Soon after Lucie Douma and Parmindar Singh returned from their Nuffield CSC in the UK, Lucie was traveling again. This time in North America.
Lucie is four weeks into her US trip that has so far covered: California, Illinois, Wisconsin, and more. Lucie is currently in Texas and will round out her travel visiting Washington DC, Saskatchewan, and the Yukon.
Lucie is gathering information and insights on her Interoperability work. The working title of her research topic is On-farm data management and governance: Creating a system and understanding where farmers benefit from data.
Here is Lucie’s Nuffield travel in the US so far – in less than five minutes.
Note – some posts have been edited for brevity.
Start of July 2022
The start of my next Nuffield journey couldn’t be better. A group of international scholars were in a Fourth of July parade in the town of Clarksburg, just south of Sacramento. I felt welcomed by the local community and it is great to see such strong support for farming here.
First half July 2022
We had a fantastic wine tasting at Tom Merwin’s vineyard. We heard how his farm maintains a competitive advantage. The most value for his business comes from his wine club subscription, where he has a direct link to customers rather than having to go through intermediaries.
He explained more about his 1200-acre farming operation; 650 in vines and the remainder in arable (wheat and safflower). And we were also able to talk all things data.
In the region of Clarksburg, California, they have a high-water table and two rivers nearby. Because of this they don’t have the water take restrictions the rest of California does.
Tom takes a lot of time to make sure he is ahead of the game, always looking at how he can do things better or differently. For example, he’s experimenting with growing all-natural blackberries (no herbicides or pesticides), which will be sold at a local farmer’s market.
First half July 2022
Spent a fantastic day in Salinas with Dennis Donohue and Walt Duflock at the Western Growers Technology and Innovation Centre.
We met some inspiring people including Norm Groot who is working hard to ensure future water availability for County ranchers and growers.
We also heard from Church Brothers’ Joshua Reed, who is empowering his people by sharing the data from their vegetable and leafy green growing so his staff can maximise yield production. He has managed to increase yields overall by 20% by using and analysing data.
Dennis Donohue thank you for a fantastic visit and organising the day so well for us!
Mid July 2022
What a time to be in California. Elisa Blanco and I had the pleasure of spending the morning with Wendy Larson and her father, Glen Anderson, on their 20-acre organic almond orchard, that sells direct to customers. They helped establish the organic almond industry.
In the afternoon we had a tour of a much larger 8000-acre property, Terranova Ranch, Inc. They grow crops from organic tomatoes, peppers for Subway, red and white onions, to almonds and pistachios. This was an impressive operation, and they work hard to ensure water resource is managed well.
Then for my final day in California it would’ve been remiss of me not to see the Muir Woods’ towering old growth redwoods. On to Chicago now.
Mid July 2022
First day in Chicago. I took a trip to a Whole Foods store where I noticed the New Zealand wine on offer. This is a store where country of origin is really important and those that shop there want to see who they are supporting and what they are supporting. Like the bananas shown – supporting students through their scholarships.
Whole Foods also have their own certified animal welfare standards where the meat is traceable to farm. It is also hormone and antibiotics free – like much of New Zealand’s meat.
Posted about one and a half weeks ago.
The crops in Champaign, Illinois are predominately corn and soybeans. One farmer is looking at a third type of crop, miscanthus, which is a reedy type of grass and is used in biomass fuel and cut up into chips for turkey bedding.
This is an interesting third crop that could be worked into the rotation of these fields, but there needs to be an increase in demand for it. Possibly the rise in fuel costs will do this?
The innovation in machinery here is at the point where corn can be planted at 13-16kmph. This means 80 acres (or 32 hectares) of corn can be planted in one hour! The machinery is so impressive!
Also you cannot be in the rural country of the US without going to a local community fair, with the tractor and truck pulling! Thanks to the local farmers for inviting me to go with them.
Also posted about one and a half weeks ago.
I spent a great day with the Champaign Farm Bureau and the corn and soybean growers in Illinois, this is part of the USA corn belt, and they rely on rainwater not irrigation for crop growth.
The weekend before I arrived, they finally had some rain. Before this the crops were looking dry and the corn was starting to curl.
The farms here have grown significantly in size over the last decade which has happened in line with increasing machinery size. They have much larger machinery here than New Zealand because the landscape is so flat. They can get 18m wide heads on their combines.
The day ended with a BBQ put on by the Farm Bureau. Thirty local farmers took part at an unused grain elevator. The Farm Bureau then announced some funding they had received from the federal government to improve rural broadband and to encourage more use of cover crops.
Thank you to everyone who made me feel so welcome here!
Fair Oaks, Indiana.
Mid July 2022
Today filled me with lots of hope. I went to Fair Oaks Farms in Indiana where they are doing a fantastic job educating the public on where our food comes from.
They have three farming systems they teach the public, a dairy farm, a piggery, and crop farming.
The dairy operation was both conventional and robotic milking. They milk 2800 cows in one facility, split between a 72-bale rotary (that operates 24 hours a day) and robotics. With the milking robots they have 12 robots milking 800 cows.
Late July 2022
I met a great leader today; someone I truly look up to. Dr Molly Jahn is a Programme Manager in the Defence Sciences Office at DARPA. Previously she was Under Secretary of Research, Education and Economics at the USDA.
Her work at DARPA looks at the wider risks and opportunities in the global food system. I got to spend three hours with Molly and her husband discussing the food system. They also took me on a tour around the Wisconsin area and explained the diversity of the food system there.
This was a real honour for me and shows the doors that the Nuffield New Zealand Farming Scholarship can open.
St. Louis, Missouri
Second half July 2022
The last few days have been full of fantastic conversations around the food system. From the potential of GMO crops to continue to feed our world, to speaking with Dr Jacqueline Applegate, President of Bayer Crop Science North America, about the climate change weather patterns we are currently experiencing. And finally, on to conversations around building more resilience in our food system with senior professors from the University of Illinois.
The University of Illinois is a leading agriculture university and is heavily involved in supporting the agriculture community with new research. Their Farmdoc website is used to share information, resources and tools with farmers.
Next stop – Texas.
Lucie discusses her Nuffield study with 2021 UK Scholar, Chris Manley.
Posted about five days ago by Chris Manley, 2021 UK Scholar.
Data Interoperability – struggling to get systems to work together? Not sure how to analyse and make the most of your data? What is the value of your data?
Thank goodness my fellow Nuffield Farming Scholarships Trust Scholar Lucie Douma from Nuffield New Zealand is travelling the world to bring some clarity to some of these questions.
I was delighted to catch up with Lucie to hear how the research is going and to hear her views on leadership.