Returning to the Farm Planning Program

Since I have been in Extension, a lot of things have changed in production agriculture. New technologies continue to emerge making production agriculture more efficient. Stress from difficult weather, production risks & input prices is constant. One thing that hasn’t changed is the need for generations of farm and ranch families to discuss and implement succession plans. Lack of communication between families creates stress and uncertainty which in turn can lead to conflict. 

Many in the area know Dr. Ron Hanson, UNL Ag Econ Emeritus. Hanson has worked with farm families over 40 years and reminds farm & ranch families that money, wealth, and property, especially land always put a family’s relationship to the test. At the last program he did in 2020, he used shark tank analogies. His analogies to sharks indicate that some families have “predator sharks” that lurk parents’ property or belongings, waiting to make a move and take a “bite” into family wealth or estate. An effective management strategy is to put yourself in the shark tank and begin addressing difficult situations and questions that might arise from uncertainties in agriculture.  I’ve heard from other farm family succession planners, coin the term, “waiters”. Waiters are people who wait for parents or grandparents to die and then move in on property or land. Too many families are destroyed by not just taking time to sit down and openly and clearly communicate with each other

This doesn’t have to be your family. Nebraska Extension can help!  Returning to the Farm, Dec. 10 and 11 in Columbus, is for families who are in the transition process of bringing more family members back to the farm. This event will give families the tools and resources to have a successful transition with more family joining the operation.

Bringing a young person into a farm/ranch operation presents challenges. However, the business operation can accomplish numerous goals by:

  • Helping the young person get a solid start in the operation
  • Keeping the farm or ranch in the family
  • Ensuring a comfortable retirement for all

However, success does not come automatically. It requires effort. Blending a variety of talents and personalities into one farming or ranching operation takes planning, communication, and effective management. The Returning to the Farm program is designed to assist families and operations in developing a financial plan and successful working arrangements that will meet the needs of multiple families.

During the program, participants will:

  • Review financial feasibility and financial tools for success
  • Identify estate planning issues and develop effective strategies for planning the future
  • Develop a farm or ranch transition plan
  • Set both personal and professional goals
  • Look at the communication process between family members

Students, beginning farmers and established operations — including entire families — are welcome. The workshop fee is $50 per person. That includes dinner on Dec. 10 and lunch on Dec. 11. It also includes two follow-up meetings, to be held virtually, in the evenings on Jan. 13 and Feb. 10. The Ramada Inn and Conference Center is located at 265 33rd Ave., in Columbus, Neb. Registration does not include reservations at the hotel. To book on your own, their number is 402-835-4350.

If you have questions, please contact Allan Vyhnalek, Extension Educator, at 402-472-1771 or avyhnalek@unl.edu.


Uninvited Guests


Temperatures are dipping and that can only mean two things. Halloween will be here soon, and mice will start migrating inside. Take a few steps now to make sure the ‘guests’ that come to your house are the cute ones dressed up in costumes, not the furry, unwelcome kind.

House mice are common guests once the outdoor temperatures drop. These small, light gray, furry rodents have large ears and long tail. Their preferred food is grains, but they will munch on just about anything. One reason mice can be a problem once inside is due to their rapid ability to reproduce. Each year, a female mouse can produce 5-10 litters, with about 5-6 young per litter. Mice make nests out of materials like paper, feathers, or other fluffy materials.

Photo by Alexas Fotos on Pexels.com

Understanding how mice function helps in the control process. They have relatively poor eyesight and are near-sighted. To make up for this deficit, they utilize their whiskers to feel the walls as they move around. Mice also have extreme physical abilities. They can climb up vertical surfaces, balance along wire cables, jump 10” high or across a 3’ gap, and survive a 9’ drop. Their most impressive feat is being able to squeeze their bodies into holes 1/4” in diameter, the size of a pencil.

