Saturday, November 7, 2015

On Closing Doors

Image courtesy of nuttakit at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The summer after my eighth grade year, my brother was preparing for his senior year.  One morning, he was headed off to help with an FFA contest, but a couple of people had just canceled, leaving the opportunity for me to fill their spots.  However, I was easily intimidated by the older kids.  I was still debating as he headed out the door, and said, “You can choose to be involved, or you can choose to not be involved.”  His words resonated with me, I hopped in the passenger side of his truck and had a great day.

Today, our society seems to be on overdrive with activities.  Networking, serving, socializing, and honing skills are all very important to me.  Many times we say we can’t, when really we could, and we would better ourselves or others richly. 

But other times...you just can’t.

One of my unofficial personal mantras is “take advantage of all opportunities.”  However, hubby and I just decided to let an opportunity pass. 

It was a little rough deciding.  There’s a good chance this one might come back around, but lots of them do not.  So how do you decide to let an opportunity pass?  Here are some of the guidelines I try to keep in mind:

1)      The people who care about you are not encouraging.

Whether it’s a new boyfriend, a new car, or a new job – the opinion of close family and friends matters.  They know you well and want what’s best for you.  If it’s just one of them, it might be different, but when everyone in my life seems hesitant about what I’m about to take on, it’s red flag number one. 

2)      It’s the wrong timing.

Sometimes, the opportunity is perfect, but it comes at the wrong time.  If you have other commitments you need to fulfill, you’ll have to pass.  Several people have advised me that being deeply involved in two or three roles is much better than loose involvement in many organizations.  In the meantime, that means we have to say no in order to continue excellent service to our current commitments.

3)      Your family needs you.

I really wish career services would’ve spent a smidge less time talking about resumes, and taken a session to talk about how family works into career and adult life.  Our two-year-old and two-month-old bring us so much joy...  but for us, that comes with backing off of personal ambitions a bit.

4)      It’s distracting you from your goals.

My dad’s a pretty wise guy.  His advice is always to think about what your bigger goals are.  Does this particular opportunity help you achieve those goals?  If yes, go for it.  If not, find a different opportunity that does.

5)      You’re saying no to the wrong thing.

You’ve maybe heard it said – saying yes to one thing means saying no to something else.  Saying yes might be worth the trade-off, but what are you saying no to?  Family time, date night, cooking a healthy dinner, sleep, going the extra mile in your job?

6)      You don’t have the right resources to take advantage of the opportunity.

I’m definitely a big picture thinker.  That also means I often form opinions based on how I want my life or our operation to look down the road.  However, we still have to afford the time and the payments TODAY.  No matter how sweet the deal may be in the long run, make sure you currently have the resources to support that decision.

7)      You’re not square with your Creator on it.

I’ve known for over a year that this last opportunity, at this time, probably wasn’t right for us.  God hasn’t slapped me in the face with it.  He hasn’t had to.  He’s been nudging me in that ever-present, low-lying gut-feeling to back up.  But I wanted what I wanted, and I kept pushing that voice away and justifying.  I prayed about it, and when I didn’t like the answer I quit praying about it.  I can admit how foolish that was.  If I pursued it, He would've helped me make the best of it, but I know if I’m obedient, He has other, better plans in the works – why else would He ever ask us to wait or tell us no?

8)      Your motives are questionable.

This one is key.  You HAVE to get to the bottom of it.  And the question is NOT why would most people want to do this?  Nor: what are the right reasons a person should want to do this?  The question is: deep down, why do you want to do this?  If pride is any part of it, particularly if it is a major motivating part, walk AWAY.  There are so many verses that point to this idea, and I have to share.

“You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight.  You do not have because you do not ask God.  When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.  …But he gives us more grace.  That is why Scripture says: ‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.’” James 4:2b-3, 6

“All a person’s ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the Lord.” Proverbs 16:2

“Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God?  Or am I trying to please people?  If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Galatians 1:10

“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them.  If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.”  Matthew 6:1

I often get ahead of myself.  Just because I could do it doesn’t mean I should do it.  My trouble usually comes when I create a vision for my life before consulting God about His vision for the next stage of my life.  Here’s to quitting that.  Because what comes from God is always better than what comes from me. 

