Written on: September 5, 2023
The Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) and Sukup recently hosted a panel discussion at the August 29-31 Farm Progress Show in Decatur, IL that focused on the ways clean, reliable propane is revolutionizing the agriculture industry—contributing to enhanced efficiency, sustainability, and profitability for producers nationwide.
The panel featured several notable speakers and guests, providing a unique networking opportunity to discover potential collaborations, exchange ideas, and forge connections.
Featured speakers included (in order pictured above): Mike Newland, Propane Education & Research Council; Rob and Emily Sharkey, The Shark Farmer; Annaliese Wegner, Modern-day Farm Chick; Tork Whisler, This’ll Do Farm; Corey Hillebo, Farm4Profit; Tara Vander Dussen and Natalie Kovarik, Discover Ag; and Kerry Hartwig, Sukup.
The concept of “Paid Influencers” is a fairly new trend in the social media era. As you can see from the web links, all of the influencers are experts in various aspects of agriculture and all are willing to share their feelings on the benefits that propane can bring to the table.
Events at the Farm Progress show included a dinner where various editors of publications in the Agriculture and Energy space, including Trending in Propane, were invited to visit informally with the influencers and the panel discussion the next morning where editors as well as attendees of the Farm Progress Show were able to hear from the influencers and ask questions on a wide variety of topics.
EDUCATING, DISPELLING MYTHS, ADDRESSING CONCERNS AND SHARING NEW TRENDS
As the influencers discussed their role representing the agriculture industry, a common theme could be heard that they enjoy sharing the story of the various aspects of farming with those who are far away from the farm but benefit daily from the agriculture industry.
“There is a myth that farmers just want to make a quick buck,” Wegner, a dairy farmer, said. “Farming is not just a job; it’s a lifestyle. We are very careful with resources and the environment.” Hillebo also dispelled the myth that all farmers are rich. “Margins can be very tight in farming,” he said. Emily Sharkey said many people have a fear of asking questions because they think they will be made fun of for what they don’t know. “Generally through our outreach, though, we find that people really do want to connect and learn.”
There was some general concern among the influencers that labels on food at the grocery store provide more useful information but can also add to confusion. “There is fear about food among many consumers,” Kovarik said. “We have to be empathetic as we hadn’t had this realization about people as they eat three times a day.”
Hillebo believes people start to learn about and trust those in agriculture as they get to know the influencers through regular podcasts. “We introduce them to the way 95% of pigs are raised on our farm,” Hillebo said.
In an era where technology is constantly changing everything, the influencers are sharing new techniques they are adopting. “We have new collars for our dairy cows that can track their movements,” Vander Dussen said. Whisler said new technology is allowing him to process his manure, filtering out water. “Salt and phosphorus can also be filtered out helping us with carbon credits.”
ENERGY AND AGRICULTURE: PROPANE HAS REAL-LIFE BENEFITS
Whisler noted that his farm now has solar panels on three of its four barns. “Propane generators provide back up as well as supplemental heat,” he said. Hillebo noted using propane for backup power at the hog site, brooder heaters and standby generators. “We also typically use 25,000 gallons of propane a year for corn drying.” Rob Sharkey stressed the benefits of power backup. “We can’t go long without power,” he said.
PERC’s Newland asked attendees if they realized how much cleaner propane is than the electric grid in midwestern states. “Coal plays a big role in creating electricity in Missouri, Indiana and my home state of Ohio,” he said. “Propane is cleaner than electricity across the country.” Kovarik and Vander Dussen hosted Newland on their weekly Discover Ag podcast in June. “I went into the podcast undervaluing propane’s environmental benefits,” Kovarik said. “My favorite sound byte was that propane represents 52% less greenhouse gas emissions than the equivalent amount of electricity generated in the U.S. grid.” She stressed the value of no methane. “Propane doesn’t contaminate the soil,” she said.
Participants also discussed smaller uses for propane on the farm such as weed flaming noting that all weeds die from fire. What else is propane used for on the farm? Firepits and heating for pools were two additional benefits mentioned.