Sunday, December 6, 2009

Done Harvesting-Good Riddance 2009

Finished Dec 5, 9:00am. Never thought I would say Decemeber for finishing harvest-what is is 1965? Grandpa used to tell stories about picking corn at thanksgiving.

The last area was so wet that we had to wait for ground to freeze to finish it. I have never seen snow on the corn head-or had ice build up in the combine. After we go the combine back home in the shop I went to get the trucks and returned to a big puddle of water in the shop. I thought it had blown a hydraulic hose or resovoir split or something. Turned out to be water running from the combine-ice had accumulated from picking he frozen corn and was thawing out. That was a first for me, hopefully the last.

Now that fieldwork is over time to work of farm reports, pay seed bills, get yeild maps together, soil tests, and work with fertilizer suppliers to get next years fertilizer down.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone

I just finished up a Thanksgiving morning run, just me and dog, 3 miles. I found a lot of parallels between this year farming and my run this morning, and learned another lesson from my dog.

This has undoubtedly been my hardest year farming, a cold wet spring made planting late, a cold summer delayed crop maturity, and the wettest fall even the old farmers can remember. They say we will be saying "this is nothing compared to 2009" to the next generation of farmers. It could really get you down if you let it.

Like most of this year it was cold, windy, and blowing rain this morning. I had hoped to start harvest again Fri or Sat but this morning reminded me it was going to be another wait for a dry window. I would not have gone running except I have been out of town for a few days and not run, and the dog had been staring at me since I got up-guilting me into running. If not for him I would have went back to bed or just stayed in the house.

As we headed out I tucked my head into the wind and started down the road. Once we got past the neighbors house I let Earl off the leash and he was tearing up and down the road like it was the perfect spring day. I could see the joy in his eyes and he jumped back and forth across the ditch-looking for the perfect piece of grass to whiz on.

As the run went on I finally got warmed up, began to feel better, and remembered there are many who would give anything to be able to run, or have a dog, or even walk.

It made me think that I need to stop whining about challenges and focus on some things I need to be grateful about on the farm.

1) That my Grandparents made the sacrifies that enabled me to have a farm to start farming on-without that base I doubt I could have started on any scale.
2) That my Parents and Aunt and Uncle bought another piece of land a few years ago.
3) That I have a landlord who had the forsight to rent not just for the highest dollar-but to someone who will take care of the land-and to give a fair deal on rent-and give a beginning farmer a chance.
4) That I have the physical ability to farm, I know there are some out there who for age, disease, injury or whatever would love to farm but cannot.
5) My family, they get to put up with a lot of the stress of farming, without recieving as many of the rewards.
6) Friends and neighbors, who have helped drive trucks, offered equipment when they were done, etc. That support system gives such mental comfort knowing you aren't alone, and allows one to take chances on growth that I would not take without that fall back.
7) Having a regular job that is flexible enough to let me farm, provide insurance, and stability for my kids futures.
8) That I live in a country that provides the opportunity to and freedom choose your own destity.
9) Advice from experienced farmer friends with nothing to gain-just willing to help a rookie.

I could go on and on, unless you are a farmer some of it may seem trite-but to me it is all pricesless.

And like Earl, who at the end of our run was just as happy as at the beginning, and ready to go again-instead of focusing on the challenges am going to remind myself to be thankful for just having the ability and opportunity to farm and will look forward to doing it again next year!

Edit: I am also thankful that my favorite uncle (who totaled his car last night) is unhurt and able to spend Thanksgiving with us.

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone, God Bless

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Harvest Progress!!!

I am glad to say the blog hasn’t been updated in a couple weeks because we have been too busy harvesting. This has certainly been an interesting harvest so far.

Beans are completed and corn is now 80% done. We would be done if the elevators were able to stay open more than a few hours a day, but they are simply getting overwhelmed with wet corn. We have received over 4” of rain in the last 3 days, so I don’t expect to be back in the field before Thanksgiving. Hopefully this will give the grain elevators time to catch up on drying and be ready when harvest resumes. We could be done in two to three full days.

