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A patchwork of pumpkin fun

A now-thriving business began as an experimental fluke in a weedy, hard-to-irrigate field. That was in 1995. My, what a difference a quarter of a century makes.

Rodney Anderson grew up on 80-acres in Loveland, Colo. When he was 9, his father sold off the dairy farm portion, concentrating his efforts on raising field corn, hay, some pinto beans; plus custom haying.

When Rodney was 20 or 21 and recently married, he decided to raise sweet corn on about five acres. That enterprise went so well that he continued selling his harvests at Farmers’ Markets from 1979 to 2001. Ten years of that was at his Loveland location.

In 1989, he moved to Windsor, doubling acreage and expanding crop varieties. That upgrade included 400-500 tomato plants annually, plus sweet corn. But there was this one sad little field that only produced a bumper crop of weeds as it was too difficult to reach with water, until…

“Try pumpkins,” someone casually recommended.

Anderson gave it a try, figuring he had nothing to lose but some seed sown in bone-dry soil. The results were amazing: an abundant, healthy crop as perfect as was his timing. Because that same season, Steele’s Market in Windsor lost its pumpkin supplier and was more-than-eager to accept Anderson’s big, orange orbs.

A LOT LIKE CINDERELLA

When Anderson, wife Patty, and their two sons again relocated, this time to Ault, pumpkins were as top-of-mind as the transformed one that carried Cinderella to the royal ball.

Starting in 2001, Anderson plants 40-acres of them, along with squash and minis. He now raises 40-50 varieties in myriad colors, some for eating (like as the star of yummy pies), others merrily decorative. And he’s always experimenting with new types.

For the first six years, he personally wholesaled to customers, delivering direct rather than through an agent. When approached by one customer to use a third party, for a more-than-paltry fee, he countered by saying only if that company came out to help grow and harvest his crop. The proposal was abruptly declined. He continues on making personal deliveries.

All the while, Anderson busily labored with additional endeavors. He still retains about four regular hay cutting customers, plus tackling his own 600-acres (spread over five different places), 320-acres of which are on his Ault home base.

Most days after morning irrigating, Anderson drives a semi load of hay to dairies. Some are local, others in Windsor, Mead and Fort Lupton. Besides home-grown, he sources additional hay to deliver as a by-order product to dairies as far afield as Nebraska, Montana and Wyoming.

Anderson employes two full-time workers to run the farm when he’s on-the-road, plus his 27-year-old son Tyler, plus 15-20 part-timers for the autumn peak season extravaganza.

When Anderson’s pumpkins originally morphed into an entire season of fun, he sought customers for a U-Pick field by setting up a roadside display.

“I wanted some ‘eye appeal,’” the ag entrepreneur said.

Each year the parking lot exhibit grew, adding hayrides and a one-acre hay maze replete with tunnels and a hay bale roof to — just in time for Halloween — make it deliciously spooky-dark inside. After the massive grassy structure now comprised of seven semi-loads of hay (gigantic bales 3-ft. X 4-ft. X 8 ft. and smaller 60-70-pounders) is hefted into place, let the merriment begin.

“Kids have a ball in there!” Anderson said, noting that some even refuse to come out! Most parents, on the other hand, refuse to go into the shadowy, cave-like maze. Then Anderson or one of his employees has to retrieve the teasingly errant youngsters.

Admitting it makes him feel old, 64-year-old Anderson mentioned that some of those playful children are now grownups bringing their own kids to his maze and U-Pick field. But age is just a state of mind when you own and manage such a joyful place.

Large groups, many of them extended families of up to 50 people, arrive each year to buy pumpkins for follow-up parties at which they carve their jack-o-lanterns, have chili cook-offs and more at someone’s house. Anderson expects even COVID-19 won’t halt that longtime tradition.

LOST IN (OPEN) SPACE

Anderson recalled one memorable crowd, a church youth group, from 2012. They requested a parking lot bonfire for dusk, after the U-Pick lot and hay maze closed. He first gave them a hayride to the field, where they picked their chosen pumpkins. After a return ride to the parking lot, the young people played in the maze of tunnels as he started up a small, cozy blaze.

After a total of about 2½ hours, sufficiently happy group members and their ‘punkins piled into their cars and left. Anderson’s busy day was done… or was it? He spotted a single car remaining in the lot with no owner anywhere in sight. Anderson again checked inside the intricate maze. Not a soul.

He quickly 4-wheeled out to the U-Pick field, worrying about who and where they were. There amongst the rows and rows of vines he found a young, stargazing couple who merely wondered why no one had come out to get them.

As the story unfolded, they said they’d arrived sometime after the final group left the field. The 20-somethings just wandered out and stayed on, admiring the beautiful, clear night and its stunning full moon.

Anderson sincerely apologized to them for not realizing they were out there, to which they replied, “Don’t feel bad. We had a blast!”

On a less romantic note that night, the youth leader’s wife lost her wedding ring — which, unlike the romantic couple, has never been seen again! ❖

— Metzger is a freelance writer from Fort Collins, Colo. She can be reached at ponytime47@gmail.com.

Raising rural voices: #Showing up on commissions and boards

At the Greeley stop of the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association’s Rally for Rural Colorado, producers gathered to hear updates from CCA Executive Vice President Terry Fankhauser and Todd Inglee, executive director of the Colorado Beef Council. It was also where producers were able to ask some of the hard questions.

