The Farmers’ Almanac, is it better than your local weather personality?

Since 1818, the Farmers’ Almanac, most famous for it’s uncanny ability to accurately predict the weather, has been assisting farmers with everything from the best days to plant and fish to natural remedies to cure a cold.

In a recent article by the Christian Science Monitor, Chris Gaylord compared Punxsutawney Phil to the Farmers’ Almanac. He mentioned that maybe Punxsutawney Phil is more like the Farmers' Almanac because it predicts temperature trends for an entire year. A survey by the Weather Underground shows varying reports on the annual guide – ranging from 50 to 80 percent accuracy. Better than a groundhog.

In the month of February, the United States (especially the Northeast) was dumped on by snow, snow and more snow, just like the Farmers’ Almanac predicted.

“For the Middle Atlantic and Northeast States, we are predicting a major snow storm in mid-February; possibly even blizzard conditions.”

Whitman, Mass. Highway Superintendent Roger Stolte, said “No one can predict – except maybe the Farmer’s Almanac – how much snow we’re going to get each year,” in a recent article discussing how costly snow removal has been for their town this year.

So will farmers have an easier spring? According to the almanac, “Spring showers will be abundant, and there is threat of an active tornado season.” With a rough winter, will farmers be able to get their crops in on time? When will they catch a break? The almanac is calling for “near-normal summer precipitation.” Which should give farmers the break they deserve.

How does the Farmer’s Almanac predict the weather so accurately? The editors base their calculations on numerous factors such as sunspots, moon phases and other astronomical conditions. But editors do admit, they are not perfect.

“Although many longtime Almanac followers claim that our forecasts are 80 percent to 85 percent accurate, it should be noted that weather forecasting still remains an inexact science. Therefore, our forecasts may sometimes be imperfect. If you are planning an outdoor event, we recommend that you also check forecasts from local sources.”

But the almanac predicts more than just the weather. It includes money-saving tips, recipes for homemade dishes and what days are best to take vacation.

The majority of editions of the publication include articles advocating for a change in some accepted social practices. Articles such as:
  • “How Much Daylight Are We Really Saving” a recommendation for a revised Daylight Saving Time schedule (2007)
  • “A Cure for Doctors’ Office Delays” an article demanding more prompt medical service and calling for a “Patients’ Bill of Rights” (1996)
  • “Pennies Make No Sense” a story which sought to eliminate the penny, and to permanently replace the dollar bill with less costly-to-produce dollar coins (1989)
For 2010, the publication has included tips about how to save a buck with “Keep Frugal Living a Priority” and how to “go green” with “Dollars and Sense of Going Green.”

In 2007, Farmers’ Almanac took its readers online by re-launching its original 1997 Web site, This interactive Web site features videos, weather predictions, recipes and much more.

How often do you refer to the Farmers’ Almanac to help you with your planting and harvesting decisions? Do you feel that this publication is a useful tool?

Winter foils farmer production

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow. School children in much of the country may wish for continued blizzard conditions, but the rest of us wish our weather woes would stop.

None more so than our nation’s farmers, whose financial prosperity is harmed by destructive winter weather.

After a wet fall, America’s farmers have been slammed once again. A snowy winter has further complicated agriculture businesses.
Livestock farmers struggle to herd animals, commodity farmers still have crops in the ground and Southern farmers are trying to salvage their citrus because of an unseasonably cold season.

In an interview with Minnesota Public Radio, a corn farmer in the southwest corner of the state talked about his personal experience with the snowfall. According to the report, the state has about $200 million-worth of corn still un-harvested.

"The snow will take the ears and strip them and they'll fall on the ground," said Lon Anker, referring to his corn loss.

A December storm leaving 20 inches of snow in the region really complicated an already difficult fall for Minnesota farmers. But, they still don’t have it as bad as North Dakota farmers, who have more than a quarter of their corn crop still in the field.

Soil moisture levels are well above normal. Snow pack carries the potential for flooding as well as field loss. Farmers can alleviate potential soil erosion in a couple of ways, such as no-till farming or utilization of a cover crop.

Un-harvested crops are subject to grazing animals, mold and rot.

Harvested crops that are stored in grain bins are not without worry. Heavy snow accumulation can easily seep into bins to cause damage. Farmers must carefully monitor their bins and often incur expensive drying costs to keep stored crops in the best environment.

Livestock farmers are also facing numerous troubles.

According to the Center for Agriculture Sustainability, animal farmers create windbreaks using hay bales and post-and board-walls to help shield animals from fierce winter weather.
Iowa Farmer Today reports that severe weather causes stress levels for livestock to increase, which increases their need for feed and hay. The Progressive Farmer reported that low temperatures weaken animals’ immune systems, which can cause future health problems and even death.

“People went to extreme ends, they fought adverse elements, they risked frostbite and they risked their own lives to care for their animals,'' said Bruce Berven, executive vice president of the Iowa Cattlemen's Association in an Omaha-World Herald article. “That's what the business is all about.”

America’s citrus growers did not escape weather disturbances either, despite their usually mild location. Plummeting temperatures, well below the season average, had growers resorting to spraying their crops with water to create a shield layer of ice for insulation.

In January, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist declared a state of emergency that permitted him to issue a temporary hold on weight, height, length and width limits on trucks transporting citrus crops.
As spring nears, farmers will continue to assess the damages and plan for a new season, hoping for dry weather and limited delays.

Do you personally know a farmer affected by this season’s weather? Should the government take more of a role, beyond insurance, in helping American farmers this year?

*Photo obtained from Wallaces Farmer.

Campaign connects farmers and consumers

An ambitious campaign that celebrates the American farmer is taking off in popularity.