If you don’t want these guests to become permanent residents, there are several methods that can be used for controlling mice in the home. Exclusion is the most common in the fight against house mice. Prevent mice from entering buildings by eliminating openings that are 1/4” or larger. Use sealants or mortar to help fill the gaps. Spray-in-place foams and steel wool pads will fill the gaps, but they won’t do much to stop mice from entering. Make sure doors, windows and screens fit tightly. Cover the edges of doors and windows with metal to prevent gnawing.

Population reduction is another method for controlling mice. Traps and baits are two common population reduction methods. To ensure success with traps, you need to use enough traps in areas where mice are living. Snap traps or multiple-capture traps can be used to capture mice. Double setting snap traps, placing two traps close to each other, will yield the best results in situations with high activity. Multi-catch traps can catch several mice at a time without resetting. Glue boards are another alternative to traps. These sticky boards catch and hold mice as they try to move throughout the home. Be sure to use sticky boards in locations where non-target animals or items won’t get stuck in them. If this does happen, use an oily material, like vegetable or mineral oil, to dissolve the sticky substance. To make the traps more appealing you can apply a food source such as peanut butter, a chocolate chip melted to the trigger, or you can secure a cloth scented with a food source to the traps’ trigger.

Baits are another population reduction method. Be sure to read and follow all directions on baits. When choosing baits, consider the location and method of applications and any non-target pets and children. Choose the type of bait for your specific location and application. Mice have been known to move pelleted baits without eating them. Just because you have an empty box, doesn’t mean they have eaten the bait. Bait stations or bait blocks ensure that the critter ate the bait. Baits might not be the best option for inside the home, so select their location wisely.

Use caution when cleaning up droppings, nests, or mouse remains. This can help to decrease the potential spread of diseases carried by mice like Hantavirus. Use protective waterproof gloves and spray the carcass and trap or nest with a household disinfectant or a 10% bleach solution. Use a sealable bag turned inside out to pick up the mouse. To remove feces or urine, spray the area with a disinfectant until wet and wipe up with a towel, rag, or mop. Don’t use the vacuum or broom to collect dry feces as that can cause the material to go into the air and be inhaled.

We all want guests to stop by, but with a little work upfront, you can make sure the guests that enter your home will be welcome ones who will yell out ‘Trick or Treat’.

This article was written by Elizabeth Exstrom, Extension Educator with Nebraska Extension in Hall County. For more information contact Elizabeth at elizabeth.exstrom@unl.edu.


Ag Economic Program Updates

The next session of “Know Your Numbers, Know Your Options,” Nebraska Extension’s four-part record-keeping course, will be held virtually from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. central time on November 2, 9, 16, and 23. Participants should plan on attending each of the four workshop dates. The course requires participants to have an internet connection.  

Photo by olia danilevich on Pexels.com

This course is designed to help farmers and ranchers understand their current financial position and how big decisions like large purchases, new leases or changes in production will affect their bottom line. Participants will work through the financial statements of a case study farm, watching pre-recorded videos, completing assignments, and participating in video chats. Upon completion of this program, participants will have a better understanding of how financial records can be used to make decisions and confidently discuss their financial position with their family, business partners, and lenders. 

The course fee is $20 per participant and class size is limited to 20 people. Register online at https://wia.unl.edu/know.  Registration closes October 26.  

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Center for Agricultural Profitability and Nebraska Extension will present Returning to the Farm, and workshop series for families who are in the transition process of bringing members back to the farm. It will begin with a two-day workshop for multi-generational families on Friday and Saturday, Dec. 10 and 11 in Columbus.  

This workshop will offer strategies for these businesses to help young people get a solid start in the organization while keeping the farm or ranch in the family and ensuring a comfortable retirement for older family members.

The workshop will assist families and operations in developing financial plans and successful working arrangements to meet their unique needs. It will guide participants to identify estate planning issues and develop transition plans, set personal and professional goals, and improve the communication process between family members.  

Presenters will include Nebraska Extension experts, agribusiness, and legal professionals.  The workshop will be held at the Ramada Inn and Conference Center, 265 33rd Ave., in Columbus. Registration is $50 per person, which includes two meals, all class materials and two virtual follow-up meetings to be held in January and February. 