Fankhauser said he can’t emphasize enough the importance of rural representation on boards and commissions, especially in light of the Gov. Jared Polis’ most recent appointment of vegan animal rights activist Ellen Kessler to the Colorado State Board of Veterinary Medicine.

Gov. Polis defended his appointment of Kessler during a stop in Sterling on Sept. 11. He told Jeff Rice with the Sterling Journal Advocate that he supports 4-H but “we value diversity in Colorado, we just want folks who, in the case of veterinary medicine, are going to uphold the principles of animal health and veterinary medicine.”

One committee that he said will be particularly vital is the Reapportion and Redistricting Committee, which will be responsible for the redistricting of congressional and legislative boundaries through the formation of two separate commissions.

To apply for consideration, an online application, letters of recommendation, and resume can be submitted online. Fankhauser said applicants considered are typically interviewed with the expectation that appointees will make decisions based on the information provided to them, their own experience, and the merits of the two.

Upcoming openings on boards and commissions that may be of particular interest to those in agriculture and rural Colorado include: Property Tax Administration, Advisory Committee (Sept. 2020); Workforce Development Council (Sept. 2020); State Veterinary Education Loan Repayment Council (Oct. 2020); Water Resources and Power Development Authority (Oct. 2020); Colorado State Fair Authority Board of Commissioners (Nov. 2020); Board of Governors of Colorado State University System (Dec. 2020); Colorado Wildlife Habitat Stamp Committee (Dec. 2020); Air Quality Control Commission (Jan. 2021); Water Conservation Board (Feb. 2021); Agriculture Commission (March 2021); and an opening due to a resignation on the Ground Water Commission.

With an upcoming appointment to the Agriculture Commission, another point discussed at the rally was increasing engagement between Colorado Agriculture Commissioner Kate Greenberg and the agriculture producers in the state. Fankhauser said this governor’s administration is less accessible than others he has worked with in the past.

“There is a need for open dialogue and being a conduit to assist through knowledge and communication,” Fankhauser said. “I look for a commissioner of ag to do that.”

Previous commissioners, he said, have brought in industry experts and have relied on them for their input but that hasn’t happened.

“Members are frustrated, and they want and need that access,” he said. “This isn’t drawing a line in the sand, this is stepping across and saying, ‘come on over.’ You pay the (Colorado Department of Ag’s) bills, they work for you and it’s by design that’s the case. We need to move forward.”

At a stop in Fort Morgan at Morgan Community College last week, The Fence Post asked Polis when the CDA might receive federal CARES Act funds that might be applied to assist small and mid-sized meat processors. Polis said he is working with the CDA to expand processing capacity in the state after hearing from ranchers who were unable to harvest cattle due to a processing glut due to COVID closures. A former co-sponsor of the PRIME Act when in Congress, Polis said he’s looking for ways processors can enjoy flexibility to benefit producers and consumers alike.

Polis said he is strongly supportive of direct to consumer marketing of local foods though he understands the interstate commerce and regulatory issues that plague the concept. He said he looks forward to collaborating with ranchers and recognizes how important the opportunity to reach consumers is.

During his visit to Fort Morgan, he toured the newly opened MCC Precision Agriculture facility and heard from multiple staff and students, including Quinton Draegert. Draegert explained the use of drones in agriculture and how it is applicable to his job for a local agronomy company. ❖

— Gabel is the assistant editor and reporter for The Fence Post. She can be reached at rgabel@thefencepost.com or (970) 768-0024.

Denver’s NWSS: Closed for business

Producers, competitors and exhibitors in 40 states and 35 countries won’t be coming to Denver for the “best 16 days in January” after officials announced Sept. 14 the National Western Stock Show’s 115th event would be postponed until January 2022.

According to Doug Jones, board chairman of the NWSS, the show brings in 700,000 visitors and carries an economic impact of $120 million in January alone. Though the announcement was made early to allow for exhibitors to plan around financial losses, youth competitors already have their Denver stock being readied and producers who exhibit and display in the Yards have significant investment already made.

For Willie Altenberg, it’s a matter of lost business. Altenberg, a Simmental breeder in northern Colorado, said he’s been doing business in the Yards for 40 years and holds the liberal Denver mayor and Colorado Gov. Jared Polis responsible for the closure of the business done annually at the event. The economic impact to Denver, he said, is a mere drop in the bucket compared to the investment and return for stockmen there to do business.

“The only difference between social distancing on the ski slopes and allowing NWSS to remain open is that the ski resorts have better lobbies,” he said. “There are other surrounding states that value the business of cattle producers and they’re happy to have it. We’re not going to close for business just because the stock show is cancelled. That’s not what cowboys do.”

Despite his disgust at the closing of the NWSS for business in 2021, he is adamant that the staff of the event ought not be blamed for a decision that was out of their hands. For Altenberg, the blame rests squarely on the shoulders of the urban mayors and Gov. Polis’ office.

Bryan Sidwell, a Hereford breeder from Carr, Colo., has been spending part of January in Denver his entire life and his parents did the same before him. The Sidwell crew displays and shows in the Yards and on the Hill. They took 10 display bulls last year and the timing of the event drives many of his management decisions to ensure the best foot is forward when cattlemen and women from all over the world visit Denver.

