Mid-American Alfalfa Expo held in Kearney, Neb., connects producers | TheFencePost.com

Mid-American Alfalfa Expo held in Kearney, Neb., connects producers

Robyn Scherer, M.Agr.
Staff Reporter

A Claas Jaguar 900 with the pick up attachment give producers a different way to harvest alfalfa. The pick up head allows a producer to pick up cut hay from a field without baling it.

Even in the middle of winter when the ground is covered in snow, farmers are still working. There is new information to be sought, new products to be evaluated, and new contacts to be made.

The Mid-America Alfalfa Expo and Conference on Feb. 7 and 8 provided valuable information for producers to help them prepare for the coming season. The expo, held in Kearney, Neb., at the Buffalo County Fairgrounds, featured speakers and exhibitors over the two-day event.

“This is our annual member drive. It is part of our mission to act as an information sharing network, and we can do that at this expo and conference,” said Barb Kinnon, Expo Manager and Executive Director for the Nebraska Alfalfa Marketing Association.

The first seminar was presented by agricultural advocate Trent Loos of Spearfish, S.D., who spoke to the alfalfa producers about telling their story. His program, titled “The Mirror Holds the Answer,” taught producers about being their own advocates.

Loos travels across the country promoting agriculture. He has his own radio program, “Loos Tales,” which has 4 million listeners on 100 radio stations in 19 states.

The second speaker for the first day was Dr. Ron Hansen, ag economist for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He presented two seminars. The first seminar, titled “Multi-Generational Family Farming: Family Harmony vs. Family Conflict,” focused on the challenges that family’s face when farming.

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His second seminar, “You Can Buy Our Family Farm But Remember I Still Own It,” focused on the actual passing of the family farm from parents to their children.

“When transferring the ownership of a family farm operation to the next generation, this entire succession process itself can result in a lot of emotional stress among all family members involved,” said Hansen.

He talked about the different family issues that happen when farms are passed down, including the two roles that a father plays.

“The farming adult children must make this distinction between the Boss and Dad roles that a father plays in the farm business operation,” Hansen said.

Hansen offered some suggestions to help ease the transition, such as having a strategic plan that is in place for the succession of the farm. “There are some rather sticky and emotional issues to discuss among the family members but avoiding these issues could have disastrous consequences later,” said Hansen.

He continued, “Parents must have a clear vision for the future of their family farm business operation and then be willing to discuss the ideas with their children, especially those children who have returned back home with the hope and dream of gaining farm ownership and management control from their parents,”

After Dr. Hansen’s afternoon seminars, attendees were treated to a dinner and auction, and Dr. Hansen gave the keynote address.

The second day, Dr. Rick Rasby, UNL extension beef special, spoke to the producers about using forage in the cow/calf enterprise. Following his presentation, the alfalfa producers were treated to a producer’s panel, which included Dan Rice, a Nebraska Dairyman, Ward Sumner, a Nebraska/Kansas Forage Producer, and Anne Burkholder, a cattle feeder.

In the afternoon, N.A.M.A held their 26th annual meeting, and elected their new board of directors.

State Climatologist Al Butcher then spoke to the attendees about the outlook for the weather, and the possibility of another season of drought. The expo closed with N.A.M.A. members presenting a new alfalfa valuation analysis for N.A.M.A. members to utilize.

N.A.M.A. is a nonprofit organization of the independent alfalfa producers. It is dedicated to the promotion, production and marketing of alfalfa in Nebraska.

“It is an information sharing network. We don’t buy or sell anything. It allows us to gain access to customers who the producers may not have access to on their own,” said Kannan.

Membership for the end of 2011 stood at 98 members, and this number has stayed fairly consistent throughout the history of the organization, according to Kinnan.

The expo brought in over a hundred people over the two days, and the exhibitor booths were sold out.

“I thought the expo was good. At times I look around, and I’m disappointed in the smaller number of people, but then I have to remind myself how many fewer alfalfa producers there are now. For the last three years, the alfalfa acreage has been decreasing,” said Kinnan.

She continued, “The exhibitors like it because even though it’s a smaller crowd, it’s a focused crowd. They are here for a purpose,” said Kinnan.

According to Kinnan, the expo saw a large increase in out of state producers. “Our second person to walk in the door was from New Jersey,” she said.

One of the producers who attended the event was Dan Larson, a farmer from Palmer, Neb. Larson farms 900 aces, of which 400 are in alfalfa production. He also produces corn and soybeans.

“I got into alfalfa because I wanted another way to compete. We use alfalfa in a rotation with the row crops, because it’s best for the soil. I grow two years of corn, one year of soybeans and then no-till the alfalfa, and that stand will be there for six years,” said Larson.

He attended the expo to learn about the new products that were available, and to take in new information at the seminars.

“I came for the networking experience with other producers. You can get a lot of ideas, and meet people who are like minded,” said Larson.

Another producer who attended the expo was N.A.M.A. president Andy Stock. Stock runs Stock Hay Company, and farms 400 acres of alfalfa, 400 acres of corn and 400 acres of soybeans.

“This is a great organization because it provides the support and information that we as producers need when running a business like this, where we sell so much hay out of state,” Stock said.

Stock is excited about the future of alfalfa production. “I see this high trend continuing in the coming years. A lot of it is going to depend on the drought, and as long as we have the moisture we should be able to continue to produce alfalfa,” he said.