About Janice Person aka JPlovesCOTTON

Thanks for stopping by and wondering what I am about. My passions are photography, travel and agriculture -- love spending time taking pictures on a farm far from home. Putting all those things together its understandable that differences in culture are intriguing to me…. I can spend a lot of time soaking up things. Its almost always a colorful adventure!

Lots of Smiles Captured, Lessons Learned During #AFBF14

My Instagram feed has been busy the last several days as have my Twitter and Facebook pages. There have been dozens of photos of smiling faces sent from San Antonio as I have experienced the American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual convention.

It’s amazing how many friends I have made scattered all around the country. Thanks to these folks & others (a bunch of who are now dear friends), I have real faces of farmers to go with so many of the foods I have always enjoyed. I also have a better appreciation of the ways they are involved in their local communities, understanding the stresses they farm under and more.

Thanks to all of you who make agriculture feel a lot like home for this city girl! Here are some of those folks I snapped & shared photos of over the last few days with a long-time favorite song!

How are you sharing your story of AFBF 14 with those who didn’t have a chance to attend?

Janice AKA JPLovesCotton is Janice Person, a city girl who loves cotton and biotechnology. Her work for Monsanto focuses on social media outreach. A colorful adventure is her personal blog. Follow her on Twitter (@JPLovesCotton) and find her on Facebook.

Top 3 Places to Spot an AgNerd at AFBF Convention

An “agnerd” is someone who loves both technology and agriculture. The ranks of agnerds have been growing in recent years and at the AFBF annual convention. And I think this year may be the one where agnerds are the most visible. But for those who aren’t familiar with agnerds, you may wonder where to spot these folks. So this is a list of ways to find an agnerd!

  • agnerd ribbonLook for an agnerd ribbon! You have to know that many agnerds are quite proud of their title and will display it proudly! In fact, some people here pay for ribbons they can wear on their name badge declaring their agnerd status! (Purchasing a ribbon helps support some of the AFBF programs.) I noticed earlier that Michigan fruit farmer Jeff VanderWerff is sporting one!
  • See someone wearing Google Glass?
    Google Glass on the Farm
    Definite AgNerd! A lot of people probably haven’t seen Google Glass, but it is a technology from the folks at Google who are looking for ways to integrate technology into our daily lives. You can take photos without lifting up a camera! While the main sharing at an event like #AFBF14 is Chuck Zimmerman’s photos, there is a lot of potential for field scouting, etc. You can learn more on agwired.com.
  • FieldScriptsAgNerds Loved the Trade Show & some of the sessions! The trade show & educational & exhibitor sessions are already wrapping up but there were lots of opportunities for agnerds to learn more about what various companies were doing. Here’s one example:

Janice AKA JPLovesCotton is Janice Person, a city girl who loves cotton and biotechnology. Her work for Monsanto focuses on social media outreach. A colorful adventure is her personal blog. Follow her on Twitter (@JPLovesCotton) and find her on Facebook.

Seeing Women’s Leadership From the Front Row

Over the years, I have been to quite a few American Farm Bureau Federation annual conventions but yesterday I had a first. Yesterday I had the chance to go to the Women’s Leadership Program Recognition Luncheon. And am I glad I did!

Sitting up front I had a bird’s eye view of some of the women who are actively involved in AFBF programs. And I have to say I was impressed! Of course I recognized a few of the faces on the board, but I listened closely as each of the women were introduced. In this group were women who are involved in farms across the country. They raise cotton, cherries, dairy, beef, wheat and almost everything else you can imagine.

women's leadership

And the program included spotlighting some of the many programs the various state committees had been doing the past years. There were efforts aimed at assisting food banks, there were visits to local schools, helping hands with good meals at hospitals and more.

Debbie Lyons-Blythe on women's leadershipAnd then Kansas rancher Debbie Lyons-Blythe got some time to talk about her agvocacy efforts and some of the programs she has been affiliated with. I’ll let Debbie speak for herself but here are a few of the links she mentions.

Janice AKA JPLovesCotton is Janice Person, a city girl who loves cotton and biotechnology. Her work for Monsanto focuses on social media outreach. A colorful adventure is her personal blog. Follow her on Twitter (@JPLovesCotton) and find her on Facebook.

Getting to Know Animal Expert Jack Hanna

I wrote this post about top ten things I learned about Jack Hanna for my blog and thought I’d share here too since the post was enabled by being at the AFBF Annual Meeting. 

There are people who through TV seem to have always been a part of your life but you rarely get to look behind the curtain so to speak, and see what kind of people they are. I have had the chance to meet various people through conventions or pure happenstance and I have to say that animal expert Jack Hanna has probably made the most lasting impression.