Preparation for Denver isn’t for the short-sighted. Sidwell said he’s had his eye on heifers to take since they were calves last summer. Investment in cattle aside, Sidwell said they invest about $10,000 in transportation, meals, and wages for their crew. Though Jones said the city of Denver sees a $120 million economic impact, Sidwell anticipates the value of business done by those in the livestock industry far exceeds that number. The major investment in the cattle by Sidwell has already been made and he said they’re making plans to attend the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo as simply staying home and abandoning hope for revenue isn’t an option.

Sidwell said there have been a number of Junior Nationals shows, including the Hereford Association’s, that have been affected by restrictions and were able to move to different venues and go forward with some guidelines in place. He anticipates the same will happen with the junior livestock and breed shows slated for the NWSS. Sources at the major breed associations all indicated that discussions are taking place now to make alternate plans, including moving shows to other states.

NOT THE FIRST CURVEBALL

Christy Collins, a cattle sale management expert who is well known in the cattle industry has been hosting the Embryos on Snow sale during the NWSS for 14 years. The 2020 Embryos on Snow sale grossed over $1.8 million to fund the La Prix Scholarship award’s five annual recipients.

Collins said the cancellation is unfortunate but it’s certainly not the first curveball thrown at the livestock industry.

“We may never know another Denver as we know it now,” she said. “The face and the shape of it will change and whatever it’s due to — politics or liberal cities or whatever — it could be a number of things, but the world is changing. As strong a community as we are, the show will go on.”

For Cody Cattle Company in Scandia, Kan., Denver is a major portion of their marketing in advance of their March bull sale. Lindsay Runft handles the purebred Charolais operation’s marketing alongside her husband, Cody.

“I always tell people who are not necessarily in agriculture, or haven’t been to the National Western, that for us, it’s like a trade show where we have our version of a product on display in our pen,” she said. “They can come through and learn more about our ranch, cattle, and our genetics and see them right there in the flesh. It’s a large part of our marketing. Of course, we market for our bull sale year-round, but things really start to heat up when we go to Denver every year.”

The exposure to large crowds from all over the world, who are in the Yards specifically to do business with other cattle producers is second to none. Runft said CCC bulls were sold in their 2020 bull sale into Canada after those buyers viewed the display bulls in Denver, expanding their customer base internationally.

The CCC crew typically brings 10 to 15 bulls to display in the Yards. The crew in Denver is about 15 people though there is a second crew back at the ranch calving and feeding cows. The investment is significant, but she said it is a wise one.

“When I heard Denver was canceled, I called my husband and asked him what we’re going to do and he said, ‘I don’t know but you’ll figure it out’,” she said. “My wheels are spinning on what to do and I think it’ll be interesting to see not just us but across the board.”

The club calf sire display in Denver is, she said, a major event and a who’s who of breeders and bulls. From the commercial guys to the purebred guys to the club calf bull guys, she said this might be the year to do something completely unexpected.

“It’s a big disappointment for sure but everyone in agriculture is used to the curveball and we’ll have to adapt,” she said. “In March Madness, the basketball teams have to survive and advance and that’s a little like what the cattle industry during coronavirus has felt like. You have to survive and advance.”

Dr. Samantha Cunningham guides the Colorado State University Seedstock Team who learn to market purebred cattle, in part, through displaying and showing cattle at the NWSS. Cunningham said when she was asked what her plan would now be in light of the cancellation she responded, “I’ll plan tomorrow. Today I’m mourning.”

Colorado Gov, Polis released a statement calling the NWSS “a proud tradition in our state and one of the ways we can all come together to celebrate agriculture in Colorado and across the west.” He said he enjoyed attending as a kid and now he enjoys “bringing our kids in proud support of ranching in Colorado.” Polis said he respects the decision and looks forward to attending in 2022.

The event was last postponed in 1915 as a result of an outbreak of foot and mouth disease in livestock that closed transportation across state lines. The disease’s longest outbreak in the United States in 1914 necessitated the slaughter and incineration of the carcasses of infected animals. According to a technical bulletin released by the USDA in 1924, the outbreak that would have prompted the postponement of the 1915 NWSS stemmed from a plant where serum was produced to treat hog cholera. The viral disease was eradicated from the United States in 1929 and is not related to the disease of the same name common in children. ❖

— Gabel is the assistant editor and reporter for The Fence Post. She can be reached at rgabel@thefencepost.com or (970) 768-0024.

Hereford Crossroads #6 celebrates northwest Nebraska’s heritage

Nebraska is cattle country, and one piece of that heritage will be honored this fall in northwest Nebraska, when Hereford Crossroads #6 makes its way to Crawford in honor of the 100th anniversary of the Crawford Hereford Breeders Association.

The Hereford Crossroads reunion will take place Oct. 10 at the Crawford Community Building, the sixth such event organized by Nebraskans for Hereford Heritage since the group’s inception in 2015. Former Crawford Hereford Breeders members will have memorabilia on display when the doors open for the 5 p.m. social hour. Other events that night include a meal at 6 p.m. and the annual Hereford Hall of Fame induction and special entertainment at 7 p.m. Typically, two Nebraska Hereford breeders and one Hereford bull are inducted into the Hall of Fame each year.