 

 

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Grading Fields for Higher Yields


Harvest is growing long these days.

It’s been a good harvest.  However, there’s nothing more disheartening than watching the yield monitor register some of the best corn you’ve ever had, only to suddenly drop by 100 or more bushels an acre.

If corn is selling for approximately $4 per bushel, simple math tells us that equates to $400 an acre. 

What’s causing this loss?

Wet holes.

The flat creek bottom where we’ve raised our best corn is littered with low spots where water collects.  Even though we know corn needs water to thrive, too much, in this case, water pooled in low lying areas, stunted our corn yield by over half. 

The areas with lighter colored corn are in wet spots.  Corn standing in water or wetter soil is stunted in growth because the water fills the spaces in the soil, and the roots cannot receive oxygen.  This severely limits yields at the end of the season.
Plus, the water runs off the field haphazardly causing eroded spots as it races to the creek. 

So, hubs decided to call up his uncle who owns some dirt soil (apologies to my former soil science prof, Dr. Miles - I tried, but "soil" just doesn’t always sound right, even if, technically, it is), dirt moving equipment to grade, or level, the field.

Leveling the field requires moving a lot of soil, so obviously we had to wait until after harvest, but a lot of “trash,” or the unneeded stalks, were left behind. 
We burned the field off because the buckets, also called dirt scoops or dirt pans, cannot handle all of that corn stalk trash in their equipment. 
After the corn stalks were burned off, the dirt movers drove through the field with a pickup truck outfitted with a GPS receiver.  This tells them where the high and low spots are in the field.  This data is inputted into a computer program which will tell the dirt movers exactly how much soil to shave off or dump in certain spots in the field.  We also disked the field to help loosen the soil and to make sure it dries out and will flow through the dirt scoops better. 

At one spot in the field sits the laser, which sends the previously recorded information to receivers on the dirt scoops. 

The first pass through the field, the operator will manually decide when to scoop dirt and drop it, based on the information the laser is sending it.  On the second pass through the field, the operators let the laser do all of the talking, and it automatically picks up and drops dirt to fill in the lower spots. 
Notice the red receivers atop the dirt scoops.
Since we’ve graded these bottoms, we’ll be able to significantly raise our corn yields.  (Not that I need a longer harvest season...)  Now, instead of water pooling in low spots, the water will flow towards a rock-lined ditch serving a two-fold purpose: draining the field and slowing erosion.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

To my friends that I disagree with on social media...


Hey old friend,

I miss you.  Remember the days in grade school when we made clover “jewelry” and “crowns”, played four-square, and begged our parents for sleep-overs?  Or when we spent hours outside of class making that video for our English class project? 

Those were the days.

Or maybe you’re my acquaintance.  My friend of a friend: maybe we were in a wedding together and shared a great time on the dance floor.  Maybe we shared one college class and really hit it off, but haven’t talked much since then.

I see you on Facebook, now and then.  Enjoying a fall coffee or beautiful sunset. 

Or… blowing off steam about the latest divisive issue.

Transgender, abortion, which lives matter, the range of sexuality, gun control, common core, entitlement programs, presidential candidates…

…and let’s not leave out: GMO, organic, animal welfare, factory farms, grass-fed, eat local, the environment.

Do you want to know what gets under my skin the most across these topics?  The common accompanying post that goes something like this:

“I can already see I’m going to be unfriending lots of people today.”

I HATE that.

Not because it makes me angry with you, but because it makes me sad.  The whole tenure of our relationship, we never once discussed gun control.  It has nothing to do with our “friendship.”

Plus, you know I advocate for our farm: the farm that uses GMOs and is far from “certified organic.”  You know I see your post with your Whole Foods grocery bags.  You wonder if you should “like” my status anymore, or avoid me since you "know" I must disdain you, now.

Actually, it’s just the opposite.  Because, you see, friend, I love you.  I love you beyond polarizing issues.  I loved you before polarizing issues.

More than that, I neeeeed to see that post so I can understand you better.  You’re the last person I want to “unfriend.”  Don’t you realize the people you disagree with the most are the ones you need to hear from the worst?