After a successful December launch in Ohio, “Farmers Feed US,” a campaign showcasing the strength and scope of American agriculture, has now launched in Indiana, Iowa, Michigan and Missouri.

The Center for Food Integrity, a not-or-profit organization, which works to serve as a resource for balanced information about the U.S. food system, is managing the campaign, and plans to bring it to additional states throughout 2010.

According to campaign administrators, this “innovative, interactive and proactive” campaign strives to “instill confidence” in America’s farmers. Connecting consumers to the intricacies of their shopping carts is the basis of the campaign; underscoring the values of those that produce our food is its primary message.

The campaign is “just the beginning of an exciting platform that puts a familiar face on the dedicated men and women who produce our food, and sets the stage for long-term outreach with an audience that, today, is generations removed from the farm.” allows visitors to view short online videos about how farmers produce safe, nutritious and affordable food. Each video is a separate farm tour, featuring personal stories of farmers from their respective states. Each state’s individual Web page also offers links to its state-specific agricultural groups for additional consumer-education opportunities.

“As more and more people move from an agricultural background to the suburbs and cities, it’s important for consumers to understand how food is delivered to their tables,” said Terry Fleck, executive director of the Center for Food Integrity. “And there’s nobody better to factually and passionately tell that story than the farmers of this country.”

Driving the campaign’s success is heavy social marketing, including a YouTube promotional video and separate Facebook pages and Twitter accounts for each participating state.

Visitors to the 90-day campaign will also have the opportunity to register to win "Free Groceries for a Year." The Ohio sweepstakes, with three awardees, has ended; however, consumers in the other participating states may still enter to win.

Each state is awarding $5,000 in free groceries for a year to one to three registrants depending on the state. Visitors can register every day to increase their chances for selection.

207,000 registrations were received in Ohio. Ohio’s campaign generated a staggering 1.76 million media impressions. The average Internet user visits a Web site for two minutes, but visitors to Ohio’s “Farmers Feed Us” Web site visited for nearly seven minutes, revealing a real interest in the farming community.

Ongoing promotional efforts include retailer promotions, state advertisements and news-story placement for all states.

Fun Farm Facts (
  • The average person consumes 584 pounds of dairy products a year.
  • Agriculture employs more than 24 million American workers (17 percent of the total U.S. work force).
  • Today's American farmer feeds about 155 people worldwide. In 1960, that number was 25.8.
“Farmers Feed Us” lays the foundation for ongoing consumer engagement in today’s agriculture industry and promises to spark renewed awareness and curiosity in America’s farmers.

Do you think this campaign is effective or has the potential to be effective? Do you believe the average American consumer is grateful to our country’s agriculture industry? Do you think the average American consumer has confidence in American farmers?

Obama Encourages Crop-Based Fuel Production

Significant job-creation, environmental and energy-security benefits are associated with the domestic production of biodiesel and ethanol; benefits that President Barack Obama recognized in his State of the Union Address.

Biodiesel and ethanol are two types of biofuels that are liquid fuels derived from renewable resources such as plant or animal materials. The U.S. is mandated to produce 36 billion gallons of biofuels by 2022 as outlined in the 2007 energy bill, which is nearly double the 12 billion gallons it currently mandates.

“Providing incentives for energy efficiency and clean energy is the right thing to do for our future, because the nation that leads the clean-energy economy will be the nation that leads the global economy, and America must be that nation,” Obama said.

Biodiesel is a fuel blend made primarily with soybeans. Ethanol is a fuel blend made primarily with corn.

Both crop-based fuel sources are advantageous for the agriculture industry. Farmers who grow corn and soybeans can be privy to the success and failure of the biofuels market if portions of their harvest are sold to biorefineries. But they’re not the only ones who are positively impacted.

Consumers also profit from domestic biofuel production. Biofuels supplement the U.S. fuel supply, offsetting the cost of regular fuel prices. Domestic biofuel production creates jobs to spur economies nationwide. Biofuels are also better for the environment because they’re non-toxic and don’t deplete natural resources. Biofuel use improves domestic security by reducing our reliance on imported oil.

Biodiesel Stats
  • Biodiesel production in the U.S. provided more than 23,000 jobs nationally and more than $4 billion to the nation’s GDP in 2009.
  • Without biodiesel, gas prices would increase $.20 to $.35 per gallon, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, which saved the average U.S. household $150 to $300 in 2008.
  • Biodiesel is extremely energy efficient; for every one unit of energy required to produce it, it returns 5.2 units of energy.

Ethanol Stats
  • In 2009, the U.S. ethanol industry supported nearly half-a-million jobs.
  • Research shows a 35-to-46 percent reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions and a 50-to-60 percent reduction in fossil-energy consumption because of the use of ethanol as a component in motor fuel.
  • Most of the standard gasoline sold in the U.S. uses a 10-percent blend of ethanol.
  • The production and use of 10.6 billion gallons of ethanol in 2009 displaced the need for more than 321.4 million barrels of oil and saved American consumers and taxpayers more than $32 billion.
Obama noted the urgency and importance of biofuel production to our country’s energy independence:

“But to create more of these clean energy jobs, we need more production, more efficiency, more incentives. That means building a new generation of safe, clean nuclear-power plants in this country. It means making tough decisions about opening new offshore areas for oil and gas development. It means continued investment in advanced biofuels and clean-coal technologies,” Obama said.

The Biofuels Interagency Working Group, created by Obama’s administration in May, is devoted to implementing the policies necessary to progress the country’s outlined energy initiatives.

As part of his clean-energy agenda to advance job creation and reduce dependence on foreign oil, Obama recently met with 11 governors to discuss a “non-ideological approach” to energy and efficiency.

As climate change continues to develop into a deeper political issue, it will be interesting to witness how the country responds to Obama’s incentives, and how American agriculture will step up to the plate.