The Crawford Hereford Breeders Association was formed in 1920, with Clyde Buffington and Sam Swinbank leading the effort, said member and former sale manager Tom Lemmon. Both men were holding private bull sales but were interested in forming a regional association that could draw additional consigners.

Eleven breeders were involved with the organization when the first sale was held in March 1920, though not all of them consigned bulls that inaugural year. Without a sale barn, the association held its initial sale at the Crawford City Park, and early sales often took place in livery stables, according to a 1970 story in Nebraska Cattleman.

“They used hay bales for seats. It was a little bit western. They had some good saddlehorses to lead the bulls in and out,” Lemmon said.

The first decade of sales saw an average that never went above $200, with the lowest at $99 in 1925. By 1927, the association had 94 head consigned, and topped that at 95 in 1929. A year later, the average price was $102, but founding member Clyde Buffington had the top-selling bull at $230.

As membership grew, the association built a barn in 1941 and added a sale pavilion in 1945, Lemmon said. The association held an organizational meeting in December or January to consign bulls, and had its annual meeting prior to its sale in March. By 1945, the association was also hosting Hereford shows.

The final show and sale for the Crawford Hereford Breeders Association took place in 1995, but the group boasted 150 members in those 75 years. Membership drew heavily from the northwest Nebraska region, but also from breeders as far away as Mullen, Lewellen, Bridgeport, Morrill and Henry, as well Edgemont, Hot Springs and Oelrichs, S.D.

From its earliest days, the association also supported local youth, starting a 4-H Calf Club in 1921, allowing youngsters to choose calves from the members’ herds and sell them in the association sale. Lemmon’s father, Cal, was one of the boys who drew lots for calves in 1921. He and fellow club members Beth Riggs, Gilbert Swinbank, Jim Buffington and Lawrence Tollman staged an all-Hereford show for President Calvin Coolidge during his 1927 visit to Ardmore, S.D., with the assistance of the association, according to a Sept. 4, 1947, issue of The Panhandle Digest.

“I still like the Hereford cattle,” Lemmon said. “In talking to descendants of members, they still have fond memories of the Hereford cattle and the association. They might run Angus, but that part hasn’t gone away.”

HEREFORD HISTORY

Hereford cattle were introduced to the U.S. by Kentucky statesman Henry Clay in 1817, though he crossed his with shorthorn cattle to avoid inbreeding, according to the Texas State Historical Association. The first breeding herd was introduced in New York by William Sotham. The American Hereford Cattle Breeders Association (later known as the American Hereford Association, was organized in 1881 and established its permanent headquarters in Missouri in 1920.

The Nebraskans for Hereford Heritage want to continue the tradition of preserving information about the Nebraska Hereford industry. The brainchild of Richard Brown of Lincoln, it was organized in 2015 with the goal of creating a Hereford museum.

“It is our long-term goal to have our own museum somewhere in the Sandhills, ideally in central Nebraska,” said Linda Teahon, one of the founding board members. At the end of the first meeting, the breeders at the meeting each contributed $100 toward the effort and began working on fundraising ideas. Hereford Crossroads, an annual reunion of Hereford breeders, was the result. The reunions take place each October, at various locations around the state. All former members of the Crawford Hereford Breeders Association, Nebraskans for Hereford Heritage members, 4-H and FFA members and other interested parties are invited to the Hereford Crossroads #6 next month.

While they work toward their goal of establishing a Hereford museum, Nebraskans for Hereford Heritage has curated an extensive collection of paintings, sculptures, bull sale catalogs and American Herd Bull editions dating back to 1926. A rotating exhibit culled from that collection is on display at the Sandhills Heritage Museum in Dunning, which opened in 2017.

“Our collection of information is very valuable to the Hereford industry,” Teahon said. “We change (the exhibit) out regularly with artwork. We have to continue to promote our Nebraska beef, and that’s one thing we’re trying to do.”

Artist Brandon Bailey’s “Under the Shade Tree” is one of the premier pieces in the collection and has become the official “flag” of the Hereford Crossroads events. It is displayed at each reunion and on special occasions at the museum in Dunning. Teahon’s photo of the bulls along Goose Creek on the Benj Fink ranch near Elsmere inspired Bailey’s oil painting, which was auctioned off at the Old West Trail Rodeo fundraiser several years ago. Teahon won the bidding that night and has loaned the painting to the collection.

The group also has commissioned four pieces of artwork commemorating the role of landmark bulls in Nebraska’s Hereford history and also aided with the restoration and display of a metal sculpture of Golden Design 14, a noted herd sire owned by Warner Herefords of Waverly. The sculpture was commissioned by breeder Charlie Warner to honor his prized 1968 bull. When artist Arlo Bray completed the piece, it was 32 inches tall, 56 inches long and weighed 120 pounds. Nebraskans for Hereford Heritage has helped the piece be displayed in more than 40 communities. The Golden Design 14 sculpture is currently on display at the Mari Sandoz High Plains Heritage Museum in Chadron, where it will remain until Oct. 8, when it will be relocated to Crawford for the Hereford Crossroads reunion.