I hope you feel the same way.  I sincerely want to hear your voice, and I hope you want to hear mine.  It’s important to me that you know that I read those articles you post that I disagree with, and I seriously consider and weigh the information.  Rarely do you change my mind, but sometimes there is a gray area to shape, or an inch is gained toward common ground.  At the least, I see your perspective.  That’s SO important. 

That doesn’t mean I won’t respond.  If I see that debunked GMO tumorous rat study on your wall, I’m probably politely going to inform you that there are no published, peer-reviewed studies that point to any health concerns with GMOs.  Hear it this way: “Hey friend!  I see what you’re saying there.  Did ya realize…”

Even if we continue to disagree, I still care about you.  I still want to see the pictures from your baby brothers’ graduation, and your parents’ anniversary party.  I still want to see the funny memes you post because you have the greatest sense of humor.  As badly as I want you to see my side of the issue, I want you to know you’re more to me than the issue.  It would hurt to not be able to see your beaming smile in your wedding photos, or celebrate your career with you.

So please, let’s stop with the “I’m unfriending any who says ______.”  We both need the conversation.  We need each other to challenge the other’s ideas in a safe place.  We need to remind each other of the humanity of those on the flip side of the issue.  Since I knew your heart before I knew your stance, I know you aren’t the evil on the other side.  You’re the genuine-hearted, concerned person, just trying to advocate for what troubles you.  Me, too.  Sometimes we have different information, sometimes we hold different values that just aren't going to change.  However, from what I've seen, we’re both motivated because we care.

So, no awkward feelings: debate GMOs with me today and comment heart emojis galore on my sweet babies’ photos tomorrow.  We’re that big.  We can handle it.  We need it.

Love,
Laura

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Why I Want My Children to be Losers

Country Fair Blog Part

In these parts, we’re currently experiencing the regional holiday known as: fair time.  It really might be better than Christmas because we see all of the people we care about and eat great food that we don’t have to cook.

Loving on her cousins' show cattle... just like her big cousin did with mine when she was little. :)
This week is the lull between our district fair and the county fair to our north.  I could write pages about all of aspects I’ve looooooved about these fairs over the years: cool fall mornings, steam rolling off of a heifer’s back at the wash rack, hanging out with your “family” all week.  Although, I’m not sure if I could put into words the joy of watching my sweet daughters begin to fall in love the same traditions.  Which is good because that’s not what this post is about…

My farmer and I both enjoyed several years as livestock exhibitors.  We love chatting about sharing this tradition with our daughters when they are old enough.  As much as I want them to win with their prized animal after a year of hard work, I can’t help but reflect on how I also look forward to walking them through losing.

Why do I want them to lose?

At a recent leadership conference I attended, from several speakers emerged a common idea: failure is important.  Some employers in the Silicon Valley refuse to hire workers who haven’t had a major failure and story for how they recovered.  Why?  Failure is inevitable.  It’s not whether you lose or fail that makes you distinct, it’s how you bounce back.  Here are the lessons I want my daughters to learn from losing in the showring.

 
1.       How to explain their lot in life without shame.


Is there nothing worse than having your great-aunt so-and-so excitedly ask how the show went, only to have to explain, head hanging low, how you placed last in your class?  If they’ve worked hard, I want my daughters to always look loss in the face, explaining that they didn’t do as well as they’d hoped, but can still be proud, positive, and looking forward.

 
2.       How to be open to critique.


It’s crazy how many bad judges I hear about out there.  Or… maybe how many folks don’t want to hear a good judge’s opinion.  When we’ve lost or failed, that’s the hardest time to hear truth.  No matter their placing, my girls better walk out of the ring zoned in on the judge’s gift of an experienced critique, contemplating how they can use his words to improve, rather than fuming.

3.       How to value their own assessment of themselves over others’.

 
At the same time, judges do get it “wrong” (it’s still all very subjective).  Other times, two animals are both excellent, but the judge prefers a certain type or trait.  If my girls have sincerely listened to the judges’ rational, but still disagree, I hope they value their influence on their project.  I hope they maintain their confidence in their judgement over the animal they picked or bred and the skill they exhibited in preparing the animal for show. 