Let me explain my encounters with Jack Hanna though before I get to the top 10 things I learned or thought of as I traveled home from AFBF13.

penguins at a pancake breakfastObviously, I have seen him on TV for years (I am a Letterman fan). But last year in Hawaii he came to the American Farm Bureau meeting and gave talks in the trade show. I caught one of his presentations and thought that was nice.

This year’s Farm Bureau took it to the next level as I heard him do a longer, more personal presentation during a pancake breakfast on Sunday. Throughout the trade show I saw him doing his presentation too (my favorite part was the two-toed sloth – loved the fur and the fact it sleeps all day, afterall, I have a deep love of morning sleep). Finally, I saw he and his wife at the airport.

So now the top 10 which will shed more light on the encounter. Please know that I don’t know for certain Jack Hanna’s story, but these are things I have running through my mind.

  1. He has followed his passion. Early in life he realized he had a real passion for animals and he found a way to make that his career. Too few of us are able to figure that out and follow a path that lets us practice our passion routinely. I am blessed to get a paycheck for doing things I’m truly passionate about too. He first cultivated the passion while working for the family’s veterinarian in the Knoxville area, he’s had a pet store and directed the Columbus Zoo.
  2. His passion is always evident. If you have ever seen Jack Hanna do a guest spot on a TV show, you have seen the excitement he shows whenever he has animals around him and is especially excitement to share information about them in a way that people remember and love. Love the enthusiasm.
  3. Hanna has a deep love of his family. Throughout his stories, he spoke to various things that involved his family. You could tell he’s in a good place. And what’s really cool is that as I came through the airport, his wife Sue seemed the same pointing out small things like where he’s from as she chatted with fellow passengers. I love celebrating the new accomplishments of my board-certified teaching sis, sharing a school project with one nephew or taking a niece for her first farm trip. I hope that as I talk about them, people see the connections!
  4. He knows what is truly important and acts on it. One of the stories he told on Sunday that was especially touching was about how he came to be connected to the sponsor of the event, Nationwide Insurance. His connection to the company is much deeper than sponsorship. He said he owed them eternal gratitude as the company is responsible for his daughter’s health after a serious illness since they are major supporters of the Columbus Children’s Hospital.Jack Hanna & me
  5. He is generous with his time. Throughout the show, Hanna posed for photos, signed autographs, etc. At the airport, it was the same. He stopped, pulled photos from his bag and signed one to each of the TSAs who wanted one. They were thrilled. And as you can see, he was nice enough to do the same for several of us. I mentioned that my nephew has always loved animals and used to dream of being a zookeeper. He asked his name & wrote out an autograph.
  6. When action is required, he gives it his best shot and learns from mistakes. When he was talking about working for a vet as a teenager, he told the story of his being the only person there as a cow had trouble calving. And while he was on the phone with the vet finding out what needed to be done, it became clear that he’d have to do it. Pulling a calf is hard (so I hear and this AgProud post explains why calving season is tough) and he hadn’t done it. He listened to the directions & worried about having to do it but went ahead. While he made a mistake (he said he ended up pulling the back legs instead of the front legs), it all turned out okay.
  7. There is a genuineness with he and his wife. I guess I’ve sort of pointed to this already in part, but, I love that the Hannas were really talking with whoever they were with.  As he talked to some TSAs, she chatted with another passenger who was sure his daughters would be pumped about the run-in. She then complimented me on my necklace — yep, it is a cotton boll piece I bought at Beltwide.  When I mentioned I worked for Monsanto, he remarked he had noticed us at the show.
  8. He is willing to put his time toward things that are important. He thinks animal conservation is important too and its obvious that he’s done incredible amounts of work to raise the profile Sunday’s breakfast was to support agriculture education programs like My American Farm.
  9. He knows there is middle ground in topics that sometimes get polarized. It was interesting to me that he brought up the issues happening now with wolves. He says wolves are problems on farms & ranches, mainly because people keep encroaching on their habitats with suburbanization. But he also understands that when wolves begin to attack humans, control efforts will get put into place. He wants to do what is fair and right.
  10. Schedules are different for a lot of city folks and farmers. One of the very first things he told us has stuck with me. He mentioned Saturday evening as he left for Nashville that he had a 7 a.m. breakfast talk to give and the guy said asked who in the world would come to hear a speaker that early. Hanna enjoyed pointing out that farmers are up early all the time — they have to put in long days to feed all of us! So true.

I really encourage you to follow him on TV and social media. You can find Jack Hanna on:

Janice AKA JPLovesCotton is Janice Person, a city girl who loves cotton and biotechnology. Her work at Monsanto includes blogging and social media outreach. A colorful adventure is her personal blog. Follow her on Twitter (@JPLovesCotton). .