Tickets to Hereford Crossroads #6 are $30 each and can be reserved by mailing payment to Dixie Hoffman at PO Box 192, Thedford, NE, 69166 by Oct. 1. There will be no ticket sales at the door this year due to the pandemic. ❖

Spurred on to success

Justin R. Erickson has made a lot of momentous decisions this year. One of the biggest was in July when he opted to transform a longtime part-time avocation into a full-time silversmithing business.

Creativity called and Erickson eagerly answered, knowing that meant forfeiting regular paychecks as a heavy equipment operator and working for northeast Colorado ranches.

Of course, he wasn’t jumping into that pool without knowing its depth. Erickson had been building spurs, buckles and more since 2014. His initial goal was to earn enough money selling the hand-crafted but basic pieces on Facebook to be able to afford high-end ones.

“Cowboys don’t have a lot of money so we build what we need,” he said.

And a cowboy he has been since frequent childhood visits to his grandpa Rick Erickson’s Nunn, Colo., ranch, home to Limousine and eventually Angus cattle. Since his grandfather’s death in 1993, the property (now owned by Erickson’s uncle) has remained in the family, thus qualifying it to soon become a Centennial farm.

But when young Justin and older sister Jennifer spent Christmas, summer and other school breaks at the ranch, it was simply a huge, wonderful outdoor classroom in which a child could learn life lessons as well as rural skills. Erickson retold one especially extraordinary memory.

“I got to see my first calf being born when I was just 6 or 7,” he recalled. “It was in January, cold and snowing. Grandpa and I were sitting in his old Ford pickup while checking cows. Then this particular one easily delivered hers right then as I watched and as grandpa patiently explained everything that was happening.”

Now all his own cowboy experiences and skill sets (including welding shop work when younger) combine as the Ault, Colo., silversmith plies his trade/art form. It is going well; very, very well… and prolifically. He’s currently working on spur pair #81.

One true sign of popularity among customers is repeat sales. Erickson has an avid Arizona buyer who’s purchased eight pairs of spurs and 15 sets of buckles since 2015. All are custom made, of course, but the man always gives Erickson free rein on patterns.

He’s currently working on multiple pairs of spurs for a family that he won’t name since some of the items will be Christmas presents. The family brand will appear on all the pieces.

In 2017, he built a pair of special spurs as a donation for the Miss Rodeo Colorado Auction. Profits from the sale enable her to travel as representative for the state.

Erickson’s Facebook page — j.ericksonspursandbuckles — draws devotees from all around the country. He’s sent his work to customers in Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, North and South Dakota, Montana, Texas, Utah, Nevada, New Mexico, West Virginia, and elsewhere.

Besides online sales, Erickson sometimes hits the road to shows and other events. For example, he early on worked a 2015 show in Amarillo, Texas. More recently, he displayed sale pieces at Tom Horn Days, Aug. 17-19, 2020, in Bosler, Wyo.

THE PROCESS

The artist in Erickson precedes the crafter. Erickson noted that he never draws in advance of a new project but rather sees it in his mind’s eye when a customer submits a description of a desired pattern (i.e. a bucking horse or a cross).

“It plays in my mind first and then I draw it out on paper, so it will fit on the spur,” Erickson said

He hand-cuts all his shanks and rowels rather than using water jet, laser or plasma computerization to cut, as do some crafters.

Erickson’s glad that many customers value, and prefer, hand-cut pieces. Although the process is more labor and time intense, he believes it offers better quality in the long run. He cuts with a band saw and uses his keen eye rather than computer guidance to perfect each piece.

Intricate engraving can take many hours but Erickson likes the plainer wriggle pattern and wheat stalks that simulate 1970s era work.

SECOND DECISION

So Erickson joyfully leapt into full-time self-employment in July. But, having already been on Facebook for five years, back in February he’d noticed the page of Montana-based leatherworker Lacey Clark, who fashions chinks, chaps, belts and spur straps.

The two became fast Facebook friends, immediately discovering many shared interests. Online friendship soon transformed into real life dating. Erickson adamantly credits Clark’s encouragement of his upgraded vocational choices for helping him shift into creative high gear.

He proclaimed, “She stands with me in everything I’ve done to go full-time in my silversmithing.”

Now they are teaming up creatively. The pair just co-sponsored High School Rodeo rider Bailey Shumpert with a custom hand-crafted donation of Erickson’s spurs and Clark’s straps.

They’re planning a Facebook belt project incorporating his buckle and her belt. And then there’s at least one pair of Clark’s chinks displaying Erickson’s silver hardware.

But hey, it’s a 10-hour one-way drive from Ault to Montana. That’s quite a long distance romance indeed! But Clark moved closer, cutting the compute in half when she relocated to Wyoming. Still, five hours each way is still an arduous journey. Despite only seeing each other in-person once every two to three weeks, the couple makes it work.

“She’s the love of my life,” Erickson said.

THE YOUNG ‘UNS

One common delight that Erickson and Clark share is teaching the next generation. He has a 12-year-old son, Lane, and she is mom to daughter Kaycee. Both youngsters are talented and clever.

Young Lane loves his father’s art, having now made it his own by building two pairs of spurs and two sets of spur strap buckles.

Clark can’t say enough about little Kaycee’s interests and abilities. At the tender age of just 9, the industrious girl rides, has her own black cows and 4-H project chickens (sells the hen’s eggs), and intends to do a beef project with red cows when she age qualifies.

“She’s very independent,” Clark said.

