China and the U.S. Soybean Trade

In September 2014, I  had the opportunity to travel to Beijing, China with USSEC (United States Soybean Export Council).  These are some of the things I learned and are important factors around the trade tariffs that the U.S. and China are putting into motion.  This post was originally published in November 2014. #tradenottarriffs. 

As you may know, professionally, I have worked with farmers for many years on helping them to market (sell) their grain.  It’s next to impossible to think about the grain markets and not think about the impact that China has.

China and the U.S. are very important to one another in agriculture.

China’s Population

The reason that China influences the U.S. markets so much is because they have such a large population to feed.  China’s population is nearly 20% of the world population.  It really is something to think about those numbers from a remote town in Kansas, and quite another thing to see it first hand in Beijing, China.

With this mass quantity of people, food security is one of the top priorities.  From a very simplistic view, keeping people fed helps tremendously in keeping peace.  This was my basic understanding prior to my trip, but as with most things, it’s much more complex than this basic assumption.

Movement of people from rural to urban areas

Because the rural areas are very poor and because it’s difficult to provide services to remove areas, the Chinese government has a goal to encourage people to move from the rural areas of China into the cities.  The plan is to move 25% of the rural population to the urban areas over the next several years.  Think about this – this is like moving the entire population currently located on East Coast to the Midwest!

The thought process is that if the people are in urban rather than remote areas than better services can be offered such as nutrition and education.  Along with moving into the urban areas is improved incomes.  This is not unlike the migration from farms to the cities that the US witnessed during the 1920’s to the 1950’s.  The first thing that comes along with higher incomes is higher quality nutrition, almost always first in the form of protein.  This is why there has been a dramatic increase in the consumption of pork and chicken in China over the past decade.  Pork and chicken are both large consumers of soymeal in their feed (food) ration.

Impact on U.S. Farmers

China is a very important buyer of U.S. grains, and particularly U.S. soy.  China is the fourth largest producer of soybeans in the world.  Yet, the Chinese consume so much soy that twenty-five to thirty percent of the entire U.S. soybean crop is exported to China.

When they encounter dry growing conditions, such as they did the past few years, they can purchase mass quantities of other grains from the U.S. and other countries, as well.

China’s largest agriculture export to the U.S. is aquaculture.

Chinese Farms

Farms in China are about 2.5 acres each (or 2 ½ football fields).  The majority of the farm work is manual with very few farms having mechanization.  Because of steep terrain, some of the farmland would be quite difficult to farm by machine.

There are no personal property rights in China.  The government owns the land and the tenant farmers have long-term leases of 30 years.  As I understand it, the one who has the land leased is allowed to sublet the land to another.

Not Enough Farm Land

There is not enough farm land in China to produce all the food needed to feed their people.  They look at wheat and rice as being staple foods to feed the people, so the government allocates enough acres to be mostly self sufficient in wheat and rice production.  Then there are enough acres left to be mostly self sufficient in either corn or soybeans.  Looking at the tonnage of production per acre of each of these crops, it makes more sense for them to try to be self sufficient in corn.  They look at it as importing land and water and saving on freight by importing soybeans.  Another advantage to importing soybeans is that there are reliable suppliers in both North and South America and differing growing seasons.

Soy foods are commonly eaten in China.  My understanding is that all the soy foods consumed are grown in China and is non-GMO.  However, with the population and the increase in future incomes, eventually, they may need to import soybeans for food as well as feed.

GMO Concerns

Although the internet is different than it is in the U.S. with many popular U.S. websites blocked, the Chinese people certainly have access to their own sites on the internet.  Similar to the U.S., they also have celebrities and bloggers who help mold the opinions of the people.  With that, people in China have heard many of the same concerns around GMO (genetically modified organisms) production that we see in the U.S.

The people are very health conscious.  They want to know what the long-term impacts of eating GMO foods are.  They have concerns about whether or not GMOs cause cancer, infertility issues, or allergies.

Why I was in China

I was one of four U.S. farm moms who went to China.  We met primarily with younger women to discuss how and why we raise GMO crops on our farms.  We talked about what U.S. farms are like.  We also shared about why we feel that GMO crops are safe to consume and how GMOs have helped our farms and by extension have helped the environment.  We also talked about some of the things that we think will be important in the future with GMOs.  Below are a few good websites on the safety of GMOs.

In a future blog post, I will address some of the common concerns about GMOs – stay tuned!

Resources for GMOs

GMO Answers


Best Food Facts


An Alternative to a New Year’s Resolution

A few years ago, it became popular for people to choose a word to be their theme for the year.  A twist that I take on this concept is to choose a chapter in the Bible that I want to gain a good understanding of.  This has been helpful to me, and by considering the chapter over the course of an entire year, it has given me ample time to really consider what it means.

The first year, I did Galatians 5 which focuses on the Fruits of the Spirit.  The first time I really read the various fruits, a wave of peace passed over me – these Fruits are what I want for my life and for all those around me!

The second year, I focused on Philippians 4.  There are several verses in Philippians 4 that bring me great comfort and peace.  I even created a canvas which has Philippians 4:6-7 on it.