For more information and to register, visit the Center for Agricultural Profitability site or contact Allan Vyhnalek, an extension educator for farm succession.


Fall/Winter Lawn & Garden Care

Just because it is fall and winter will be approaching doesn’t mean you don’t have to stop caring for your lawn or garden. There are tasks that can still be done! Join Nicole Stoner, Extension Educator from Gage County, on October 21st as she guides you through all your garden clean up and fall lawn activities. Topics to be covered include fall and winter watering, what to prune this fall and what to wait on, garden cleanup, fall lawn-care, and what can be planted in the fall. Nicole will also provide updates on the Emerald Ash Borer and Japanese Beetles.

Photo by Flora Westbrook on Pexels.com

Nicole will be at the Fillmore County Extension Office on Thursday, October 21st, there will be a light dinner served at 5:30pm and then she will begin the program at 6pm. There is a $5 fee for the program which includes the meal and program handouts. A free virtual option is also available. To register, please call the Fillmore County Extension Office by October 18th at (402) 759-3712.


Soybean Cyst Nematode Sampling

Nebraska Extension’s CropWatch recently provided a reminder to soybean farmers that even though fall is a busy time with harvest, it’s also a great time to sample for soybean cyst nematodes, especially while waiting in the field in the grain cart or truck as the combine fills.

Soybean cyst nematode (SCN) causes the most yield limiting disease of soybeans in North America. Research has shown that SCN can cause over 40% yield loss in soybeans, including 30% yield loss that can occur with no other visible symptoms, making it an invisible yield threat. SCN reduces yields but typically doesn’t display aboveground visible symptoms in the field during the growing season unless the SCN population is very high, then stunting and yellowing in soybeans may develop. By the time you see symptoms caused by SCN, population densities may be very high and very difficult to reduce, so it is recommended to regular monitor for them by collecting and submitting soil samples for SCN analyses. You can collect a good sample for SCN in any crop, any time of the year you can get a soil probe in the ground. Since SCN lives in the upper 8 inches of soil, collecting a sample is easy.

For details on how to sample, go to cropwatch.unl.edu. Samples will be mailed to the UNL Plant & Pest Diagnostic Clinic where SCN analyses of 2021 samples will be conducted at no charge for samples collected from Nebraska fields, courtesy of support from the Nebraska Soybean Board. Bags are usually available at your local extension office.


Pumpkin Harvest

Pumpkin flesh and seeds can be cooked and eaten, but that doesn’t mean all pumpkins should be made into pumpkin pie. Pie pumpkins are orange pumpkins that are usually smaller than the size of a volleyball. These pumpkins are the best for eating the flesh because of their sweet flavor and less stringy texture. You can eat the flesh of larger jack-o-lantern type pumpkins, but the eating quality is decreased. The seeds of most the pumpkins and squash can be roasted and eaten, outer hull and all.

Picking a ripe pumpkin and curing it properly is key to having a long storage life. Pumpkin and winter squash are ripe when the outside skin is hard and not easily punctured with a fingernail. If it is picked too immature, the fruit won’t store long-term and will begin to rot. There are many different types and colors of pumpkins, winter and ornamental squash, ripeness shouldn’t be based on color alone.

Harvest by cutting the fruit from the vine, making sure to leave a nice piece of stem attached. The stem helps to ensure the pumpkin and squash stores longer. Pumpkins without stems tend to dry out faster and increases their chances of rot fungi. Avoid the temptation to pick the pumpkin up by the ‘handle’ or stem, which can cause it to break off. Rather, pick the pumpkin up from around the base and carry it around the base.

Once the ripe pumpkin is picked, let the curing begin. Curing vegetables, when done properly, allows the pumpkins’ skin to harden and store for longer periods. After picking, allow the ripe pumpkin and winter squash to remain in the garden during dry, sunny weather for 7-14 days or bring them inside to an area of 80-85 degrees F and 80-85% humidity for about 10 days. After you have picked the perfect pumpkin and it’s been properly cured, it’s time to give it a bath. Washing pumpkins isn’t required, but it can make them last longer. Wiping down or dipping the outside with a dilute bleach solution can help to remove surface bacterial and fungal spores. Cool temperatures and proper airflow are needed for storing pumpkins for future use.