And, again, creative. Kaycee designed her own pair of chinks (sporting Erickson’s buckles) and also an itty bitty pair for one of her chickens!

You can view/order Erickson’s spurs and buckles on Facebook at j.ericksonspursandbuckles. He can also be reached by phone at (970) 576-2189. ❖

— Metzger is a freelance writer from Fort Collins, Colo. She can be reached at ponytime47@gmail.com.

Pork producers call for border inspector funding

The National Pork Producers Council on Thursday said the discovery of African swine fever cases in Germany intensifies the need for Congress to fund U.S. border inspection before leaving Washington for the campaign trail.

In a call to reporters following the group’s virtual fly-in, NPPC officials noted that U.S. Bureau of Customs and Border Protection agriculture inspections at ports of entry, which are funded by Agricultural Quarantine Inspection program user fees, will soon run out of money because the COVID-related economic downturn and significant reductions in travel have led to a drop in user fees.

“Without a prompt resolution, there will be an estimated $630 million shortfall in AQI funding through the end of fiscal year 2021,” NPPC President Howard Roth, a Wisconsin producer, told reporters.

“It is imperative that this funding shortfall be addressed to protect the U.S. swine herd and all of agriculture from foreign animal and plant diseases.”

China, South Korea, Japan and the Philippines have all banned German pork and the United States could face the same situation if African swine fever enters the country, Roth noted.

The need to fund border inspection is important to all of agriculture, not just the pork industry, Roth added.

If Congress passes what’s known as a “clean” continuing resolution to fund the government at the same level in fiscal 2021 as in fiscal 2020, that CR would not provide more money for the inspectors, Nick Giordano, an NPPC vice president, noted. If Congress does not include the border inspection money in the CR then it should include it soon in another bill, he said.

“We need to secure our borders,” Giordano said.

During the virtual fly-in, the pork producers told members of Congress that a coronavirus aid bill should include money for hog producers who have killed or donated hogs because they could not find slaughterhouses to take them. The pork producers also asked that there be no payment limitations for producers for that program.

Giordano also said that pork producers of all sizes have gone out of business or just stopped raising hogs as part of the operations, but NPPC does not have any figures on the number of farmers no longer producing hogs.

The American Farm Bureau Federation’s Market Intel service also issued a report on the implications of Germany’s African swine fever for global pork trade.

USDA designates 2 Colo., 3 Neb. and 4 Wyo. counties as primary natural disaster areas

WASHINGTON — Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue designated two Colorado, three Nebraska and four Wyoming counties as primary natural disaster areas.

Producers in Logan and Phillips counties in Colorado, Burt, Douglas and Washington counties in Nebraska and Albany, Carbon, Fremont and Platte counties in Wyoming who suffered losses caused by recent drought may be eligible for U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency emergency loans.

This natural disaster designation allows FSA to extend much-needed emergency credit to producers recovering from natural disasters. Emergency loans can be used to meet various recovery needs including the replacement of essential items such as equipment or livestock, reorganization of a farming operation or the refinance of certain debts.

Producers in the contiguous counties listed below are also eligible to apply for emergency loans:

• Colorado: Morgan, Sedgwick, Washington, Weld and Yuma

• Nebraska: Chase, Cheyenne, Kimball and Perkins

Producers in the contiguous counties listed below are also eligible to apply for emergency loans:

• Nebraska: Cuming, Dodge, Sarpy, Saunders and Thurston

• Iowa: Harrison, Monona and Pottawattamie

Producers in the contiguous counties listed below are also eligible to apply for emergency loans:

• Wyoming: Converse, Goshen, Hot Springs, Laramie, Natrona, Niobrara, Park, Sublette, Sweetwater, Teton and Washakie

• Colorado: Jackson, Larimer, Moffat and Routt

The deadline to apply for these emergency loans is May 10, 2021.

FSA will review the loans based on the extent of losses, security available and repayment ability.

FSA has a variety of additional programs to help farmers recover from the impacts of this disaster. FSA programs that do not require a disaster declaration include: Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees and Farm-Raised Fish Program; Emergency Conservation Program; Livestock Forage Disaster Program; Livestock Indemnity Program; Operating and Farm Ownership Loans; and the Tree Assistance Program.

Farmers may contact their local USDA service center for further information on eligibility requirements and application procedures for these and other programs. Additional information is also available online at farmers.gov/recover. ❖

U.S. DDGS exports to South Korea rebound after COVID-19 slump

Exports of U.S. distiller’s dried grains with solubles (DDGS) to South Korea are on track to set another record for the 2019/2020 marketing year, thanks to the U.S. Grains Council’s work to encourage resumed purchasing following COVID-19 production shortfalls last spring.

“Thanks to USGC’s active promotion since 2014, U.S. DDGS have been firmly positioned as one of the three major compound feed ingredients in the South Korean animal feed market,” said Haksoo Kim, USGC director for South Korea. “South Korea has set a new record for U.S. DDGS purchases each year since 2010/2011.”

Following USGC’s work to introduce the nutritional advantages of U.S. DDGS, average inclusion rates dramatically increased from 3.3 percent in 2014 to 5.6 percent in 2019.

Increased use has led to a steady increase in imports. As the third largest world buyer, South Korea purchased 1.19 million metric tons of U.S. DDGS in 2018/2019.