The most recent complication is the propane shortage. So much propane has been used to dry corn in the Midwest that there is now a shortage and the suppliers can’t get the product. We are down to 10% in the home tank, some elevators have actually not opened on some days because they don’t have the propane to dry the corn.

I have learned some really good lessons this year which I will detail more over the winter. First real dealings with paid employees, first wet harvest, stuck trucks, etc.

Despite all the challenges and frustrations I am finding more and more farming is a lot like running a marathon.
1) More preparation than actual event
2) During the hard parts you really question what you are doing and is it worth it
3) After it is done (or almost done in this case) you feel rewarded and can't wait to do it again.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

No harvesting this week-good video from NCGA

There has been so much misinformation in the press again lately. I am so tired of hearing about "Corporate Farms", I still haven't ever met a corpration at any farm meeting or in the line at the elevator. Every farmer I have ever met is a family farmer, they have gotten larger-often because they are supporting multiple families and must be larger.

From what I see many people are trying to use the term "Sustainability" as a weapon against family farmers. In an attempt to gain market share for their products they are spreading the misconception that food not grown on small garden farms is unhealthy, or that it is bad for the environment-despite so much scientific evidence to the contrary.

Some really good facts in the last 30 seconds of this video to counteract the lies being spread by other groups.

Were it not for family farms and modern production methods we would simply not have enough food to meet the needs for human food, feed, and fuel. What is not sustainable is returning to farming methods of the 1900's.

Friday, October 23, 2009

FAINALLY-Some Harvesting-But STOP

Mix of good and bad. We did get 3 good days Mon-Wed of this week and were able to get in and finish beans. Corn is about 20% done-but last night we ended up with 2" on one farm and 4" on the other.

The weather was nice and dew did not come up and we were able to cut beans well into the evening-which is often not the case.

Harvesting Video:

This rain, and the forcast for rain on and off the next 6 days will probably keep much from happening here before Nov 1. Latest harvest I have ever finished is Oct 23, right now I would say that Nov 15 is looking optimistic.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Tribute to Dr. Norman Borlaug

I had hoped to report on harvesting this week, but weather is preventing that until next week.

Instead I am overdue to write about something much greater than any single harvest, the death of what I think is in my opinion the greatest "farmer", most likely the greatest man ever to live-Dr. Norman Borlaug. Dr. Borlaug is oftern referred to as the father of the green revolution.

At his Nobel Prize Award presentation it was declard that over a Billion (BILLION with a B) people have been saved from starvation due to his lifes work. To put that in perspective he has saved NINETY TIMES more lives than the 11 million Hitler had put to death during WWII.

It is really sad to me how few people know someone who saved 90 times more lives than Hitler took. I doubt that 1 in 50 kids under 20 have ever heard his name. He had the misfortune of passing a month after Michael Jackson and it was still wall to wall coverage of the singer's death.

The awards given to him are amazing.
1) Nobel Peace Price
2) Presidental Medal of Freedom
3) Congressional Gold Medal
4) Several other equivalent honors from Pakistan, India, etc.

A combination of awards only won before by 4 others including Dr. Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandella, and Mother Theresa.

If you have a few minutes here are some videos on YouTube very worth watching:

Iowa News Story of his Death: (3 minutes)

Short 7 minute biography. Fantastic!

Dr. Borlaug talks about hunger

10 minute Humorous Piece/Tribute to Dr. Borlaug from Penn & Teller (language not for kids)

You can read more about his life at Wikipedia at:

During the 50's Dr. Borlaug led the introduction of high yeilding varietes of wheat combined with modern agricultural production techniques to Mexico, Pakistan, and India. As a result of his work Mexico, which had many starving people due to food shortages. He recognized that the climate in Mexico could support two growing seasons and intruced short season hybrids that allowed them to produce two crops a year instead of just one. Mexico actually became a net exporter of wheat by 1963. In the 60's his work nearly doubled production in Pakistan and India. He did similar work with wheat in China and later with corn and wheat throughout Africa.

