SAN ANTONIO, Texas — Last week I was in San Antonio attending the annual Texas Agricultural Agents Professional Improvement Conference. It is a professional association that rotates meetings around the state and has professional improvement seminars.
I always learn much from these events and thought it may be of interest to others.
First, it must be said that I most enjoy meeting folks from across the state who support the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. Our meeting takes great effort to recognize our peers for excellence in programming as well as outside supporters for their dedication to continuing education.
The keynote speaker was Dr. Elsa Murano from the Borlaug Institute. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if you haven’t ever heard about a man named Norman Borlaug. Dr Borlaug received the Nobel Peace Prize for, essentially, perfecting a dwarf wheat variety that could produce large amounts of grain, resist diseases, and resist lodging – the bending and breaking of the stalk that often occurs in high-yielding grains.
So, what it important about his variety of wheat? Borlaug’s wheat helped lay the groundwork for agricultural technological advances that alleviated world hunger, decreased poverty, and stabilized regions that, for lack of food, have easily taken up arms in conflict for want of basic nutrition. This wheat had an immediate impact on countries in Central and South America, the Near and Middle East, and Africa.
My favorite day of the conference, I was with a group that toured a feed mill, agricultural museum, and a long successful family-run hog farm. The feed mill was Producers Co-op. It supplies specialty feeds to nearly all regions of our state. The main staple of most livestock feed is, of course, corn. I was surprised to learn that 90% of all the mill’s corn was sourced from corn producers in a 40-mile radius.
The agricultural museum showcased the technological advances over the years. From tools to farm equipment to crop development, it was a great reminder of the advances that fewer and fewer farmers and ranchers have made to feed a growing population.
The hog farm may have been the most interesting. It was a small family run farm that sold hogs to a variety of outlets. When it was started in the 1970’s, this family farm was started miles away from any neighborhoods, just off Highway 10 between San Antonio and Seguin.
The farm has a diverse clientele. They sell purebred boars to other hog farmers wishing to improve their stock. The also sell several top-quality hogs to 4-H and FFA students as projects. The lower end of the hog litters are sold as meat hogs to the general public. Oddly, as local auction barns have been eliminating their hog sales in favor of cattle markets, there has been an uptick of individual family buyers wishing to fill their freezer. Recent changes during the height of Covid saw a dramatic increase in these types of individual buyers. Lastly, due their intense scrutiny on their herd health and ongoing breeding program that has up to 12 litters a week, this hog farm has been sought after by science and health researchers who use pigs for a variety of studies.
Today, you can start to see a housing development on one side and plans are underway for another on the opposite side. Though the farm has no discernable odor due to the tremendous herd health and sanitation efforts, the owners are concerned about any new housing development being built next to a hog operation.
It is a strange set of circumstances. Fewer folks producing food and fiber for a growing population that really doesn’t understand the advances, the technologies, or the realities of growing corn, hogs, or any number of agricultural commodities. Commodities that fill the shelves at our local grocery store in nicely packaged finished products that we love to partake of.
Next year, the Texas County Agricultural Agents Association will be meeting in South Padre! Though, that be very different from my home, I look forward to meeting new people and learning more that I can bring back.
Cary Sims is the County Extension Agent for agriculture and natural resources for Angelina County. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org .
Educational programs of the Texas AgriLife Extension Service are open to all people without regard to race, color, sex, disability, religion, age, or national origin.
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Angelina County
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