The outbreak of COVID-19 led to a sharp decrease in ethanol production — and therefore DDGS — causing DDGS exports to South Korea to slow to a trickle. In April and May, DDGS prices in South Korea soared to $300 per metric ton, making it almost impossible to secure exports.

As a result, the Korean feed industry rapidly switched to alternative feed ingredients. This resulted in large feed millers completely excluding U.S. DDGS from their feed formulations and most compound feed companies reducing inclusion rates dramatically.

USGC recognized the urgency of reinforcing the economic and nutritional advantages of U.S. DDGS to the Korean compound feed industry as ethanol production came back online and DDGS supplies became more readily available and affordable.

To do so, in-country staff organized a continuous flow of information on the market and technology. First, USGC printed 250 copies of the U.S. DDGS Handbook in Korean, which staff distributed to the entire Korean feed industry. The handbook contains the most up-to-date information on nutritional and economic benefits of U.S. DDGS by animal species and the maximum recommended inclusion ratios, giving the Korean feed industry an opportunity to reconsider the value of the products.

Following up on the mailing, USGC invited a DDGS consultant to host a webinar in late July to answer questions and share the latest information on the economics of the feed industry and how U.S. DDGS inclusion helps produce high-quality meat products.

These activities were well-received, and the feed industry has now recovered inclusion rates to pre-COVID-19 levels. U.S. exports of DDGS exports to South Korea also increased significantly in August. Exports-to-date (September 2019 to July 2020) are up 2.9 percent year-over-year at 1.11 million tons, with one year of export data remaining to complete the 2019/2020 marketing year.

“Increased U.S. DDGS exports after August will be enough to offset the decline caused by COVID-19,” Kim said. “Sales are now on track to set yet another new export record to South Korea for the 2019/2020 marketing year.” ❖

USDA announces details of CFAP 2 assistance with $14B for ag

President Donald Trump and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue today announced up to an additional $14 billion in aid for agricultural producers who continue to face market disruptions and associated costs because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Signup for the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP 2) at the USDA Farm Service Agency county offices will begin Sept. 21 and run through Dec. 11.

“America’s agriculture communities are resilient, but still face many challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Perdue said in a news release.

“President Trump is once again demonstrating his commitment to ensure America’s farmers and ranchers remain in business to produce the food, fuel, and fiber America needs to thrive.”

“We listened to feedback received from farmers, ranchers and agricultural organizations about the impact of the pandemic on our nations’ farms and ranches, and we developed a program to better meet the needs of those impacted.”

USDA will use funds being made available from the Commodity Credit Corporation Charter Act and Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to support row crops, livestock, specialty crops, dairy, aquaculture and many additional commodities.

“USDA has incorporated improvements in CFAP 2 based from stakeholder engagement and public feedback to better meet the needs of impacted farmers and ranchers,” Perdue said.

Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman John Hoeven, R-N.D., said he had talked about the program this week with both Perdue and Office of Management and Budget Director Russ Vought, who had to approve it.

“Farmers and ranchers wake up every morning with a determination to meet tough markets and weather conditions, working hard to provide the food, fuel and fiber our nation needs,” Hoeven said.

“Our producers don’t quit, and Congress must match this resolve with measures to help them through this difficult time, which is why we secured $14 billion in CCC funding under the CARES Act to provide our farmers and ranchers with COVID-19-related support,” he said.

“CFAP 2 comes at a crucial time for our producers. The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted the ag economy and we need to do all we can to help our producers weather these challenges. We appreciate USDA’s efforts to get this assistance out and at the same time, we continue working to provide additional assistance to help our farmers and ranchers.”

CFAP 2 payments will be made for three categories: Price trigger commodities, flat-rate crops and sales commodities:

PRICE TRIGGER COMMODITIES

These are major commodities that meet a minimum 5% price decline over a specified period of time. Eligible crops include barley, corn, sorghum, soybeans, sunflowers, upland cotton, and all classes of wheat.

Payments will be based on 2020 planted acres of the crop, excluding prevented planting and experimental acres. Payments for price trigger crops will be the greater of: 1) the eligible acres multiplied by a payment rate of $15 per acre; or 2) the eligible acres multiplied by a nationwide crop marketing percentage, multiplied by a crop-specific payment rate, and then by the producer’s weighted 2020 Actual Production History approved yield.

If the APH is not available, 85% of the 2019 Agriculture Risk Coverage-County Option benchmark yield for that crop will be used.

For broilers and eggs, payments will be based on 75% of the producers’ 2019 production.

Dairy (cow’s milk) payments will be based on actual milk production from April 1 to Aug. 31, 2020. The milk production for Sept. 1, 2020, to Dec. 31, 2020, will be estimated by FSA.

Eligible beef cattle, hogs and pigs, and lambs and sheep payments will be based on the maximum owned inventory of eligible livestock, excluding breeding stock, on a date selected by the producer, between April 16, 2020, and Aug. 31, 2020.

FLAT-RATE CROPS

Crops that either do not meet the 5% price decline trigger or do not have data available to calculate a price change will have payments calculated based on eligible 2020 acres multiplied by $15 per acre. These crops include alfalfa, extra long staple (ELS) cotton, oats, peanuts, rice, hemp, millet, mustard, safflower, sesame, triticale, rapeseed, and several others.