Dr. Borlaug dedicated his life from his early 20's to his death at 95 to increasing food quality and quantity for the world. At age 72, after many people would have retired he founded "The World Food Prize" to inspire food production. It is a Nobel like $250,000 award presented to the person who does the most to increase food production for the year.

Maybe someday his contributions will be known, I hope someday another like him will come along, but I doubt it.

"You can’t build a peaceful world on empty stomachs and human misery"-Norman Borlaug.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Fall is here!

Harvest is going to be delayed 1 more week as the corn is just drying really slow. But there are so many other great signs fall is here.

Going to bed at night and hearing the dry corn rustlng in the wind, I love that and is always a sure sign. There are only a couple weeks a year where leaves are that dry before harvested, but it is such a soothing sound going to bed or when I wake up in the middle of the night. Seems I always forget about it until fall is here again.

Beans are starting to turn, that means about 3 weeks they will be ready.

If the weather cooperates and we don't get too much rain we are going to start corn next Sat for sure!
Maybe you have to be a farmer to appreicate it but I woke up this morning and just spent about 20 minutes drinking my coffee and looking out at the golden corn-easy to lose appreciation for things so beautiful when you see them every day.

On the business side of things I ordered a lot of my seed and fertilizer for next year, and input prices on some fertilizer was half of last year! That was a real pleasant surprise.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Harvest starting next week

Some early corn testing 20%, so will start it next Fri. Unfortuntely it is only a 6 acre test plot-but will give us a chance to test if everything is working ok.

We should be able to start around the 25th on the corn that did get planted early, majority of it won't be started before 1st week in October.

Our beans haven't started turning yet, but I see some are starting to show.

Julie and I were down in Alton area for a quick 15th wedding aniversary trip before harvest starts. Sunday afternoon I made it out to visit a friend who farms in that area and get some time on the combine-that got the juices flowing. They were picking corn about 21% moisture. Saw a couple beans fields in that area that are very close to being read.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Farm Show Season

This past week was farm show season. On Saturday Madison and I went to the 50 years of progress farm show in Rantoul, Il. It is really amazing!! There are (not exagerating) more than 1,000 tractors there-and many old ones running in the field. It was pretty neat to see some of the equipment I used to help my grandpa farm with when I was a kid.

The Farm Progress Show on Wed was an entirely different story. All the latest and greatest equipment was on display. The size (and cost) of this new stuff is staggering, but it sure is fun to watch. Below is a video of the newest largest Lexion combine shelling 16 rows of corn and unloading at the same time-the rate that is coming out of auger is amazing.

I posted a lot more pics of both shows on our website at:

Seeing the old and new equipment has my blood boiling to get started here, but the cold weather is just causing the crops to take forever to mature. There won't be much done in Central, IL before Oct 1. I will probably start slowly sometime between Sept 20 and Sept 27, but probably won't hit it hard before the 5th or 6th of October.

Of course we need to keep an eye on the stalks and if they start to have standability issues we will have to go no matter what the moisture-but drying costs continue to be really high and I sure would like to let it dry in the field as much as possible.

Beans are looking much better, the rain we got this week should help finish them off. My South farm got 2.5" but the North one only got 1/2". I have no idea on harvest time for the beans, but I will say with the headline fungicide we sprayed (which delays maturity) these will undoubtely be the the latest beans I have ever had in my short farming career.

In the next couple days I will start posting bi-weekly moisture tests, when it gets under 20 we will start least I hope we can wait that long.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Harvest Prep Step 1

Where did the summer go? The state fair has came and gone and ditches and waterways are getting mowed-the signs that always indicate to me that harvest is near. Add to that the farm progress show in Decatur, IL is coming up in a couple weeks and the juices are starting to flow.

I spent about 10 hours mowing this past week, and about the same working on the combine and trucks. If I had to guess now I would say we will have a little to start on the Sat after Labor day-but with the cool year havest probably won't hit full steam until the later 1/3 of Sept.