 
4.       How to NOT be entitled.

Hi.  I’m a Millennial, and everyone tells me I’m entitled.  I think in rural life the trend might be a little different, but we know entitlement is an epidemic in our society.  I want my girls to lose because I want to leave them determined to win next year, not expecting to win next year.

5.       How to be graceful in winning.

 
I want them to lose so that they when they do win, they have empathy for their fellow showmen.  Enjoying the reward of hard work is warranted, but no gloating.  It’s lonely at the top; especially, when you’re a jerk.

 
6.       How to be confidently humble.

 
No tail-tucking as they quickly disappear into the barn in tears.  (Thank you big brother for teaching me there’s no crying in showing... or baseball, coincidentally...)  My girls will learn to shake the judges’ hand with genuine appreciation even when they feel slighted.  My girls will then shake the hands of their friends when they win and learn that they can feel disappointment for themselves and sincere happiness for their friends simultaneously.  Maybe even more difficult, my girls will do the same for the gloating girl they dislike, even when she wins.
 
Where the journey starts.


7.       How to look beyond the win.
 

Success is in the journey.  That was the motto for one of my FFA officer teams.  Part of the point is just to have an enjoyable time working hard and loving on animals alongside family and friends.  I want my daughters to understand all they are gaining from the livestock showing experience.  Learning how to calm yourself in order to calm that crazy heifer is one valuable, transferrable skill in life, among so many others.

 
8.       How to measure opportunity cost and risk versus reward.

I am certain that there will be exhibitors who spend more on their show stock than we will.  Investing money in livestock is a risk that may or may not be rewarded.  Helping my girls understand what else we could do with that money paves the way for the opportunity cost lesson.  Investing time, resources, and personal safety justifies consideration of opportunity cost and risk.  I want my girls to be able to evaluate these trade-offs in all situations.  Risk isn’t bad, I just want my girls to own and analyze it wisely.

9.       How to persevere.

My dad likes to tell the story of my brother’s first year showing.  He hadn’t risked much for my fourth-grade brother.  The plain steer had been rolled to near the bottom of his class on a rainy week, leaving my tiny brother in mud up to his ankles and a foot the steer had bloodied when he stomped it with his heavy hoof.  My dad thought for sure he knew the answer when he asked, “do you want to do this again next year?”  To his surprise, my brother had just caught the show cattle bug.  Cattle were his passion and focus throughout high school.  That’s the kind of showman I hope my girls will be.  Not defeated; determined to do better next year because they love what they’re doing.

10.   How some days just aren’t your day.

Life is unfair.  A calf can get sick.  Your little sister can loan out your show halter right before showmanship (guilty).  A cold front can kick a little crazy into a calf you worked tirelessly.  A judge can overlook you in a big class.  It’s important that my girls understand and accept that we get some hard knocks.  We keep moving.

My dad couldn’t tolerate a poor sport, so while it was harder to learn some of these lessons than others, you can be sure I learned them all or we wouldn’t have been allowed back the next year.

However,…

…even as I write all about how I want my girls to have the opportunity to lose, I don’t want them to be okay with losing.  There are definitely lessons to be learned from losing, but that’s not an excuse to lose.  I think sometimes in an effort to be a good sport, I became nonchalant about why I was there.  My girls need a desire to win, or they won’t try their best.  It’s okay to fail, but not to set out being okay with failing.  But, then again, I guess "winning" is achieving the goal you started with… so maybe I’d be a wise parent to not dictate the goal.  My girls may not want to show livestock, at all.  They may find activities more important to them, but no matter what they choose, I hope the lesson in the loss is not lost on them.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Field Food: Farmer's Favorite BBQ Beef Hoagie

It happened.  Harvest began.  I dreaded it… and, at the same time, I’m more excited than ever as I get to watch it through my daughter’s eyes, this year. 


Apparently, Monday was National Eat a Hoagie Day.  According to the radio station I was listening to on my way home (completely credible source, I’m sure), there were industrial workers on Hog Island in Italy. They worked long days and packed huge sandwiches for lunch, aka: the hoggie… or over time: the hoagie.  How appropriate for the BBQ hoagie-style lunch I made my hoggie hubby on Monday.  (I packed him the equivalent of half a roast and a loaf of French bread.  No surprise for those of you that know him.)

