You are visiting: Seminar XII Details
| print this page | + larger font | - smaller font |  
 

Class XII Curriculum

"A Look at Agriculture in Southwestern Oklahoma"

 Seminar II

 

Wednesday, October 6, 2004 - Randy Squires, Scribe

Seminar 2 for Class XII of OALP began in the Hydro area at P-Bar farms in southwest Oklahoma. We boarded the bus for the morning tour and were guided by Dean Smith of SS Farms. On our way to our first stop at Bob Ramming's Watermelon shed, Mr. Smith told us of local history of I-40 to the average cost of land in the area ($1000/acre dryland). After arriving at Ramming Produce, Mr. Ramming explained that the family farm grew seedless watermelons commercially. The Ramming's average around 300 acres a year, growing melons in "sandy loam" soil. The greatest problem facing watermelon production is the labor it takes to harvest the "melons". The watermelons are sold through a broker for 10% commission and are shipped out by the semi-load.

Highslide JS

Highslide JS

Class XII was introduced to Dr. Glenn Price of Sugar Creek Seed; he developed the seedless watermelon variety seed that Ramming Produce used in their operation. Dr. Price explained that seedless watermelons were developed using Japanese technology and consisted of chromosome research. Dr. Price mentioned that the average seed cost is around $1000/lb.

Highslide JS

The OALP class then boarded the bus and toured a turnip field being harvested with a potato digger, a field of cantaloupe and a field of chili peppers on our way to SS Farms. After arriving at SS Farms we had the opportunity to listen to Lee McClune, researcher, and OSU's Danny Bellmer and William McGlynn talk about Sorganol production. Mr. McClune told us that the initial predictions showed production at a 1000 gallons/acre and gross income potential at $1500/acre. He explained that Sorganol is by-product of sorghum; that the plant's juice is mixed with yeast and fermented to make fuel.

Highslide JS

Highslide JS

Dean Smith (SS Farms) showed the class other areas of production from his farm, which included Teff, Melons, Peas, Chili Peppers and Soybeans. Teff is annual plant that produces a small berry that is milled into flour and used by a foreign community. The chili peppers are harvested, dried and then crushed at the farm. The local producers pay a royalty to OSU on their pepper production. 60% of the crushed peppers is for food consumption, 30% pharmaceutical and 10% miscellaneous.

After touring SS Farms, Class XII headed back to P-Bar farms for lunch sponsored by area alumnus. During lunch we heard from Loren Liebsher (co-owner of P-Bar Farms); Senator Bruce Price, Dist.23, told us that "we need to keep agricultural on the forefront"; Rep James Covey, Dist.57, talked about agricultural needs; Bill Gebhardt of Allen Canning and Mike Kubicek (executive secretary of Oklahoma Peanut Association) spoke.

Highslide JS

Beck Johnson (Class IX), our afternoon tour guide, loaded us on the bus and took us to Johnson Peanut Company. Danny Hawkins (employee of Johnson's Peanut) gave us the tour. We learned that there are four types of nuts: Spanish, Runner, Virginia and Valencia. The peanuts are brought in from the field and allowed to dry 24-48hrs at 90-degree heat. They are then graded, stored and shipped. Barbie Cotton (USDA peanut grader) explained and demonstrated how to grade peanuts.

Highslide JS

Next stop for our class was at a carrot patch and then to a cabbage patch, where we heard from Lynn Brandenburger-OSU extension vegetable specialist. Then we were on the move to Doug Eichelberger's farm to see a demonstration of a self-propelled peanut combine. Our last stop in the Hydro area was at Merlin Shantz's Farm. At the Schantz farm we were able to see several types of machinery that had been built to harvest specialty vegetable crops. Also the class was able to ask questions of Merlin Schantz and Bill Gebhardt (Allen Canning).

Highslide JS

Highslide JS

After leaving the Schantz farm we headed back to our starting point. On the way back, Beck Johnson gave us quiz on what we had learned during the day and gave prizes to the winners.

Highslide JS

For our evening meal our class headed to the home of Terry (Class XI) and Brenda (Class X) Hawkins who live south of Gotebo. Terry, Brenda and Haley Hawkins entertained and served our class some wonderful Mexican food. Dr. Linda Martin from OSU surprised our group and presented Dr. Joe Williams with a Top 10 Most Influential Professors award from OSU's Agricultural Alumni Association. Congratulations Dr. Joe!

Highslide JS

Finally, the day's end headed Class XII to the Best Western in Altus. The day was full of exciting and interesting information. It was hard to believe that there was more to come.
 