A properly stored pumpkin can last for 10 weeks or more. To store a pumpkin to use later, keep the cured pumpkin and winter squash in an area that is cool, 50-60 degrees, with at least 50-70% humidity, like a root cellar or cool basement. It is best if the fruits are placed in a single row, not touching each other. This will allow air flow around the pumpkins and squash and decrease the chances of rot. Monitor regularly for soft or rotting produce and remove promptly.

Once you have the perfect pumpkin, let the carving begin. Avoid any pumpkins with soft spots or other wounds that will shorten the lifespan of your jack-o-lantern. If you draw or color your creation on the outside of the pumpkin, the flesh is still edible. If you intend to carve your creation, there is a little more work involved and the pumpkin flesh should no longer be eaten. To make the jack-o-lantern last a little longer, give it a bleach bath again on the cut portions. The weather depends how long your creation will last, the cooler the weather the longer it will survive. Aim to get about a week out of your carved pumpkin before it starts rotting away. With a little time and effort that orange beauty could be providing months of decoration well into the fall season.

Source: Elizabeth Exstrom- Horticulture Extension Educator with Nebraska Extension in Hall County


Youth to Celebrate National 4-H Week

Every year, National 4-H Week sees millions of youth, parents, volunteers and alumni come together to celebrate the many positive youth development opportunities offered by 4-H. The theme for the 2021 National 4‑H Week is October 3 – 9 is Find Your Spark!

With so many children struggling to reach their full potential, 4-H believes that young people, in partnership with adults, can play a key role in creating a more promising and equitable future for youth, families and communities across the country. In 4-H, we believe every child should have an equal opportunity to succeed. We believe every child should have the skills they need to make a difference in the world. 

Fillmore and Clay County 4-H will observe National 4-H Week this year by highlighting some of the inspirational 4-H youth in our community who are working tirelessly to support each other and their communities. Check out the fun activities being done on the Fillmore County website at fillmore.unl.edu, including a pumpkin decorating contest. Wear a 4-H shirt on Wednesday and post on the Fillmore (https://www.facebook.com/fillmorecounty4h) or Clay County (https://www.facebook.com/UNLClayCounty) FaceBook pages!

In both Clay and Fillmore Counties one out of two, age-eligible 4-H youth from the community are involved in 4‑H. One of the most anticipated events of National 4-H Week every year is the 4-H STEM Challenge, formerly known as National Youth Science Day. This year, National 4-H Council has partnered with Clemson University Cooperative Extension, the United States Space Force, Bayer, and Facebook to create STEM activities that are fun and accessible to young people everywhere.

The 2021 Challenge theme of space exploration takes youth on an out-of-this world adventure and makes connections to the 4-H pillars—STEM, civic engagement, healthy living, and agriculture. The challenge activities allow youth to develop inquiry, observational, and problem-solving skills while they make discoveries and develop their STEM identities.

To learn more about how you can get involved, visit http://www.4-h.org/.

About 4-H

4‑H is delivered by Cooperative Extension—a community of more than 100 public universities across the nation that provides experiences where young people learn by doing. For more than 100 years, 4‑H has welcomed young people of all beliefs and backgrounds, giving kids a voice to express who they are and how they make their lives and communities better. Through life-changing 4‑H programs, nearly six million kids and teens have taken on critical societal issues, such as addressing community health inequities, engaging in civil discourse, and advocating for equity and inclusion for all.

In 4‑H programs, kids, and teens complete hands-on projects in areas like health, science, agriculture and civic engagement in a positive environment where they receive guidance from adult mentors and are encouraged to take on proactive leadership roles. Kids experience 4‑H in every county and parish in the country through in-school and after-school programs, school, and community clubs and 4‑H camps.

