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Monday, September 24, 2018

Flat Aggie's Trip to Central Maryland



Flat Aggie’s Trip to Central Maryland
April 2018

Flat Aggie here and I’m really excited to tell about my visit to Maryland and share what Farmer Tom and Farmer Paula do on their farm! They grow corn for your cornflakes, soybeans for your soy milk, wheat for your bread and pastries, hay for horses, straw for new lawns, and beef cattle for tasty burgers.  It was a cool, wet April in Maryland and normal spring activities like planting were delayed several weeks.
 
There were many opportunities to learn about Maryland agriculture.  My visit started early one morning hitching a ride in Farmer Paula’s bib pocket to feed beef cows. Then it was on to helping Farmer Tom fix the hinge on a pasture gate.
       


Over at the grain bins we loaded out a tractor trailer of soybeans. Grain bins are large, round metal structures that store corn, wheat or soybeans.  The soybeans we loaded were harvested last Fall. Farmer Tom is really strong. He pulled a big chain to stop the soybeans when the trailer was full. The soybeans were hauled to the Port of Baltimore where they would be loaded on a barge and shipped to another port down the Chesapeake Bay. So cool!
That afternoon we took a field trip to Butler’s Orchard where I met Farmer Tyler Butler. It was fun to learn about a pick your own farm.  At Butler’s Orchard people come from the city to pick fruit and vegetables and to enjoy the many festivals like the Blueberry Festival, Strawberry Festival and Pumpkin Festival.  There are many things to see and do at the farm.

A rainy day gave Farmer Paula and I a chance to catch up on work in the  farm office. A farm is a business with employees that need paychecks, bills to be paid and invoices to be mailed for goods sold to customers.
Bright and early one cold windy morning, Farmer Paula took me to Laytonsville Turf Farm. What an exciting morning to be Flat Aggie!  A turf farm grows grass for lawns, school playgrounds and wherever grass is needed. I watched an amazing machine. It is called a turf harvester. Operated by one person, the machine cut the turf off the field, rolled it up and stacked it on a pallet all by itself!  Big trucks came to buy pallets of turf also called sod.




That cold, windy morning gave way to a nice afternoon.  Grandpa jumped in the truck with Farmer Paula and I and we pulled a trailer to another farm.  There we loaded really big round bales of hay onto the trailer. The hay bales are sold to feed horses and cattle.  Boy, at 92 years old Grandpa is hard to keep up with!
No trip to Central Maryland is complete until you enjoy a tasty treat from the local ice cream spot.  The Jimmie Cone! Every day is a good day to eat ice cream!
One evening we made a visit to Sunset Farm where we met baby chicks, Boer goats and helped feed a bottle baby Dorper lamb.  A bottle baby is a baby goat that doesn’t get enough milk to survive from its mother.
A couple days later, Flat Aggie took a road trip via airplane!  After an early morning flight, we arrived in Indianapolis, IN. It was a day of learning and conversation with consumers about food and perceptions. Why you ask? Because conversations connecting farm and food are important. Our food world is filled with labels, confusing terms, myths and the like creating confusion for consumers who simply want to grocery shop for their families.
Have you ever wondered why there are so many egg choices in the grocery store and what they all mean or should I be concerned about hormones in food? Then check out author Michele Payn’s books Food Truths From Farm to Table and No More Food Fights. She’ll walk you through food myths and truths. Excellent reads.
A couple days later, Flat Aggie was back on the farm helping Farmer Tom take soil temperature in fields that will be planted with corn or soybeans. The morning the soil temperature was 43 degrees. Farmer Tom will begin planting corn and soybeans when the soil temperature is 50 degrees or higher. Those temperatures are warm enough for the seeds to sprout and begin to grow.
Where in the world did Flat Aggie go next? On another airplane adventure!  To Stillwater, OK where we met up with Anna, one of the farmer’s daughters. We visited the OSU Equine Center where Anna was taking a Breeding & Foaling class this semester.
As part of this class, students track mares (mother horses) through their pregnancy and foaling. We met Cudd. She was due to foal or give birth any time. Anna took a milk sample from Cudd. She measured the calcium and pH levels of the milk to determine proximity to foaling.
After meeting a couple foals (baby horses) and mares (their moms) it was on to The Meat We Eat class with Anna. We learned about how chickens are raised and avian influenza.
Back at the OSU Equine Center there is an equine breeding barn.  Anna and other students assisted an OSU veterinarian artificially inseminating mares and checking pregnancy via ultrasound. We viewed semen using a microscope and on a monitor. Wow the science in agriculture is amazing!
Then is was back to Maryland where something really exciting happened on the farm.  I’ll give you a hint, an equipment and sound check took place!

Wow, the morning started early on the farm! Flat Aggie was so excited to be part of a live Satellite Media Tour.  It was lights, camera, action in the straw barn! Rain was pouring outside. TV and radio stations across the United States interviewed Farmer Paula and three local farmers Jessica, Linda and Amanda.  They asked what sustainability in agriculture means and why it is important to farmers on their farms today. They also talked about sustainable practices on the farm and sustainable corn products consumers use everyday.
  

Flat Aggie was hands on all day as part of the real live TV crew!  Have you ever seen a satellite truck driving down the highway? I went inside where they monitored the interviews and sent the satellite feed across the country. Technology. It’s on the farm and everywhere in our lives!  The Satellite Media Tour and Facebook Live event took place to celebrate Earth Day on April 22nd!

Want to know more about farms and sustainable agriculture? Visit findourcommonground.com or fooddialogues.com.  The last media activity of the day was a Facebook live event.  https://www.facebook.com/myMDfarmers/videos/622201508125167/
The next morning I said farewell to Maryland and left for my next adventure! Thanks to Farmer Tom and Farmer Paula for a great learning experience!
Flat Aggie