plants must be intensively cultivated and used by people for food, medicinal purposes, and/or aesthetic gratification to be considered specialty crops. Processed products shall constitute greater than 50% of the specialty crop by weight, exclusive of added water.
detailed definition of specialty crops was also developed for the purposes of this program and other U.S. Department of Agriculture programs.
The tables below list plants commonly considered fruits and tree nutsvegetablesculinary herbs and spicesmedicinal plants, as well as nursery, floriculture, and horticulture crops. There is also a separate list of ineligible commodities. These lists are not intended to be all inclusive, but rather to provide examples of the most common specialty crops. This web page will be updated as U.S. Department of Agriculture receives new questions about the eligibility of various crops.
So, that’s the USDA’s definition of specialty crops. To see the page where that was obtained click here. Further digging in Google unearthed several speciality crop programs in agricultural schools and universities. Towards the top of the Google search were North Carolina and Colorado.
When I think of specialty crops, there are two things I think of. Don’t ask me why I think of these things, I just do. They are herbs, and almonds. As I prepare for my trip to California this summer, I also understand that I’ll be in the heart of almond country. Hopefully I’ll have a chance to learn first-hand about the almond growing industry. Until then, I think I have some learning to do to bring myself, and you, the readers, more information on the things you want to hear about.
So, with that definition in mind, I’ll be moving forward. I hope I can shed some light on the world of “specialty crops” and bring insightful information and opinions to the table.