Thursday, October 7, 2004 - Dustin Tackett, Scribe

Altus: The rain soaked day began with a tour of the Altus Air Force Base. Our tour guide, Lt. Norris, gave us an overview of the base and showed us how the various components of the base function together.

First, we were taken to a room where we were given a Mission Brief with a history of the base and information about the current base. The primary purpose of the Altus Air Force Base is to train students. The base trains 1,000 crew members per year while flying 6,000 sorties, with 25,000 hours of flight time. There are people from 30 different countries trained at the facility. The longest flight training course is 105 days and the shortest is four days. The base is unique in that it has its own grocery store and gas station along with 926 base houses. In 2005, the base will shift from government owned housing to private.

We were shown the different aircrafts in a drive-by tour. Notable was the C-17 because of its massive capacity. It is able to carry enough fuel to fill a two story house. The C5 Galaxy was also impressive and we were told that it could carry six Greyhound buses.

The life support area was another interesting part of the visit. The mission of the life support unit is to enable soldiers to be safe and to facilitate their safe return. They have a huge responsibility with the repair and packaging of equipment. The employees ranged from 19 to 22 years of age and they were responsible for 9,000 pieces of equipment. During this tour, we were able to see the packaging of emergency survival kits. The packages consisted of water, a reverse osmosis kit, a raft, life vests, and a radio with batteries. The radio will carry 120 nautical miles and the batteries are tested before being packaged. The class also got to see how night vision is installed. The night vision enables pilots to see when all plane lights are off and when runways are not lit.

We were able to tour the weather center and learn how forecasts effect flights. Weather center personnel go outside every hour and collect data for flight information.

Highslide JS

Our next stop was the OSU Ag Extension office for lunch sponsored by Stockman's Bank. J.C. Banks, with OSU Extension, provided an outlook for agriculture in the future. He gave us the following outline of future trends.

  • Global Focus
  • Restructuring of Ag Business Firms
  • Consolidation of Farms
  • Implementation of Biotechnology
  • Unique Organized Pest Control

He then spoke about Boll Weevil eradication and the program that was started in 1997. The Boll Weevil has been functionally eradicated as of 2003. Only nine weevils were found in the 2004 crop year. Mr. Banks spoke about more government involvement in agriculture, the decreasing number of people in ag, and the development of nutrient management programs. He said there would be more soil tests and a nutrient budget for each area. Also, he spoke about removal of atmospheric carbon dioxide and carbon credits being given for residue on the soil surface. There was a discussion about precision agriculture and the use of GPS for variable application. Another Outline was shown, depicting Old Perceptions versus New Perceptions.

OLD NEW
Farmers Produce Staples
Assets determine production
Hard Assets
Capital controls industry
Commodity prices
Price and Service
Local Lenders/ Govt. loans
Equipment is Expensive
Farmers Produce Niche Markets
Costs determine production
Soft Assets
Information controls industry
Marketing Plans
Price: Service Expected
International Money; Internet Cash/Check Electronic/ Debit Cards
Really expensive, can be justified

John Kelln, Ag Preference, discussed the Farm Credit System and a possible change that could have a major impact on agriculture. He said that Farm Credit could be selling to a foreign bank name Rabobank. It would be competing with local banks for CDs, and checking accounts that Farm Credit does not currently provide. This creates a great concern because a large foreign bank would have interest in American agriculture.

Highslide JS

After lunch Tom Buchanan, manager of Altus/ Lugert Irrigation District, discussed the unique attributes of the irrigation system and how farmers get their water. The water is gravity flow and it comes down dirt ditches to the fields. Most of the farmers use flood irrigation through the use of a siphon tube that emits water down the rows of cotton. A few producers use drip irrigation systems. The lake can produce 44,000 acre feet per year and 28,000 was sold this year.

The major concern for Altus/Lugert is residents in the area now want the water for their own personal use. Also, the Red River Compact changed in the year 2000. The compact allowed farmers to use the water from 1979 to 2000. This was supposed to be enough time for them to develop alternative sources of water. Unfortunately, that never occurred. Now Texas can put up a dam and take 60% of the water. The residents on the north side of the lake would like the water to remain in the reservoir for recreational purposes. All of these issues will require a water study and a search for more water.