Really, this is his favorite.  I love it, too, because it’s easy, makes the house smell delicious, and tastes great.  Plus, I’m always looking for a way to use up my roasts other than with carrots and potatoes, again.


I know it looks like a lot of ingredients, but really, it goes quick, like all crockpot meals. 
Aren’t they pretty all in a bowl before mixing?  Sorry, I'll get on with it.


I like to use a whisk to mix everything well.

Daddy's farm raised beef.

I can also usually fit two roasts in my crockpot, so I double the recipe. 


Pour your sauce over the roasts.  Cook on low for approximately 8 hours. 

The first time I made this, I cooked it on high for 4 hours.  The flavor is still very good, but you get more of a sliced beef instead of shredded.  The low heat is definitely better if you have the time, but high is acceptable in a pinch.

About halfway through, I try to CAREFULLY use tongs to rotate the meat top and bottom.  (I feel like this keeps all of the meat more moist, but I really don’t know if this even matters.)  I say carefully because, the sloppy cook I am, ev-ery-time I splash boiling BBQ sauce all over myself.  Not fun.  Apron advised.

Pull out roasts and shred. 



I like to fix this for my guys by making a refrigerator French bread loaf.  It comes out hot and crisp – hence the hoagie part.  I slice it half way so the bottom stays together and is easier for them to eat as they drive.
 


Load up with meat and cover with bbq sauce from the crockpot. 


I prefer to use provolone cheese, but Colby is what I had on Monday.  If you split one piece of cheese in half, it fits perfectly.  Then, I microwave it just until the cheese melts, but not too long or you risk soggy bread and cheese that will stick to your foil.  I’m sure fancier folks might stick it back in the oven to melt.  UPDATE: My farmer says the cheese does indeed stick to the foil, so he suggests sticking the cheese on the bottom or middle.

Wrap that dude in some aluminum foil and you have a MEAL to fill big stomachs. 

That's my farmer enjoying his fav sandwich.  Smart enough to exert intense enthusiasm for my cooking and annoying blog photography: he's a keeper.  (P.S. Wasn't kidding about the plastic bag lunchbox.  Good thing it's fair week so I can stock up on ok-for-the-field drinking cups, too.)
Seriously, I took my farmer two hoagies on Monday because I wasn’t sure with the toddler and newborn if I’d make it back out to the field that night.  Fortunately for him, he is indeed related to the camel and can fill his stomach once a day in this manner for survival in harsh harvest field conditions.

If you need a couple or twenty minutes to pour ice tea and gather your whining children, they’ll stay hot in microwave while you load up (the sandwiches, not the children...and microwave turned OFF).

When I don’t have the French bread on hand, I toast bread, and make it the same way.  This summer when we worked sweet corn, toasting that many sandwiches in the toaster wasn’t going to work, so we tried making them grilled cheese style.

Butter bread.  Grill both pieces and low to medium heat.  Put meat and sauce on one slice, and cheese on the other.  Put together when cheese is melted and bread toasted.  This method works okay if you go light on the sauce, and much better if eaten right away, of course. 

I think it’s the best fresh, but definitely freezable.  Shred your meat and place in a labeled freezer bag.  I like to put the sauce in a container in the fridge overnight so that I can dip the fat off the next day before freezing.  Or if you're a rock star like my mom, you can trim all of the fat before putting it in the crockpot, but rock star I am not.  When I didn’t dip the fat off before freezing, I thought the fat made the sauce a little twangy, but the hubs thought it was fine (naturally).  If you don’t want to save the sauce, of course you can always use any generic BBQ sauce when you thaw.
Enjoying our BBQ Beef with family and friends when we put up sweet corn this summer.
You can find the original recipe at Taste of Home.

Here are the ingredients I use, in their entirety:

- 1 beef roast
- 1.5 c. ketchup
- 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
- 1/4 cup BBQ sauce (I like Sweet Baby Ray's)
- 2 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
- 2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
- 1 Tbsp vinegar (I like rice vinegar)
- 1 tsp liquid smoke (optional, I omit)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp garlic powder
- 1/4 tsp onion powder
- 1/4 tsp pepper
Crockpot for 8 hours on low.
- French bread or toast
- Slice of Cheese

Happy eating!

