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Initial harvest reports show significant variability

Friends, family of WSU grad seek answers to her death in Vietnam; native seed harvest proceeds apace; Shakespeare Festival buys Winona warehouse; and more.

John Mages, who farms in the Belgrade area and is president of the Minnesota Corn Growers Association, said farmers in west central Minnesota are finding a wide range of variability in the crop yields, writes Gretchen Schlosser of the West Central Tribune in Willmar. “There are spots that are good and spots that are poor,” he said Friday after hauling a load of corn to the Bushmills Ethanol plant. He said his neighbors were starting on the soybean harvest. With just a few fields through the combine, yields were in the mid-40 bushel range. Doug Albin, who farms in the Clarkfield area, said neighbors were taking out both corn and soybeans. Corn yields varied from 120 to 190 bushels, with 20 to 22 percent moisture. The variability is significant, Albin said, with yield monitors showing per-acre yields from 0 to 260 bushels in the same field. He said the corn will probably average between 150 to 175 bushels per acre, which, considering the lack of rainfall since late June, is a pretty good overall yield, Schlosser writes.

The Fergus Falls Journal carried the Associated Press’s roundup of the weekly crop report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The report stated the soybean harvest advanced to 16 percent complete as of Sunday, compared with 1 percent for the five-year average. The corn harvest advanced to 12 percent, compared with a 1 percent average. Minnesota’s potato harvest has advanced to 50 percent complete, compared with 35 percent last year at this time and a 39 percent average. The state’s dry bean harvest advanced to 72 percent complete, compared with 22 percent last year and a 32 percent average. Minnesota sugarbeets were 12 percent harvested, compared with 2 percent last year and a 6 percent average. The state’s sweet corn harvest is 93 percent complete.

The moral of the story: Watch what you say when you spout off against the president. Ron Larsen, a 75-year-old candidate for the New Ulm City Council, was awakened by a knock at his door earlier this year. On the other side: Members of the Secret Service, who were investigating a possible threat he made in a letter to President Obama, reports Brian Ojanpa of the Mankato Free Press. Larsen, who lost his job as a New Ulm Journal reporter in 2010, wrote a letter complaining about the Minnesota Unemployment Insurance Program’s requirement that to receive unemployment benefits, a recipient has to actively seek work in order to collect payments. There’s nothing wrong with a complaint, unless it includes a paragraph like this: “Ever since I was 50-55 years old I’ve had this nagging feeling that I was put on this Earth for a specific reason. Now I know it was to take down a sitting U.S. president; life doesn’t get any better than that.” “Take down” alluded to his desire to help cause Obama’s defeat in the November election, Larson says. One agent told him that certain words and phrases in correspondence with government entities are automatically red-lined and investigated, especially since 9/11.

Friends and family of Winona State University graduate Kari Bowerman are launching a letter-writing campaign to generate political support to investigate her death while vacationing in Vietnam about one month ago, writes Matthew Stolle of the Rochester Post-Bulletin. Bowerman, 27, of Lake Geneva, Wis., and her friend, Cathy Huynh, 26, of Hamilton, Ontario, had been working as English teachers in South Korea. Their trip to Vietnam was taken during a break from school. According to news reports and friends, Huynh took Bowerman to a hospital in Nha Trang after both became sick and repeatedly vomited. Both were admitted to the hospital, where Bowerman was put on a respirator but died at 10:30 p.m. Huynh was released after a few hours but was back in the hospital two days later with similar symptoms and died. The deaths fit what Bowerman supporters say is a pattern of mysterious deaths to travelers to Southeast Asia. The draft letter to Sen. Al Franken notes that there have been roughly 14 “sudden and unexplained” tourist deaths since 2009 in Thailand and New Zealand. One possible cause proposed by a Canadian researcher has been exposure to a type of pesticide. 

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In a follow-up story, Franken has asked the U.S. State Department to look into the two deaths. In his letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Franken asks the department to work with Vietnamese authorities to investigate their deaths and “do all within your power to determine” what happened to them. “I have heard from Minnesotans who are deeply troubled by the mysterious recent deaths of Kari Bowerman and Cathy Huynh in Vietnam,” Franken wrote. “Kari was a graduate of Winona State University in Minnesota. The friends of these young women are seeking answers about the cause of their deaths.”

This summer’s heat and drought was too tough on plants that are meant to survive heat and drought, reports John Weiss of the Post-Bulletin. “The drought, it hurt the prairie industry as well,” said Mark Udstuen, one of the owners and sales managers at Shooting Star Native Seeds outside Spring Grove. While native prairie plants evolved deep root systems to tolerate heat and drought, “it was too hot for too long to be a good year for seed production,” he said. “Overall, it was not a great growing season.” Harvest on the 1,000 acres began around the Fourth of July with prairie spiderwort and porcupine grass and will go well into October with little bluestem and goldenrod, he said.  About 80 percent of Shooting Star’s seeds are sold wholesale to the Minnesota Department of Transportation or soil and water conservation districts that plant native prairie because it’s often less expensive to maintain than cool-weather plants such as Kentucky bluegrass. Even with a poor economy, “I think the demand has been growing the last few years,” he said.

The Great River Shakespeare Festival bought a warehouse at 51 Johnson St. in downtown Winona for $185,000 earlier this month, according to the Winona County recorder’s office. The festival put a $15,000 down payment on the building, which it bought Sept. 7, reports Mary Juhl of the Winona Daily News.  Festival officials will reveal plans for the building at an upcoming meeting. The festival has not owned real estate before, instead renting spaces around Winona for a ticketing office and for prop and costume creation, storage and other uses.