Quality through the seasons

DSC_5343Several snowflakes had already filled the air when Corey Jacobsen of Alexander stepped out of his shop. The forecast called for near blizzard conditions in several hours, but he was expecting an important shipment that would impact his upcoming growing season.

 For Jacobsen and many other farmers the start of the growing season begins when seeds are delivered to their farms. Jacobsen, a valued customer of Latham Hi-Tech Seeds, knew that a new growing season was just around the corner when he received the shipment of seeds. Even if the weather didn’t indicate spring was near.

Farmers know the power of seeds. Without high-quality seeds, crops can be impacted by weather, pests and a host of other agronomic variables. That is why Jacobsen grows Latham Seeds, a trusted name in the business since 1947.

The quality Latham seeds that were carefully inspected and processed in Alexander would now be planted and grown by Jacobsen to be sold and used as livestock feed, biofuel and worldwide exports.

I had the opportunity to track those seeds from the time they were loaded at the Latham Seeds facility in Alexander to planting and then harvest season. Below are some photos from that journey.

For more photos of the growing season click here: https://www.storehouse.co/stories/o2ano-latham-seeds


Taking stock of Rock Creek


With a chill in the air a group of researchers gathered along a gravel road in Mitchell County. The researchers donned hip waders and grabbed kits from their trucks while preparing for the day’s work. With tools, charts and binders in hand, they walked across a field of hip-high prairie grass while making their way towards the banks of Rock Creek.

Rock Creek, a small stream that flows through Mitchell County near Osage, meanders through the countryside and eventually drains into the Cedar River. The lower reaches of the stream features limestone outcroppings, wooded hillsides and many forms of insects and aquatic life. Taking an inventory of the diversity and types of life found in the stream was the job of the researchers for the day.

Follow this link for a photo essay and the rest of the story: https://www.storehouse.co/stories/o7tug-taking-stock

Harvest into the night

Iowa farmers work long hours as they race Mother Nature to harvest the 2014 crop.

Dennis Bogaards, an Iowa Soybean Association member from Pella, checks the quality of a soybean plant as his father Dale Bogaards approaches in the combine. The two were trying to finish harvesting a field before forecasted rain settled into the area for several days. Click on the photos below to see expanded views and video of the Bogaards .

Harvest time in Iowa

Anderson Soybean Harvest-3

Steve Anderson, an Iowa Soybean Association member from Beaman, started the 2014 harvest season on Sunday. With cool temps and sunny weather it didn’t take long for him to finish his first field. It also didn’t take long for him to see that the current crop could be one of his best crops.

To see a photo essay of Anderson starting his harvest follow this link: https://www.storehouse.co/stories/t6lae-harvest-time

Hands across generations the TED Talk


Mark Jackson reads his speech on stage at the TED@Unilever event in New York City on Wednesday.

TED Talks partnered with Unilever to place a spotlight on ideas, projects and insights they hope will contribute to shifting perspectives and a brighter future yesterday in New York City. The program called “TED@Unilever” provided a voice to 16 people, spanning several continents, to share their ideas of creating social and business change for billions of people.

Mark Jackson, an Iowa Soybean Association director and farmer, was one of the speakers featured in the program. He painted a picture of the struggles and joys that his family has gone through since the 1800’s while farming land near Rose Hill.

“I now see how the profession I have devoted my life to impacts the world. I want to share with you a story of where we’ve been in agriculture, where we are now and where we are going,” Jackson told the audience during the opening of his presentation.

His grandfather first planted soybeans on their farm in the 1920’s and since that time each generation has strived to produce sustainable and environmentally responsible crops.

“I owe my passion for my profession to my father, an agriculture giant in my eyes,” Jackson told the crowd. “He was a fiercely independent man, short stature but tall in character.”

Jackson was invited to participate in the program because of his work in partnership with Unilever, the Iowa Soybean Association and ADM over the past year. The partnership created the soy sustainability project encouraging farmers to document the sustainability of their soybean crops from planting to harvest.

“Today, the U.S. farmer represent only one percent of this country’s population but we are growing nearly half of the world’s soybeans,” Jackson continued as a crowd of 150 people, mostly from New York, listened. “Using science to provide assurances to the American consumer I’ve worked on a first-of-its kind sustainability effort with soy.”