Friday, September 4, 2015

10 Signs Harvest is Around the Corner

Harvest is fast approaching here.  With a newborn, I’m surprised how calm I am about it.  I think I’ve lost a grasp on how crazy it’s going to be soon.  Not like those of you who are farm wives weren’t aware… but here’s how we know harvest is around the corner…

 
1)      You washed all of the laundry in one day… because you could. 

The laundry room is the calm before the storm, enjoying order before all of the dusty laundry with grain-filled-pockets starts flooding the floor.  Unless you have a newborn, like me: then, it’s more like the storm before the storm.

2)      “It just depends on the weather…”

…has become the farm wife’s routine RSVP, again. 

3)      We’re digging through all of the children’s clothes.

Someday soon, cool weather will pop up unexpectedly.  She needs the right gear for the farm in a size that fits… because she’s going.  Mama needs a little relief where she can find it.

4)      I cooked with pumpkin already.

These pumpkin and chocolate chip baked oatmeal muffins were delicious… freezable… semi-healthy… and portable.  All of the requirements for on-the-go harvest food in one easy recipe.  Or, you can add a splash of milk, smash in the muffin it with your spoon, and microwave for a bowl of hot oatmeal.  Did I mention they have chocolate?

5)      You’re stocking up on plastic grocery sacks, aka: the farmer’s lunchbox.

Because you know it’s not making it back home.  Just make sure you grabbed one without a hole in the bottom.

6)      You might’ve actually styled your hair today...

…because once harvest starts, who knows when we’ll have the chance for that, again.  I’m actually just going to put the Gojo directly in the shower in lieu of shampoo because once I get around to washing my hair, again, who knows how many rounds of shampoo it will take to return my smooth locks.  (That new mom thing might be playing a role here, too.)

7)      Our pantries are stuffed...

…with all of the ingredients for those harvest freezer meals we have planned.  Get settled, you can of sauce.  In reality, you’ll probably be sitting there until about 6:00 pm on the night I need you.

8)      We’re stoked for some fall income...

…except we already know where it’s all going.  Geez, growing a business is overrated.  How many times have you said this: “But the farm is an inveeeeestment”?  Well, take that income tax. *Insert round house kick.* That makes me feel slightly better.  Some people have hobbies, some people take vacations, some people have investment portfolios, some people have farm assets… and it’s fine that we’re the last category.

9)      Our farmers are home more…

…and we’re not entirely sure what to do with that.  I anticipate missing him before I miss him, which actually makes me miss him now.  Oh, you Harvest Mistress, just end the anxiety and take him away already!  (I don’t mean that.) 

10)   As much as we complain...

…we really are excited for family combine rides, watching the yield monitor results,

…annnnd, of course, the post-harvest dinner date.  *We’re gonna make it.*

 

Friday, August 28, 2015

Why This Photo Doesn't Scare Me: Crop Dusting

Our farm baby loves one Saturday morning show about a chicken puppet in a costume shop.  Snuggling my girl, watching that show, a roar shook the windows one morning.

No cause for alarm… we occasionally see a military plane fly over. 

… … … rrrrRRRRROOOOOAAAAARRRrrrrr… … … … rrrrRRRRROOOOOAAAAARRRrrrrr… … …

… … … rrrrRRRRROOOOOAAAAARRRrrrrr… … … … rrrrRRRRROOOOOAAAAARRRrrrrr… … …

It takes a lot to elicit a reaction from me.  I may be the compassionate, bleeding-heart type personality; however, dramatic I am not.  After the fifth pass, I grew curious.  After the sixth or seventh, I batted away scary scenarios rolling through my mind.  After the tenth, I finally unwound the toddler and got up to look out the window.
Here’s my view.

 

My immediate reaction: How cool!  We live and farm in a mix of hills and creek bottoms.  Unlike our friends to the south, we don’t often see a crop duster.  What a treat!
Almost as immediately, I thought about some of my neighbors, and so many folks in society, who would be more terrified of the creepy chemical contraption flying towards my front door than the end-of-the-world scenarios playing out in my head moments earlier. 
And rightly so.  Who wants to be peppered in evil ag-industry fairy dust?  Right...?
Why wasn’t fear my initial reaction?
1)      Products flown on by crop dusters are strictly regulated by the EPA (as are all ag chemicals…by the way.) 

