Thoughts from the Combine

Contributed by:  Michelle Dvoracek

This past fall during harvest season, I had the opportunity to ride in not just one, but three different combines. Since I started college, I haven’t made it back every year to do this, but thanks to a class project I’m working on, combine rides were a bit more of a priority. Despite the rush of trying to get as much done as quickly as possible and the loud noise from the roaring machine, the whole experience seems to relax me for some reason. It makes for some good thinking time. Here are some of the things I thought about:

  • Some people do not understand how important combine rides are. The farmer is not doing this for fun. He or she is doing this because it is necessary to sustain the world.


  •  Combines are huge, intricate machines. They can do some amazing things, but if one little thing goes wrong, your whole day could be ruined.


  • If you want to go watch wildlife, go ride in a combine. Several animals find shelter in the field when there is a crop growing on it, and as the stocks come down, the critters come out. My list that I saw this year include: deer, raccoons, several species of birds, too many rabbits to count, and even a beautiful red fox.


  • Farmers are amazing people. They work day after day year-round to prepare for these few weeks. Then they sit in the combine for hours and manage to keep their sanity, and when they’re done, they start preparing for next year.


  • Plants are also pretty amazing. They braved the elements all summer long and are now being used to sustain the world.


  • No matter what aspect of the agricultural industry we are a part of, we need farmers. Pork producers need crops to feed to the pigs and we, as consumers, also need food and fuels like ethanol. Producers of all kinds need to work together.


The busy harvest season can be very stressful, but there is also something relaxing about it. It indicates that another year is coming to a close and that the holidays are just around the corner. Perhaps the next time you drive past a combine picking away in the field, you will think about things like this too. You don’t even have to be riding in the cab.


Nebraska Harvest

Nebraska Harvest


My dad, emptying soybeans from the combine into the truck as the sun sets behind him. Farmers put in long hours during harvest time.

Experiences at Nebraska Agriculture Youth Institute are Life Changing

Contributed by: Michelle Dvoracek

For the past five summers, I have spent the second week of July on UNL’s East Campus attending the Nebraska Agricultural Youth Institute (also known by its shorter name of NAYI). I spent the first two years as a delegate and the past three years as a counselor.

To say NAYI changed my life would be an understatement. NAYI basically shaped me into the person I am today and my future career in agriculture. When I first attended the Institute back in 2010, I was a quiet high school student and I had no idea what I wanted to do when I grew up. While I still have no idea what I want to do after I graduate, thanks to NAYI, now I know that I want to be actively involved in the agricultural industry. My time on the Nebraska Agricultural Youth Council (NAYC) has also given me the opportunity to meet many other kids passionate about agriculture just like I am. I’ve met delegates from all over the state with different backgrounds ranging from corn farmers to show pig kids and even a couple organic producers mixed in there. Through the NAYC, I have also met some of my closest friends and have made memories with them that I will never forget. I know I will be able to call on these people years from now if I ever need their help and they know they can do the same.

This year, thanks to the Pork Mentorship Program, I got to experience NAYI from another perspective: as a presenter. For the commodity board sessions, another mentor and NAYC member, Toni Rasmussen, and I helped Kyla Habrock educate the delegates about the Nebraska Pork Producers Association. We talked to them about some of the health benefits of pork as well as the cooking recommendations. To show the delegates just how versatile pork is, we even had an Asian pork tenderloin salad for them to sample. To finish up, Toni and I shared some of our experiences so far in the mentorship program.

photo 1


Toni and I took the time to snap a group selfie with one of the groups we presented to together.


While this year marked my final year as a counselor, I hope this is not my last time at NAYI. I would love to come back again as a presenter sometime and help to continue educating Nebraska’s youth about this important industry.

photo 4

NAYC members Eric Wemhoff and Morgan Zumpfe enjoy their salads in some aluminum foil bowls. We gave out so many samples that we ran out of bowls so we had to get creative!


Tenderloin Tuesday: New Pork and Beans

New Pork and Beans

We had nearly 150 national submissions to our Pork and Beans recipe contest. Out of those, 10 were prepared and judged. From those 10, a top 5 were picked and placed. Even though this particular submission did not place in the top 5, we still thought it was delicious and deserved some recognition! It’s simple to make and definitely won’t disappoint your dinner table.

Servings: 4


1 & 1/2 punds pork center rib chops, 2 inch thick

1 teaspoon grapeseed oil

1 each celery ribs, chopped

1 each carrot, chopped

1 small onion

1/2 cup brown rice

15 ounces navy beans, canned, drained and rinsed

1 cup low sodium chicken broth

1/4 cup vermouth

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes

1/2 teaspoon thyme


Heat oil in saute pan, brown pork chops on each side and remove from pan

Add chopped celery, carrot, onion and brown rice. Add vermouth and cook until all liquid is gone, add 1/2 chicken broth and cook until all liquid is absorbed.

Add remaining chicken broth, navy beans and seasonings, mix together, top with pork chops, reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook for 20 minutes.

Take pork out, let rest 5 minutes and slice on angle. To serve, place rice and bean mixture on plate and top with sliced pork, garnish with a sprinkle of thyme.