4‑H’s reach and depth are unmatched, reaching kids in every corner of America – from urban neighborhoods to suburban schoolyards to rural farming communities. Our network of 500,000 volunteers and 3,500 4‑H professionals provide caring and supportive mentoring to all 6 million 4‑H’ers, helping them grow into true leaders today and in life.

Learn more about 4-H at www.4-H.org, find us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/4-H and on Twitter at https://twitter.com/4H.


Harvest Safety

It is hard to believe that harvest will soon be starting and just as a reminder that with harvest comes more traffic on the county roads and other stresses for farmers. It never fails, that equipment can break, there can be delays at the elevator and those extra-long hours can all add extra stress to farmers. It is important to carefully slow down and realize the many hazards you are being exposed to during harvest.

An Iowa State Extension publication, Harvest Safety Yields Big Dividends points out that injuries can occur by taking shortcuts to perform routine tasks, not getting enough sleep or regular breaks, or failing to follow safety practices. Some injuries occur when operators are pulled into the intake area of harvesting machines, such as balers, combines, or corn pickers, and many injuries occur from slips or falls around these machines. Exposure to powerful machinery is highest during the harvest season. The equipment must be powerful to effectively handle large amounts of agricultural commodities. When equipment plugs, NEVER try to unplug it with live equipment, instead always disengage power and turn off the engine before trying to manually clear a plugged machine. Regular maintenance of these machines can also make harvest go smoother. Also, lots of accidents happen by the operator slipping and falling off equipment.

In the same publication listed above, there are several tips for reducing fall hazards: 

  • Always keep all platforms free of tools or other objects.
  • Frequently clean the steps and other areas where workers stand to service, mount, and dismount, or operate the machine.
  • Wear well-fitting, comfortable shoes with non-slip soles.
  • Use grab bars when mounting or dismounting machinery.
  • Be sure your position is stable before you work on a machine.
  • Recognize that fatigue, stress, drugs or alcohol, and age may affect stability.

Other helpful tips during harvest are to keep kids away from machinery. Tell them the dangers that can occur and not to play near the equipment, even when it is shut off; you never know when they will be playing in hidden areas of the equipment. Operators should double check where kids are before moving the equipment. Too many accidents can occur when youth are in the path of equipment out of the operator’s view. Operators of all equipment should check in regularly and let someone know where you are. Keep all guards on equipment; it is there for a reason! 

It is also important for the public to understand the increased traffic on public roads and be patient. The greatest threat raised between farm equipment and passenger vehicles is the difference in speed. Farm equipment runs at an average speed of 20 miles per hour while passenger vehicles average 60 miles per hour. If the motor vehicle overtakes a tractor, the impact is comparable to a passenger vehicle hitting a brick wall at 40 miles per hour. If the tractor and a car, mini-van or pickup collides head on, the impact is the same as hitting a brick wall at 60 miles per hour.

Farmers can reduce the chances of an accident by using warning lights, reflectors, and reflective tape on their machinery to keep passenger vehicle operators aware of their presence on roads. Some farmers may choose to install supplemental lights to increase visibility. It also is a good idea for producers to keep off heavily traveled roads as much as possible and avoid moving equipment during the busiest part of the day.

Some farm equipment, such as combines, can take up more than half of the road. Even so, it is up to both drivers to be aware of their own limitations and adjust accordingly. Farmers should not take up more space than is needed, but other drivers should try to provide as much room as possible. It is a good idea for passenger vehicles to turn off onto side or field roads until larger machinery has passed. Whenever possible, farmers should use an escort vehicle such as a pickup to precede or follow large machinery and equipment on public roads. More than one escort may be necessary. Ideally, the escort vehicle would have extra warning lights and a sign indicating oversized or slow equipment ahead or following.

Have a safe harvest!


Free Movie!

Nebraska Extension in Fillmore County and, Nebraska AgrAbility and Easterseals Nebraska are proud to announce sponsorship of a major motion picture, titled, SILO available to your family. This movie is inspired by true events, in a rural U.S. town. Disaster strikes when a teenage becomes the victim of a grain entrapment accident. Family, neighbors and first responders must put aside their differences to rescue him from drowning in the 50-foot-tall silo where corn quickly turns to quicksand. SILO shows how dangerous modern farming can be, while also highlighting the ways in which communities’ band together to look after on another.  