SALES COMMODITIES

These include specialty crops; aquaculture; nursery crops and floriculture; other commodities not included in the price trigger and flat-rate categories, including tobacco; goat milk; mink (including pelts); mohair; wool; and other livestock (excluding breeding stock) not included under the price trigger category that were grown for food, fiber, fur, or feathers.

Payment calculations will use a sales-based approach, where producers are paid based on five payment gradations associated with their 2019 sales.

PAYMENT LIMITATIONS

There is a payment limitation of $250,000 per person or entity for all commodities combined. Applicants that are corporations, limited liability companies, limited partnerships may qualify for additional payment limits when members actively provide personal labor or personal management for the farming operation.

In addition, this special payment limitation provision has been expanded to include trusts and estates for both CFAP 1 and 2, USDA noted.

Producers will also have to certify they meet the Adjusted Gross Income limitation of $900,000 unless at least 75% or more of their income is derived from farming, ranching or forestry-related activities. Producers must also be in compliance with Highly Erodible Land and Wetland Conservation provisions. ❖

Search for missing Wyoming man still active

It’s been more than a year since Chance Englebert disappeared after leaving a home in Gering, Neb., and his family and friends are still working hard to keep the search going.

“Please keep praying, keep saying his name,” said Dawn Englebert, Chance’s mother. “We’ve got to keep the story alive until somebody talks. Somebody had to have heard something or seen something.”

Chance, 25 at the time of his disappearance on July 6, 2019, was visiting his in-laws in Gering, Neb., with his wife Baylee and then-infant son Banks, Dawn said. There was some type of misunderstanding or fight with his in-laws and Chance walked away, saying he wanted to go home, Dawn said. He called a friend for a ride and the friend called them. But although multiple family members called and texted him many times, he never responded.

The family went to Gering to help with the search, which involved 17 agencies and hundreds of people. “It just hadn’t really clicked, this is real,” she said. “I kept thinking he was going to come home.”

On July 11, almost a week after his disappearance, the missing persons case turned into an investigation. He was last seen on video surveillance footage in the Gering, Scottsbluff area, two cities located across the North Platte River from each other. “You think it would get easier, but it doesn’t,” she said.

Investigator Brian Eads of the Gering Police Department said at the time Chance disappeared he was with the Nebraska State Patrol, one of the many agencies that assisted with the search. Now he’s one of the main investigators on the case through his current job at the police department.

“We welcome any and all informational tips that the general public might have,” he said. To pass on any information about the case call the Gering Police Department at at (308) 436-5089.

According to a statement posted online from George Holthus, chief of police in Gering, the case remains an open missing persons investigation, and any information received by the department is followed up on. “Investigators have received and followed up on numerous possible sightings of Chance in several states, from Oregon to Texas and many others, but none of the information has led to Chance being found,” he said.

MORE ABOUT CHANCE

Chance grew up on the family ranch in Burdock, S.D., in the southwestern part of the state, near Edgemont, S.D. He was a bareback rider since eighth grade and went to college at Laramie County Community College located in Cheyenne, Wyo., on a scholarship for bareback riding, Dawn said. He earned a degree in diesel mechanics and welding.

It was always his dream to come back to work on the ranch, she said. Since that wasn’t immediately possible he was living in Moorcroft, Wyo., and working as a welder at a mine. Right before he disappeared, Chance, along with 600 other employees, lost their jobs when the company went bankrupt.

Chance, a hard worker who never missed work, stopped by a propane company in Moorcroft and got a new job, Dawn said. He was set to start working there the Monday after the Forth of July holiday when he disappeared.

“Everybody loved Chance,” she said, adding that he was an amazing big brother to his two younger brothers, Miles and Clay, and he’s missed very much.

Katie Ross, who met Chance at the community college where they were both part of the rodeo team, said he was a friendly, kind and happy person. She reached out to The Fence Post because she doesn’t want him to be forgotten.

In February Ross and her mom drove to Gering to help with another search because they felt they had to do something to help. It was inspiring to see so many people searching for days, some of whom never even knew Chance and others family and friends. “You hope you have friends that good,” she said.

Chance’s mom doesn’t understand how her son could have vanished in broad daylight, she said. So many things have been done to try to find him, including search and rescue dogs, cadaver dogs, drones, draining the canals and more. “Nothing ever pans out,” she said.

In October, the family hired a private investigator. There’s a billboard up in Gering, with a photo of Chance, asking people to call an anonymous tip line, (724) 466-4673. There’s also a Facebook page called Help Find Chance Englebert, where they share information as well as selling hats and other products, to help with the costs of the private investigator.

Chance is 5 feet, 10 inches tall, 195 pounds with light brown hair and hazel eyes. He has a scar on his hip. On the day he disappeared, he was wearing a short sleeved wrangler shirt, wrangler jeans, roper boots and a black and white trucker cap.

On July 6, one year since Chance went missing, there were two prayer vigils held. One in Edgemont, near where Chance grew up, and one in Gering, where he went missing. ❖

— Jessen is a freelance writer living in Minnesota with her nurse husband and daughter. They recently settled down after more than three years living a travel lifestyle, thanks to her husband’s travel nurse job. She can be reached at hollyjessenmedia@gmail.com.