Highslide JS

Highslide JS

The cotton compress was another interesting stop on our tour. The facility was once used to compress cotton, but now it is a handling facility for storage and distribution. Most of the cotton is exported with very little being used for the domestic market. Each building can handle 6500 bales of cotton with each bale being identification preserved. Each bale must have a government sample. A specific bale can be removed from a barn using the ID system. The compress ships 404,000 bales, which is over 4,000 truckloads. The warehouse never owns the cotton. When a farmer turns the bale over, the marketing pool owns the cotton.

 The cotton compress was another interesting stop on our tour. The facility was once used to compress cotton, but now it is a handling facility for storage and distribution. Most of the cotton is exported with very little being used for the domestic market. Each building can handle 6500 bales of cotton with each bale being identification preserved. Each bale must have a government sample. A specific bale can be removed from a barn using the ID system. The compress ships 404,000 bales, which is over 4,000 truckloads. The warehouse never owns the cotton. When a farmer turns the bale over, the marketing pool owns the cotton.

Highslide JS   Highslide JS   Highslide JS

The class had and opportunity to learn more about cotton production and to take a tour of a state of the art cotton gin. We were told that picker cotton was preferred to stripper cotton, but the average price of a cotton picker is $250,000 and a stripper is $100,000. The cotton gin was impressive with all of its moving parts and computerized technology. The gin was producing around 56 bales per hour at the time of our visit. The day was concluded with a banquet at Altus High School for the Chamber of Commerce. Classmate Mark Holder did an outstanding job as emcee.

Highslide JS

Highslide JS

 

Friday, October 8, 2004 - Brian Wiles, Scribe

Phelan Ranch

Lynn Ann Dietrich, Class V, introduced the class to John Phelan at his ranch in Southwestern Oklahoma.

Highslide JS

John is a TCU graduate and is married to Tamara. Together they have 2 sons, Clay, a recent graduate of OSU, and Grady, a current OSU student. Tamara works as a counselor in Snyder. John has been in ranching since 1973. The Phelan ranch is a sprawling 2800 acre ranch that consists of all native pasture and some leased property. Mr. Phelan stressed the importance of "biological capital", which, he says was equally as important as livestock, barns, tractors, etc.

Highslide JS

Highslide JS

John runs steers from Oct through winter. In the mid 80's John developed a grazing plan focusing on pasture rotation with all native grasses. His ranch has 2 ½ miles of water lines with wells spread throughout the property, but strategically located to assist in his pasture rotation. His ranch is divided up into approximately 25 paddocks. He tries to move the cattle on and off every three days. There is still some barb wire but most of it is being replaced with electric fences. John uses electric fences because of their cost and ease of moving. This allows him to experiment with different pastures at different times. Most of the time he runs steers before the cows. He finds that steers, being more selective, will leave more than enough for cows to eat.

Highslide JS

As an income supplement, John is allowing other herds (cows) to graze his land for a fee and also is leasing his ranch for hunting. He is also looking to diversify into goats and possibly sheep. When asked about all natural beef and organic beef, he stated he has not yet started producing that type of animal and wants to use the existing technology that is currently available to maximize current production.

John does a great deal of fecal sampling and stressed the need for an honest vet, in addition to not buying the worming product from the vet doing the sampling! He also uses cottonseed cake as a supplement.

Highslide JS

He tries to burn his pastures at least once every ten years but says some weeds are necessary and merely add to the diversity.

 

Windmill Winery

Highslide JS

The windmill winery is owned and operated by Rusty & Dawnita Allard. They have been growing grapes for 4 years and opened the commercial winery in March. Rusty has a degree in Wine Production and grows 5 acres of grapes, while serving as a Credit Officer for Farm Credit. The Allard's grow a French Vinefra variety of grapes and said the area in southwestern Oklahoma is well suited for grape production. If a line is drawn from Lubbock to Oklahoma City, any area south would be ideal for grape production. While it takes five to six years for full production, harvesting may begin after the year four. Last year, Rusty made 6 tons per acre. Since there are now over 20 wineries operating in Oklahoma, Rusty feels he has an opportunity to sell his excess production to other area wineries. Oklahoma wineries use 98% imported grapes!

Highslide JS

Highslide JS

He uses 10 foot rows and spaces the plants 6 feet apart, allowing 722 plants per acre. His soil consists of a clay/loam and sandy/loam mix. It takes approximately 8 months to get from the harvested grape to the bottle, ready for resale. All of his grapes are harvested by hand.

Highslide JS

Some of his challenges include a fungicide problem, similar to what area peanut farmers' face, in addition to a small leafhopper problem. The biggest problem he faces is 2-4 D drift from surrounding fields.

Highslide JS