Mowing always makes things look nice, so I did get out and grab a few pictures of the crops.

This next week will probably bring more of the same, there is a 50 years of progress show which has a lot of the 50 year old equipment out and running-I hope to get some pics there and will post, and the following week farm progress.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Couldn't have said it better myself

I am going to be a lazy blogger this week and not post much other than a link to another blog-but this guy nailed it so good that I had to post it.

This is a little long, but EXCELLENT description of many of the misunderstandings of agriculture:

We are getting close to harvest-probably about 3-4 weeks. From now on I will stick to blogging activities on our farm. This week we finshing spraying fungicide and tomorrow will start mowing around field edges and waterways in preparation for harvest activities.

Crop is looking good, but wouldn't mind a little rain.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Organic Crop Production – Part 3 of 3

I will be glad to conclude this topic of organic production myths. I really started this blog to share what we are doing on our farm-but as I said in earlier posts I just felt I needed to correct these myths, primarily because many of my non-farming background friends were asking me why I was not organic and repeating many of these myths to me.

The final two myths I have to cover are that conventionally grown food hurts the environment and organically grown food is better for the environment and the myth that organic production is more profitable.

I could give example after example of how organic food production is not as friendly to the environment, but for the sake of brevity I will just give three examples.

1) Land required produce the food.

A recent study concludes that organic potatoes use less energy in terms of fertilizer production, but need more fossil fuel for tillage. An acre of conventionally farmed land produces 2.5 times more potatoes than an organic one. Similar numbers are found in corn and other crops. We simply do not have enough land to grow everything organic, and even if we did the fossil fuel and labor required would be prohibitive.

2) Erosion loss, increased fuel usage due to increased tillage.

Without the tool of chemical control of weeds the only reasonable method of control is mechanical. On my farm we practice what is called “no-till farming”. This means that I seed my crops directly into the residue of the previous crop. If I did not have the chemicals to control weeds I would be forced to work the ground to control weeds. It is not uncommon for organic farms to be fall plowed, disked, and field cultivated once or twice to get a good seedbed. Then after planting crops may have to be cultivated as many as three times just to control weeds.
All of this tillage requires tremendous amounts of time and fuel. Additionally the benefits of carbon sequestration from no-till farming is lost and the soil structure is highly compromised and much more venerable to wind and water erosion.

Ironically many of the people who support organic production are many of the same ones pushing no-till farming methods.

3) Increased Pesticide Use

By using crops that have insect resistance built into them we do not need to use pesticides to control yield robbing pests such as corn rootworm beetle and European corn borer. Without these traits we would have to spray pesticides-these pesticides also kill beneficial insects (such as honeybees and lady beetles) and in concentrated doses can be harmful to the farmers who apply them.

The independent had an excellent article on environmental impact of non-GMO crops which can be accessed at the following links:

Genetically-modified crops have benefited the environment, says IL entomologist Mike Gray, quoting .

1) Since 1996 global farm income improved $21.8 bil. from beans & $7.2 bil. from corn.
2) In 2007, 12 mil. farmers used GMO technology, 90% of them in developing countries.
3) Pesticide use has dropped 8.8% (359 mil. KG of active ingredient) since 1996.
4) Herbicide and insecticide use has dropped a total of 17.2% since 1996.
5) Because of less pesticide use, 2007 tractor fuel savings totaled about 100 mil. ga

Final Myth: Organic Agriculture is more profitable

Farming is a very low profit margin business, and when I say business I mean that in every aspect. Even my very small farm must spend over $200,000 to produce a crop that I hope will make yield $220,000 in grain in a good year. I know the farmer image for many involves overalls, a hoe, and slopping pigs, but that just hasn't been accurate for more almost 1/2 a century. Many average sized family farms invest well over a million or two million dollars or more every year.