He highlighted technology he uses on his farm to aid in conservation, decrease pesticide use while saving on fuel costs. He finished the six minute talk by asking the audience a rhetorical question.

“What will the future look like? It will include soybeans and other crops that produce more with less water and less inputs that will adapt to changing climates. ”

At the conclusion of the event Jackson and the other speakers visited with those in attendance, including executives from Unilever.

“We thought the event was a great success. Our speakers have traveled far and wide to educate and inspire sustainable practices and it’s great to hear them shed light on how they’re working to create bright futures around the world,” Jessica Sobel, North American Sustainable Living manager, said.

The individual speeches were recorded and will be broadcasted after being edited by TED team members. Jackson reflected on his time in New York for the speech while thinking about the upcoming harvest back home in Iowa.

“TED was a unique opportunity,” He said. “Modern agriculture has had to embrace change to align with the needs of our customers. We strive to bring an abundant and safe crop that enables the expanding world population to be fed.”

Story and photos by Joe Murphy, ISA member communications manager

Mark Jackson talks TED in New York City

Jackson Hat in Timesquare

Mark Jackson displays his Iowa Soybean Association hat at the Crossroads of the World in Time Square. Jackson is in New York this week to participate in a TED Talk about sustainability and farming.

Mark Jackson traded the black soil of his Mahaska County farm for the concrete streets of New York City this week. The trip that carried him from Iowa to Manhattan was to raise awareness of his livelihood and how farmers strive to be sustainable in a changing food system.

Jackson, a farmer from Rose Hill and a director with the Iowa Soybean Association, was invited to take part in a Technology, Entertainment and Design (TED) Talk this week in the big apple. His speech titled “Hands Across Generations” will focus on his family’s passion for agriculture dating back to the 1800’s on the rolling prairie of southern Iowa.

TED Talks are a series of speeches that are given to a live audience and shared through social media. For many connected to social media TED is a place to listen and learn.

“TED is a community with global reach,” Ronda Carnegie, head of Global Partnerships and Strategic Initiatives at TED, said. “There are over 1,800 Talks on TED.com, which have been viewed nearly 2.5 billion times. What’s more, we have over 11,000 volunteer translators from around the world translating TED Talks into 105 languages.”

Jackson with TED

TED representatives talk with speakers during a rehearsal for the event. 

The talks are recorded and broadcasted on the TED website and then shared through social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. The result is millions of people around the world can see the conversations that were initially presented to several hundred people.

For Jackson sharing his family’s history and more importantly the work he has done to make his farm sustainable while increasing yields is a chance of a lifetime.

“The importance of having TED as a platform to tell my story is a unique opportunity. Stepping outside of our normal avenues to relate the importance of modern agriculture is critical to defend the sustainability efforts that farmers have achieved,” Jackson said. “The Ted-Unilever collaboration is a first of its kind for the “TED Institute” and being selected to share the Iowa farmer’s story is a major accomplishment within itself as Unilever realizes the value modern agriculture has brought to the sustainability conversation.

Mark’s work with the Unilever soy sustainability program made his story a natural fit for the TED presentation. Last year Jackson hosted top executives from Unilever on his farm to help them better understand modern agriculture practices and how soybeans move through the supply chain before being used as ingredients in Unilever products like Hellmann’s Mayonnaise.

“This TED event is about bringing the outside in, in the area of sustainability. Across many platforms, with many voices, many nationalities and many topic areas,” Jonathan Atwood, national vice president of sustainable living and corporate communications for Unilever, said.

He went on to say that Jackson brings a voice to the Iowa soybean story that in partnership with Unilever is creating a conversation about sustainability and how the worlds of business and agriculture can come together to make a difference.

“We reached out to Mark and others in the Iowa farming community to say come on a journey with us,” Atwood said. “We are thrilled that Mark is here to say ‘this is who we are, and this is what we stand for’ and that’s exciting.”

Jackson with Gina Speech

Jackson speaks with Gina Barnett during a rehearsal for his TED presentation.