Closing Session Includes Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack

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Secretary Tom Vilsack’s talk started with recognition that he has been asked to stay on with President Obama’s second term.

Vilsack, a card carrying member of the Iowa Farm Bureau, said the challenges of the drought and navigation on the Mississippi River may not be understood to the general public, but farmers and others get it.

He said there are efforts to improve weather forecasting, to provide more research into climate change impacts and other long-term challenges.

A key point from the drought was the resilience of American farmers who adapt and adopt technology, Vilsack pointed out. The risk management efforts in place were critical and he was disappointed in the lack of a Farm Bill.

Vilsack says there was potential for reform, and the opportunity went passed. “we are disappointed that you all were not given the certainty that a five year program can do,” he said. There will be opportunities to opt-in or opt-out.

He assured the members that the Ag department continues to push for a five year bill. With the rural economy and momentum there, it was especially difficult.

His statement “We need a five year bill and we need it now” was met with applause.

Although it can be tough to articulate the needs to the broader public, we have a responsibility to do so. And the benefits to the environment, to conservation and other areas are important to all of us.

The nutrition assistance program are also important safety nets. These programs provide for American families, Vilsack says. He says the support of them is important to get support for the bill in Congress.

Rural America provides food, fuel, millions of jobs and the military – distortion steely having the 16% of America that is rural, provide 40% of the military.

Rural America needs to find a way to connect and make people see how it is relevant to the masses, Vilsack says. One way to do that is to convey agriculture’s message. There are other connections to make like Chuck Hagel of Nebraska becoming secretary of defense. Understanding the bio based economy, he could reduce our military’s dependence on foreign oil. Same matters on treasury secretary.

Vilsack says agriculture has a stake in immigration reform. He says rural America needs to embrace diversity and discover common causes.

He understands how frustrating it is to be the best at what is done and not have people join the cause. We need to get more people involved not in consumption but in production which is what rural America does best.

Vilsack finished by thanking farmers and rural America for feeding his family, providing the economic benefits that are so common, for protecting the environment and for providing so many of the men and women to the military.

Janice AKA JPLovesCotton is Janice Person, a city girl who loves cotton and biotechnology. Her work in public affairs for Monsanto includes blogging and social media outreach. A colorful adventure is her personal blog. Follow her on Twitter (@JPLovesCotton) and find her on Facebook.

Drought Tolerance Discussion Draws Farmer Interest at AFBF13

AFBF Seminar on Drought ToleranceOn Sunday, one of the exhibitor seminars drew a big crowd and kept them in their seats the full hour. What topic could lure people away from picking up swag? Easy. Drought tolerance. The topic is especially poignant following a historic drought in many states during 2012.

Mark Edge, the DroughtGard marketing lead for Monsanto, came to the AFBF meeting to talk with farmers about the company’s approach on drought tolerance and the new products that are becoming available.

Edge said water is the biggest topic facing agriculture and it has been for a long time. He remembers growing up on a Midwestern farm where water was frequently the topic of conversation. It is not just a topic of interest due to the drought of 2012.

Edge said managing water is critical on farms and in cities pointing out that the tiny bit of fresh water we have needs to provide for people, crops, animals, etc. and all of those areas need to be more sustainable  He said farmers have long looked for various ways to conserve water and the continued improvements are sought on-farm.

Monsanto is using a systems approach to addressing water use and drought tolerance. The system includes native traits, biotech traits and agronomics to deliver solutions to farmers. He says the company has introduced new DroughtGard hybrids that have been screened closely for performance of native traits and biotech traits. Molecular tools identify native control of drought tolerance in a more precise way than in the past allowing breeders to screen for drought tolerance while maintaining yield, etc Several years of testing has already been conducted in the western corn belt ie Kansas, Colorado & Nebraska.

Edge’s comments that plant is able to perform with less water, sensors test available water in the soil profile. The testing done includes monitoring of water in the soil profile by using soil capacity probes. With DroughtGard, plant survival rates are greater due to water banking.

Earlier technologies have already made a difference in water use on the farm. Two of the technologies to make a difference already are conservation tillage & corn rootworm control.

The crowd got a laugh out of Edge’s comment that “the DroughtGard name does not mean we have turned corn into a cactus.” He pointed out that plants still need water.

For 2013, the introduction of DroughtGard will be limited to selected states with farmers signing stewardship agreements about the grain produced. These agreements require the corn produced be consumed in the US, where the product is fully approved.

Janice AKA JPLovesCotton is Janice Person, a city girl who loves cotton and biotechnology. Her work for Monsanto includes blogging and social media outreach. A colorful adventure is her personal blog. Follow her on Twitter (@JPLovesCotton) and find her on Facebook.

