Growing Returns

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Meet Christine Hamilton, fourth-generation farmer forging a sustainable path

Picture of CCH IMG_5889Christine Hamilton and her family have been farming and ranching in central South Dakota for more than 120 years – and they hope to still be farming there 120 years from now.

But to be able to ensure the long-term viability of her family’s farm, Christine and her colleagues at Christiansen Land and Cattle (CLC) knew that they would need to take a step back, look closely at their operations, and set a vision for the future.

Tools and certification programs can help farmers like Christine to measure and understand the sustainability of their farm and ranch operations, and to set specific goals. But none of these platforms was a good fit for CLC, which raises crops such as corn, soybeans, and winter wheat, as well as cattle. So Christine led the development of a customized sustainability management plan for CLC that articulates what is important to them now and what they want to improve in the future.

Here, in honor of USDA’s new focus on women in agriculture, I ask Christine about her farm’s visionary plan. Read More »

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A farmer’s perspective: 4 reasons why collecting data is important


Kristin Duncanson

Thanks to GPS and the Internet, many farmers have been collecting data about their farms – water usage, inputs, crop yields – for over 20 years. Only in recent years has the term “big data” taken on a new meaning, given the plethora of new tools and technologies available today to help farmers collect and analyze data on all aspects of their farm operations.

This week also marks the launch of the first-ever Big Data Roundtable Series, an annual event that brings together experts from across the agricultural arena to discuss how major retailers can leverage data to improve business sustainability, and how growers can utilize measurement tools and analyze data to use fertilizer more efficiently and save on input costs.

Here, I ask Kristin Weeks Duncanson, a crop and livestock operator and member of the AGree advisory committee, to explain the value of collecting data for farm operations and the environment and why many farmers are still hesitant to collect data. Read More »

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