This week has been busy or Mark. He attended rehearsals, met with other presenters and learned more about the TED organization. All the preparations are leading up to his moment on the stage and the ability to tell his story of hands across generations.

Check back here to find out more about his presentation.

Story and photos by Joe Murphy, ISA member communications manager

Notes from the United States Meat Export Federation trip to Asia


Scott McGregor (right), an Iowa Soybean Association director, is currently taking part in the The American Meat Tour, “Value Added Red Meat Trade Mission” in Japan and China. Below are his notes from the trip.

The United States Meat Export Federation ( USMEF ) is sponsoring a group of producers and feed experts from the midwest. Iowa Soybean Association. Minnesota Soybean Association, Iowa Beef Industry Council, Nebraska Beef Council, Minnesota Pork, Nebraska Pork Board, Iowa Corn Promotion Board and the Nebraska Corn Board. The group, along with a swine specialist from South Dakota State, will learn more about these important markets an the impact it has to the U.S. Ag economy.

Monday started off with an early morning briefing at the US Embassy in Tokyo, Ag attaché David Miller updated the group on the status of exports to Japan knowing they are a top-tier market for pork maintaining the personal relationships that these delegations such this are very important, according to Miller. He also noted that slow and steady progress is being made with on going TPP talks. Evan Mangeno  of the US staff gave a presentation on Japans economy 3rd largest GDP  having a3.6% unemployment rate. Their demand for for imports continues to grow. Japans Ag production is heavily subsidized where the average farm size is 3.7acres. The  average age of farmers is in the mid to upper 60’s with not as many younger generations it will harder for the farms to be self-sufficient.

The life style of japan consumer is way different than US. They consume 1000 less calories/ day than we do,  7% more red meat than fish, they shop for the meals daily with more demand for really good convient meals. The convenience store segment of the market is growing and the food is good really good. they demand high quality meals at a lower price point and they get it.

Japan has over 710,000 restaurants compared to 616,000 in the U.S. They also feel its important to know where there food comes form. There appetite for imported U.S. meat products is huge spending over 110.00/person/yr no other countries come close.

We moved over to USMEF office for an update on there activities, we were introduced to the Tokyo staff by CEO Phil Seng . Tazuko Hijikata presented the background of US Pork and Beef Consumer marketing. Target audience 30’s-50’s housewives they make over 90% of the grocery decisions 80% go shopping for groceries every day or every other day.

Most of them either walk or ride bikes to the store. Net Super is the new term learned or internet delivery 30% of homemakers use this service to order from there smartphones usually delivered by 7pm.

As far American Pork awareness since 2004 the amount has double that know it is imported from US to 76% of housewives with a growing number Believe it is a good value. Domestic Pork is higher priced then US. Pork 26% of survey have purchased in the last 2weeks both retail n food service . They like branded products and block cuts
Blogger events has been a popular tactic to connect with savvy consumers.

Beef on the other hand is rebuilding itself back into the market,Dang Aussies. They have the price advantage but without a doubt taste leans our way. We are still fighting the quality issue getting back to the bse days oh well. The shear number of restaurants in Tokyo is mind blowing.   They are everywhere so communicating with consumers is vital. Twenty-seven percent of their income is spent on meals!!! The US is 11% so food safety is to of mind they feel domestic is safe it’s our job to let them know ours is also. At this time we are back to70% of 2003 volume, beef tongue $5.00/lb under 2 in the states, they. Dang near take em all.

We met with major trade partners for working lunch including retail,food service , and distribution great meeting  in the afternoon well took in 3 different styles of retailer and saw upclose USMEF promotional event man were they busy!  Dined at a great Shibuya Koendrori, American restaurant using our pork and beef. Sukiyaki and Shabu Shabu style -mmmm!

Picture Iowa


A soybean field near Boone blends into the horizon yesterday. Crops across the state are seeing some disease pressure from sudden death syndrome but according to the weekly crop report 51 percent of the crop is rated good and 25 percent is rated excellent.

“I am seeing corn fields starting to show premature yellowing as well as in soybean fields,” said Grant Kimberley, ISA market development director and central Iowa farmer. “I think the excessive rain, humidity and heat as of late is starting to increase some disease in both crops. Yields are still probably good, but it could be taking the top end off.”