Farmers don’t gleefully broadcast chemicals all over their fields.  For one, waste is costly.  For two, chemicals must be used under prescribed methods, and we can get in deep trouble if we use them improperly.  Think of it as a doctor prescribing you medicine.  If you took the whole bottle, that could endanger your health, even be deadly.  However, if you take it as prescribed by your doctor, not only is it considered safe, but very beneficial to you.  These chemicals survive thorough testing over many years.  Would I care to chug the chemical?  Nope, not really, as that’s not a prescribed use for it.  However, when applied as prescribed, we reap the benefits.

2)      Products flown on by crop dusters are weighted and adhesive.
To continue with the medical analogy, several medicines use additives called adjuvants to help them be more effective.  Many pesticides use adjuvants, as well.  Adjuvants can stick to a chemical molecule to make it heavier (less chance of drift), make it stick to the plant better (less chance of washing away), or a host of other uses.  I’ve known this for years, but even as I write it, I can’t help but think, “Wow, aren’t those in ag technology the best problem solvers ever?”
3)      Crop dusters are exceptionally accurate. 

 
See how low they are flying?  Also, what you can’t see are the specially designed spray nozzles just for the crop duster that help direct the spray.  That, combined with flying on days when the wind is still, minimizes drift.  Look at the pictures below of our crop.  See the left picture on the row's end where the crop is brown?  That’s where the crop duster skipped.  If the spray were drifting or wide-spread, at all, we wouldn’t see that kind of difference in results as compared to the picture on the right in the same field, where the crop duster did spray the fungicide.

 
Plus, 2015 has been an extremely wet year.  In the area where we live, we’ve received roughly 125% of our normal rainfall for this time of year.  The result: an overwhelming amount of stunting and disease in our crops.  Yes, rain in July is a treat, but not when it’s 8-12 inches more than normal.  Not that this would ever trump safety, but let me explain how important this crop duster is to agriculture production and our family farm this year.
1)      If not for the crop duster, our crops would be failing.
 
      Take a look, again, at the photos above.  The end is a spot where the crop duster didn’t go back over like they usually would.  The corn is not turning already (signifying that it is ready to be harvested).  The corn is dying prematurely.  The stalk, not treated with the crop duster’s fungicide, is covered in corn rust.  This fungus turns the plant brown, and feels like “rust” is literally covering the plant.  Most of us remember that in order for photosynthesis to occur, we need GREEN plants.  If not for the fungicide this whole crop would be brown… and dying.
How lucky are we to have technology like fungicide and crop dusters?  We might lose income.  A generation or two ago, we might have gone hungry.
2)      This time, our sprayer couldn’t cut it. 
We do have a sprayer that covers the ground.  You might think this is more accurate (and when using more volatile chemicals, there are procedures to make them more accurate), but as I mentioned earlier, crop dusting is carefully designed.  Still, we already own the ground sprayer, and since our hills make it more difficult for the crop duster, why would we use one? 
Again, in a particularly wet year, the ground sprayer cannot get into the muddy fields without getting stuck.  Another reason, and our need for the crop duster this time: the corn was too tall.  The sprayer would have knocked the corn down at this point in the season.  Like most field work, spraying is incredibly time sensitive.  You saw evidence of this in my previous post.  If the particular weed, fungus, or other pest is not treated at the specific growth stage indicated by the chemicals’ usage label, it will be too late.  The pest will steal all the crops’ resources and vitality, and may even contribute to resistant weeds.  When it’s time to spray, we cannot afford to wait for the ground to dry out or give up because the corn it too tall.

 
As you can tell, many safety precautions are taken to create safe application conditions.  We’re thankful for this technology because, otherwise, this would be a very bleak year.
 
Before I go, I want to shout-out to the crop duster: as I mentioned, their job is extremely important.  Even more, their job can be extremely dangerous.  Hills, power lines, trees: all a host of obstacles as they hover close to our crops.  From technology developers to dirty-hands to dusters, I’m feeling grateful for everyone contributing to a safe, quality, and affordable crop.