Farm Bureau Members Get to See Hawaiian Agriculture

Monsanto's Kunia research station

Monsanto’s Kunia research station

Before the Farm Bureau’s Annual Meeting gets underway, many of the farmers who have traveled to Hawaii are taking time to visit farms on Oahu. Friday I was with a group of farmers and Farm Bureau staff from Indiana, Iowa, Texas and Missouri who had a chance to learn about the role Hawaii plays in corn seed research that ultimately delivers products to their mainland farms as well as an innovative program to help small farms have some increased stability.

The group toured Monsanto Company’s Kunia research farm, where Fred Perlak, who leads technology & business in Hawaii, provided an overview of the area and the farm.

  • There are three major challenges to farming in Hawaii which farmers and companies all have to deal with.
    • Water – In Hawaiian the word “wai” means water “wai wai” is wealth so its clear that water is a critical piece of the ag puzzle. Farms in this area receive water through a state run irrigation system that brings water from the other side of the island. Monsanto uses drip tape to use all the water, recycle the drip tape, etc to be the best possible steward of the precious resource. This video on YouTube shows some of the innovative water collection that has been used in Hawaii.
    • Land — Hawaii with the volcanic activity frequently has poor soils. This site has red dirt with high iron levels which can cause issues by tying up fertilizer. To overcome this, the site puts fertilizer through irrigation system to make use of all, avoid leaching, in the field every day, treating each 10 ft of row. With the pitch of the land, this site has also terraced the land, created collection pools to recover top soil despite the heavy rainfall the area receives. 
    • Labor — Many farms in Hawaii are very small farms of a couple of acres and all work is done by the farmer and his family. A lot of workers from the Philippines, very labor intensive, nurturing local staff, scholarships, Internships, FFA, etc, now recruiting like high school athletes destined for college
  • It is expensive to be active in Hawaiian agriculture so expectations are very high.
  • There used to be sugar and pineapple on this land. It had been fallow three years before it was purchased in 2007.
  • Seed corn production is the biggest segment of agriculture in Hawaii. There are about 2,000 seed employees for the various companies. Monsanto’s efforts are in Oahu, Maui and Molokai. Several other companies also do seed corn research here as crops can be planted throughout the year.
  • This site is focused on building new varieties corn and soybeans working with breeding programs in the U.S.
  • The Kunia team of approximately 400 people does about 5 million hand crosses here and the crew on Maui does approximately 6 million a year so it is an intense labor process.

    Dean Okimoto explains Hawaii Ag Foundation's Kunia Ag Park

    Dean Okimoto & Wendy Gady explain Hawaii Ag Foundation’s Kunia Ag Park

The tour also had a chance to hear from Dean Okimoto, a local farmer who’s president of Hawaii Farm Bureau and is among the leadership of the Hawaii Ag Foundation. Dean and one of the people working with Kunia Ag Park, Wendy Gady, took time to talk to us about a new program to support small farms. (If you missed the previous video post on Dean you should take a couple of minutes to watch it.) Some of the things you should know about small farms and the Kunia Ag Park include:

  • Many small acreage farmers in Hawaii have month-to-month leases which could result in a loss of their ability to farm with just a month’s notice when the field is sold or the owner chooses to do something else with the land. The Ag Park is providing people one year leases that dramatically increase the stability of farming.
  • Land that is provided to farmers frequently requires major improvements like removal of trees, etc. In the Ag Park, the major work is done as well as some of the other pieces like preliminary ground work.

    products from Hawaii Ag Foundation's Kunia Ag Park

    products from small farms at Hawaii Ag Foundation’s Kunia Ag Park

  • Land prices are higher in Hawaii than mainland farmers can imagine so getting started as a farmer is unbelieveably tough. However, the Ag Park offers reasonable leases and year-round production for the fresh market and farmers markets offer the potential for good profits.
  • The range of products includes white beets, greens, apple bananas, star fruit, peanuts, a couple of types of squash, eggplants and other fresh fruits and vegetables. Most of the farmers currently on the Ag Park participate in farmers’ markets.
  • The park is providing farmers a way to grow. For instance, Gady showed a video where a farming couple talked about expanding from 2 acres to 11 acres at the new location. The expansion could provide additional jobs in agriculture.

Tours also went to other farms on Oahu and other islands. We hope Farm Bureau members will continue passing along what they learned to others.

I hope you enjoy the slide show of the morning!

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JPLovesCotton is Janice Person, a city girl who loves cotton and biotechnology. Her work in public affairs for Monsanto includes blogging and social media outreach. A colorful adventure is her personal blog. Follow her on Twitter (@JPLovesCotton).