If organic production offered even a 1% increase in overall profitability every farmer I know would jump on it, I know I would. It is profitable precisely because it is a niche market with dramatically higher labor costs. This niche is the reason that stores like Whole Foods and various others that sell organically grown crops must charge so much more than regular stores, often as much as 500% more for comparable products. But if every farm somehow began to grow organic production I would say the niche would disappear-but in reality the food shortages would be so dramatic that no-one would notice because all food would have to be selling at the levels now only seen in the organic stores.

Some groups have been honest and acknowledged these facts, but insist that we should move to organic production-or more often the codeword “sustainable agriculture”. While many in the U.S. would be able to absorb a large increase in food prices I believe the impact on those elsewhere in the world just make it not acceptable for mass food production, and that organic should be left to those who choose to produce and consume it rather than being forced on all.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Central, IL Crop Condition Update

I am going to take a week of from heavy subjects and get back to what this blog was created for this week.

I am going to start a new habit of taking pics of crops every 4th of July to compare progress year to year. Here is where we are at on corn and beans as of July 5th, 2009.

Actually that corn at the top is the early corn-the little bit we got planted at the end of April-it looks decent. The later corn is below about waist high, and doesn't look quite as good.

Crops look pretty good-for mothers day-not so great for 4th of July. I still have hope-little later than even last year but that turned out pretty good. If we get a late frost it could be average or even above average thanks to the rains, but if we get an early frost this harvest won't be pretty. No use in worrying about things we can't control.

Next week I will finish organic production opinions and the last week in July I will be a Farm Journal Corn College for a few days and report back on some of what I learned there.


Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Organic Crop Production – Part 2 of 3 (Food Safety)

I have 3 main beefs (pun intended) with the false information many in the organic groups are spreading:

  • Myth #1-Conventionally grown food is unhealthy and can make you sick, organic is healthier.

  • Myth #2-Conventionally grown food hurts the environment

  • Myth #3-Organic Agriculture is more profitable.

    This week I will dispute the myth that organic food is somehow healthier, next week I will discuss environmental impact and profitability of organic farming.

    Myth 1 - Organic Food is Healthier

    According to the American Dietetic Association: “Research has shown that nutritionally there is no evidence that food grown organically is no better or safer than conventionally grown produce. Organic foods differ only in the way they are grown and processed”.

    There is a good article at the Mayo Clinic’s website that does a good job defining organic production. The Mayo article states: “No conclusive evidence shows that organic food is more nutritious than is conventionally grown food. And the USDA — even though it certifies organic food — doesn't claim that these products are safer or more nutritious.”

    Corn syrup used as a sweetener instead of sugar is one that has gotten a lot of negative press and really bean spread by many anti-farm groups. Many studies have shown that the sugar molecule from corn sweetener is basically no different than a sugar molecule from sugar cane and your body can not tell a difference nor treat them differenrly.. Oh, there is one difference-the one from corn is much cheaper to produce. Why anyone would want to make food more expensive I can not understand.

    The extent that some will go to spread this falsehood is maddening, and sometimes just plain sad. The most tragic example of this is the group that convinced the government of Zambia to reject 10,000 TONS of corn given in aid to that country because it was GMO corn-and that it was poison. This is a country where people are starving to death-literally-and they convinced them to turn away perfectly safe food that is eaten every day in this country. To read more on this tragic story follow this link:

These same groups are the ones that are now going after local school systems and universities and state legislatures lobbying them to purchase a percentage of the food to be organic (at often much higher prices) than their existing sources.
If individuals for whatever personal reason they have choose to buy organic food I have no problem with that, but to ignore the science and require me to do the same, or institutions that I support either with my tuition dollars or tax dollars is not right.

Food scares are always good news for the organic food industry. Some groups have tried to use recent e-coli outbreaks such as the one on the spinach farm in California and others to make claims that “industrial” agriculture is somehow less safe. There is absolutely no research showing that organically produced food is any safter, and in many cases it seems to me would be much less. The ecoli outbreak on spinach was caused my animal waste washing into the irrigation system and getting spread onto the spinach. It seems to me that organic farms which must use natural fertilizers such as animal waste would be much more likely to cause ecoli than one using synthetic fertilizers.