Next, I focused on Romans 8. Some say it’s the greatest chapter of the Bible.  Lots of valuable pieces in this chapter.

Last year, I was going to focus on the book of Revelations.  When I told my Pastor, he said, “Good luck”!  He was right.  I suppose there are lots of reasons why, but mainly a lack of focus could sum up why I wasn’t very successful this past year.

For 2017, I’m going to focus on 1 Corinthians 13.  This chapter focuses on how we should love. Without love, not much else matters.

I’ve changed my views of this chapter over the years.

When I was a young adult, many of my friends’ weddings had this as the scripture passage in their wedding ceremony. Several years ago, I thought of Paul writing these words in a lecturing tone – Love is patient! Love is kind!  Yikes! There are many times when what I’ve shown others has been on the ‘don’t do’ list.

Now, I think of Paul more as an empathetic elder saying, ‘you know – love should be kind and patient. Love doesn’t envy or boast, and it isn’t proud. Do you understand how this impacts you and others around you?’  I like this thought process of how Paul wrote these words, and I think that’s how God intended them.

So, how do you “focus” on a chapter of the Bible of the course of the next year?  I’m so glad you asked, but I don’t do anything very rigid.  I print out two copies – one from the New International Version and one from The Message. I like to read and compare the translations to gain a better understanding.  These are then placed in the cover of a 3-ring binder that stays in my kitchen. My binder has lots of tidbits of information that wouldn’t make sense to anyone else – some might call it a Control Journal.  Sometimes I’ll read through the entire chapter daily.  Other days, I might just focus on one verse.  Over the course of the year, I’ll memorize the chapter.

It’s been very interesting to me to see how, throughout the year, I will “find” many opportunities that this passage is presented to me.  For example, just last night, one of the weekly devotions that I receive in my email was written about 1 Corinthians 13:8.  How strange and interesting and wonderful is that?

If you chose one chapter of the Bible to focus on for a year, what would it be?


Making Apple Cider

Apple cider and fall – is there a better drink on a cool fall evening than a cup of warm apple cider flavored with cinnamon?

My husband’s family has a long tradition of making apple cider each fall.  His aunt and uncle have apple trees.  This year, they picked 11 bushels of apples which made 20 gallons of cider deliciousness.


This is the cider making operation.  The two on the left are my husband’s aunt and uncle AKA Extraordinaire Apple Cider Makers!

Once the apples are picked, they must be washed and any bad spots are cut out.  These side by side tubs worked great to put sweet apples on one side and tart on the other.  The water was changed out every couple of batches.


My mother-in-law preparing the apples to be made into cider.  The sweet apples were in the tub on the left and the tart apples on the right.  We used 2 sweet apples and 1 tart apple for just the right flavor.


Little ones are good at cleaning apples 🙂


Any guesses on how many apples got eaten?

The mixture is two sweet apples with one tart apple – that’s it!  The tart apples are Jonathan and the sweet apples are Red and Yellow Delicious.

After being washed, the entire apple goes in to be shredded – seeds, stems, peel, and all.  Once there are enough apples, a lid is put on and the apple mash is pressed for the cider to run out.  As the liquid flows out, the mash can be pressed down further.  It takes a little time to release the juice.  We got about one gallon of cider per batch of pressed apples.


Pressing the apple mash


There’s a net bag inside the bucket that keeps the apple mash contained.  Once all the juices flow out, the mash was removed, and we’d start a new batch.


The apple mash was fed to the cattle.


Apple cider flowing

As the cider flowed from the apple mash, we would alternate pitchers to collect the cider.  Then the cider is strained through a thin fabric, such as a tea towel. The straining collects any small chucks of apple that came through the press.


We yielded 20 gallons of cider from 11 bushels of apples.  It took 4 hours, lots of laughter and precious family time.

The cider is good for 2-3 weeks stored in the refrigerator or can be frozen to enjoy later.

This year making apple cider was bittersweet.  My hubby’s grandma always enjoyed making cider.  She passed away last winter so it was the first year without her there to strain the cider.  Our family gathered in the evening to enjoy supper together.



Dinner on the Farm

Dinner on the farm in July?  If you want the best sweet corn – yes, please!  It was a warm July evening just outside Lawrence, Kansas at Bismarck Gardens.  There was enough breeze and shade trees to make for a pleasant evening.


On July 9th, Bismarck Gardens welcomed about 100 guests to their farm for dinner and conversation about food and farming.

Bismarck Gardens served farm raised brisket, sweet corn, vegetables, and rolls along with Boulevard Brewery beer.  Peach cobbler and ice cream rounded out the dessert.  Much of the meal was farm raised.  Delish!  The family who owns Bismarck Gardens shared a little about their family farm then let the guest mingle.

The seating was arranged to have a local farmer available at each table to answer any questions that the guests might have about modern farming. Myself and another Kansas CommonGround volunteer were on hand to help answer questions.