Nebraska Extension in Fillmore County and, Nebraska AgrAbility and Easterseals Nebraskawill be making the movie link available to the public from at participating local ag businesses during Nat’l Farm Safety & Health Week. For more questions, contact the Fillmore County Extension Office at (402) 759-3712.  For services and supports to farmers and ranchers who have experienced serious accident or injury, or developed significant health conditions that impact farm/ranch operations, contact Nebraska AgrAbility at 402-984-3819 or visit the website at https://agrability.unl.edu/.


National Farm Safety Week

It is no coincidence that National Farm Safety and Health week falls in September. September marks a busy time for farmers as harvest begins. The busier we get, the increased chance for accidents to occur happens. This week, I’ve decided to share tips for farmers to keep safe this harvest season.

According to the National Education Center for Agricultural Safety, the theme for National Farm Safety and Health Week 2021 is “Farm Safety Yields Results”.  The 2019 data for the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that the agricultural sector is still the most dangerous in America with 573 fatalities, or an equivalent of 23.1 deaths per 100,000 workers. Fall harvest time can be one of the busiest and most dangerous seasons of the year for the agriculture industry. For this reason, the third week of September has been recognized as National Farm Safety and Health Week. This annual promotion initiated by the National Safety Council has been proclaimed as such by each sitting U.S. President since Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1944. National Farm Safety and Health Week is led by the National Education Center for Agricultural Safety (NECAS), the agricultural partner of the National Safety Council.  

Daily topics of focus this year include:

  • Monday, September 20th – Tractor Safety & Rural Roadway Safety
  • Tuesday, September 21st – Overall Farmer Health
  • Wednesday, September 22nd – Safety & Health for Youth in Agriculture
  • Thursday, September 23rd – Agricultural Fertilizer & Chemical Safety
  • Friday, September 24th – Safety & Health for Women in Agriculture

Nebraska is fortunate to have the University of Nebraska Medical Center, College of Public Health. UNMC works with the Central States Center for Agricultural Safety and Health and Risto Rautiainen, PhD provides the following farm machinery hazard reminders:

  • Protect grain augers to prevent cuts and laceration injuries.
  • Protect Power Take-Off shafts with guards to avoid entanglements.
  • Old tractors can have poor steps; if possible, purchase improved steps to prevent slips and falls.
  • Old tractors have poor seats which lead to muscle and joint pain. Replace them to protect your muscles and joints.
  • Use good lighting and marking to increase visibility on the road.
  • Use protected ladders or (preferably) stairways with guardrails in grain bins to reduce falls.
  • Do not enter a bin when the sweep auger is running.
  • Oil leaks from worn hydraulic lines can penetrate the skin and enter the blood stream.
  • Sharing the road with all types of traffic can be a challenge, so be aware of your surroundings.
  • Safety around powerlines should always be front of mind when operating large farm equipment.

Other tips from UNMC, include wearing N95 masks to protect your lungs from dust and wear hearing protection to protect your lungs. Keep fire extinguishers maintained and easily accessible. Talk to your children or children who plan to visit the farm and make sure they are aware of the hazards of large equipment. Do not enter the grain bin alone and communicate with others where you are located.

One thing often not though about is how stress and fatigue can cause accidents. One strategy to prevent clouded thinking is to take time between each task to THINK!  Take 5 deep breathes before moving on; this helps your brain function better. During this unique time of uncertainty with low commodity prices, weather-related challenges and in a pandemic, you are an essential work, not only to feed the country but most importantly to your family and friends. Be sure to take care of yourself this harvest season. Get plenty of sleep, eat healthy meals and utilize your network of family and friends and ask for help if needed.

For more tips on farm safety, go to UNMC’s website at https://unmc.edu/publichealth/cscash or The National Education Center for Agricultural Safety’s site at https://www.necasag.org/. Wishing you all a very successful and safe harvest!