Thanks to Judy Gilliard for your amazing meal! To see what more Judy has to offer visit her website at

Tenderloin Tuesday: Honey Pork Tenderloin Kabobs

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Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients Icon


1/2 cup bourbon, * OR 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup mustard
1 teaspoon dried tarragon
3-4 sweet potatoes, cut into 24 one-inch cubes
1 1/2 pounds pork tenderloin, cut into 24 one-inch cubes
4 medium ripe peaches, unpeeled, pitted and quartered
4 green peppers, each cut into 8 two-inch pieces
8 yellow onion, each cut into 4 two-inch pieces
olive oil, for grilling

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Cooking Directions

New USDA Guidelines
Mix first four ingredients in a bowl; stir well and set glaze aside. Steam or boil sweet potatoes until crisp-tender. Thread 3 sweet potato cubes, 3 pork cubes, 2 peach quarters, 4 green pepper pieces and 4 onion pieces alternately onto each of eight 10-inch skewers. Brush kabobs with honey glaze mixture. Lightly oil grill. Grill over medium-hot coals 5 minutes on each side or until thoroughly heated, basting occasionally with glaze.

Serves 4

* Bourbon is optional, can substitute 2 tablespoons cider vinegar

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Serving Suggestions

Give your grill a new thrill with these spiked kabobs. Serve with favorite potato salad, grilled corn on the cob and cold melon for dessert.

Nutrition Icon


Calories: 640 calories
Protein: 42 grams
Fat: 12 grams
Sodium: 290 milligrams
Cholesterol: 110 milligrams
Saturated Fat: 3 grams
Carbohydrates: 77 grams
Random Cooking Tip:
For marinated pork chops, put pork in a self-sealing bag with marinade in the refrigerator first thing in the morning. By suppertime, pork chops can be removed from marinade -dispose of used marinade- and ready to grill.

Farm girl teaches urban students about ‘Life on the Farm’

By Ann Oswald, 2011 Pork Mentor

The students were filing in with their teachers and looking for a place to sit. The building was humming with noise. There were voices of many excited students, the mooing of a cow and baaing from a sheep. We as exhibitors were visiting and getting ready for our presentations. Life on the Farm, a day of exploration.

Presenting about the swine industry to hundreds of elementary students with my mom made for an enjoyable day. We were able to share a great deal of information with the students which included the life cycle of a hog, where they live, what they eat, how they are used for meat and other products, as well as some interesting facts.

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Nebraska family “Digs the Pig”

By the Oswald family, a Nebraska farm family

We’re a Nebraska farm family and proud of it.  More than that, we’re a Nebraska pork producing family and proud of it.  We’ve been raising hogs as long as I can remember and if you ask Dad he’ll say the same thing.  The question is why?  It’s a valid question.  The last 10 years haven’t been real friendly to the swine industry.  Throw in some long hours and tough working conditions and you might even catch us asking the same question.  Call us crazy, call us stubborn, or even call us stupid – we’ve heard it all.  The question remains – why are we pork producers?  It’s pretty simple I guess – We Dig The Pig

We dig the pig because it’s our way of life.  Some of my fondest memories as a child are of trips to Grand Island for the Nebraska Pork Producers convention or the annual 81-91 Pork Producers banquet.  Just mention the phrase “Madison County Fair” and I’ll fill your ear with hours of tales about ribbons, trophies, and carcass contests.  (No embellishment of course…)  Let’s not forget about the kitchen table either.  Breakfast – bacon.  Lunch – a bacon sandwich.  Dinner – more bacon.  The experts say I should have died 30 years ago.  (Please don’t sue me producers of Grumpy Old Men)  In all seriousness, pork is a staple of our diets and Mom does a great job whether it be a Sunday ham or Wednesday roast.  She’s even got us kids cooking on our own.  Whether it’s “Bachelor chops” or baby back ribs we’ve got all dinner needs covered.   

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Pork Mentor Learns the ‘Ins and Outs’ of Farmland Foods

By Jessica Barncastle, 2010 Pork Mentor

The 2010 Pork Mentoring Class took a tour of the Farmland Foods plant in Crete, Nebraska and I became extremely interested in the inner workings of the hog processing plant. Once the tour was over, I couldn’t wait to work with some of the good folks at Farmland to learn more during one of my professional shadowing experiences!

The first few hours of my shadowing experience were full of paperwork. The Farmland Foods employee that I shadowed showed me the write-ups he did each and every day and explained to me how the numbers were significant. He entered information into his computer about the trucks that came in, the number of hogs, the producers they came from, and how much was paid for each truck.  He has two reports to do every day. One was for the information from the day before, and the other was for the information of that day. He also takes the information he received about the hogs that pertained to live weight, processed weight, loin eye area, back fat, and several other numbers and entered the information into a document for him to send off to the people who worked on the daily and weekly hog reports. Just looking at the numbers upon numbers I knew I would have been lost in mere seconds. He informed me that these records were only for hogs that were bought based on processed weight and that he had to go through every day to take out any hogs bought only on off the truck basis. 

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