Wonderful food and conversation shared among the guests.  I was able to visit with a wellness dietitian and a social media manager and blogger both from the Kansas City area.  My husband met a new neighbor who moved to the country to raise their kids and some of their own food in a large garden.

In the busyness of our day-to-day lives, too often, we don’t take the time to slow down and chat with one another.  It was a wonderful opportunity to take a Saturday evening to enjoy one another and chat about food and farming.

Christmas in the Country 2015

This year was my second year to participate in blogger Secret Santa type gift exchange.  It’s so much fun to learn about the other blogs!  I enjoyed trying to pick out gifts for another blogger and receive gifts from someone I hadn’t met.

My gift came from Julie at Dirt Under My Fingernails from Missouri. She started her note saying that we are neighbors across the river! Actually, where she’s located in Missouri was in my sales territory several years ago, and I’ve been in her neck-of-the-woods several times J.  Julie’s family runs a wholesale greenhouse business. With my love of gardening, I cannot to see what all they do.


The gift Julie sent me included several items from Julie’s sister-in-law gift shop.  She discovered my love of coffee and sent a kitchen towel and magnet. There was a cute spatula and small circle cutting board that has the wisdom of solving life’s problems – butter! Also included was a gorgeous cross bracelet that says, “live by faith” all around it.  Last but not least, a friend of Julie’s made a beautiful bar of soap that smells like Christmas, it’s called Sleigh Ride.  All the gifts are wonderful – thank you, Julie!

I sent my gift to Jacky at Dickey Bird’s Nest. She is a folk artist and antique dealer, and repurposes furniture and other goods.  Jacky turns 50 this year, and has a goal of 50 things to do before turning 50.  One of her goals is to complete a cookie cookbook.

In an interesting twist, I sent my gift to Jacky, Jacky sent her gift to Julie, and I received a gift from Julie – how much fun is that?!?!

I want to take this opportunity to say thank you to the ladies who organized the gift exchange – Jamie (This Uncharted Rhoade), Laurie (COUNTRY LINKed),Lara (My Other More Exciting Self), and Kirby (15009 Farmhouse).

Each of the 53 bloggers who participated in the exchange will add their reveal posts to a special LINKUP that is open from now until the 12th.

My Farmer’s Planting Notes

In farming, every year has its own set of unique challenges, but this year seems especially challenging.

Notes from my farmer’s planting book –

May 2, 2015  Corn planting is complete. It looks like nearly every seed that was planted came up. Warm and dry weather perfect for establishing a stand. Couldn’t look much better!


On April 29th every seed seemed to have come up. The crop looked amazing!

May 3, 2015  Right on time to start planting soybeans. Chances of rain next week.  My wife says she saw a forecast for up to 5” of rain next week. Our truck driver says he’ll believe it when he sees it.

May 5, 2015  Rain. Nice break to work on equipment.

May 10, 2015  Still raining. Wife and the weatherman might have been right about 5” of rain.

May 17, 2015  A farmer friend posted on Facebook, “Rain, rain go away, come back on July 1st!”

May 21, 2015  Crazy as it sounds, we’re going to visit my wife’s family over Memorial Day Weekend. Never, ever believed that to be possible during planting.

May 25, 2015  Returned from wife’s family visit. It rained 3” while we were gone.

May 28, 2015  When was the last time I planted? The corn looks yellow. There are drowned out spots all over the fields. Only a few acres of soybeans have been planted and we’re well past the ideal time to plant soybeans.

June 1, 2015  More rain in the forecast?

June 5, 2015  The river is cresting, and will likely get out. Move equipment off fields by the river. Pull motors off pivots on the fields next to the river, otherwise, they will be ruined.

June 5, 2015 (afternoon)  10’ (yes, 10 foot) of water at the entrance of the field. Hope the river goes down quickly so the water can drain off the field soon. Guess I can go to my board meeting dinner tonight after all.


The river got out of its banks on June 5th and flooded part of this field.

June 8, 2015  Three days of sun before a 70% chance of rain on Thursday. Start planting the sandy fields and hope for the best.

This too shall pass. It’s hard to know how this crop will turn out, but we’ll certainly work hard to get it planted and cared for. Harvest sure seems a long ways off when there are these kind of difficulties with planting!





Ohio Sheep Farmer and Local Cook – Kristin

Kristin is one of those people that you know you’re going to be fast friends with.  She’s got a lot going on with her farm, as well as keeping busy with other interests. She and I have traveled half way around the world together.  You’ll love seeing pictures of her super cute kids on the farm.

Kristin is your typical mom learning to balance this crazy thing we call life!  Not only is she the mom of two ornery little farmers but a self-proclaimed foodie and farmer herself.  She enjoys connecting with her customers and readers through recipes and life adventures at  Kristin raises sheep, poultry, hay and is the owner of a private cooking business Local Flavor Foods. She enjoys conversations about how our food system works and takes great joy in sharing a little bit about American Agriculture, dismissing some of the common food and farm misconceptions.  Find Kristin on social media or you may just run into her at school pickup, pass her driving a tractor down the road or shopping at the grocery store. It’s a crazy way of life but she cannot imagine it any other way.