Those who chose to grow organic or purchase organic products I am fine with that, if you perceive they taste better or it makes you feel better then by all means you should. But please don’t try to force others to follow more these expensive options that would result in more expensive food for those who can least afford it without the science to support it.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Organic Crop Production – Part I

Let me start by defining Organic Crops Production as I understand it. “Production using no synthetic fertilizer, no chemical control of weeds nor insects, and using seed that was also produced using organic production methods”.

I should strongly emphasize I have absolutely nothing against organic farmers or those that choose to purchase organic foods. Organic farmers are probably one of the hardest working groups of farmers anywhere. Personally I cannot imagine handling the weed pressure and insect control without using the products we have available. Organic foods have experienced tremendous growth over the last decade, and I expect that it will continue into the foreseeable future. As long as there are people willing to pay the price for organically produced foods I certainly can’t fault anyone for filling that market niche.

I also strongly support the “local” food initiatives-farmers markets, etc. which provide a community with fresher alternatives than any store chain can provide-and supports the local farmers. The benefits of consumers understanding where there food comes from is great. I think many people combine local/organic into one concept-but they are really two different issues.

There are three main issues I have with many in the organic food movement:
  1. World population has reached a level where we can no longer produce enough food to supply our needs using only organic methods.
  2. Many in the organic food industry are seeking through various methods to restrict production methods used by non organic farmers.
  3. Spreading of false information about food safety of GMO crops.

Food Requirements to feed the world
If you look at it objectively organic production is basically going back to the way we used to farm 80 years ago, before modern fertilizers and pest controls were developed. As expected, organic crop yields are similar to those 80 years ago as well. If all acres were to be farmed organically there would simply not be enough food to feed the world’s current population, let alone the population over the next 40 years as explained in last weeks blog entry.

Lets look at corn production in this country over the last 100 years.

As you can see we basically had little increase in yields between 1900 and 1940. The technological advancements in fertilizer and pesticides prohibited by organic production rules are exactly what have enabled yields go from 25 bushel per acre to a national average close to 160 bushel per acre. As you can see from the chart this has really accelerated since the genetic modifications have started to enter the market since the turn of the 21st century.

In 2008 U.S. Farmers grew just over 12 billion bushels of corn, on a national yield of 153 bushels per acre, with many farms now growing 200 bushel per acre plus. As we near the end of the 2008 crop year (before 2009 harvest begins) estimates are that we will carry over 1.3 to 1.4 billion bushels, close to the prior year carry. Meaning that in the last year we used and exported more than 12 billion bushels.

Corn is America's chief crop export, with total bushels exported exceeding total bushels used domestically for food, seed, and industrial purposes-and that includes ethanol. Corn not only provides the majority of calories in the feeds for beef, chicken, and pork in our diet but also feeds much of the world as well.
Being extremely generous and assuming that we could grow even 100 bushel per acre organic average (and it would not be close to that) would leave us more than 4 billion bushel short of the worlds needs.

Abandoning synthetic fertilizer that is required to produce the high yields we have today would do little more than result in farmers “mining” the soil and over the next few years yields would decrease even more as time passed. Back at the turn of the century there was a lot more livestock in crop production areas and much of the nutrient requirements of a 30 bushel corn crop could be fulfilled by manure. Now the livestock that used to be present on nearly every farm are few and far between, and even if they are located closely they cannot provide a fraction of the nutrients required to grow a 200 bushel corn crop.

This entry is getting a little too long so I am going to be splitting this topic up into three weeks, next week in Part 2 I will discuss falsehoods being spread about the safety of GMO crops and in Part 3 the benefits to the environment of GMO crops vs. Non-GMOs., and profitability of organic farming.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

FACTS about Modern U.S. Agriculture

As I started my blog entry this week I wanted to continue to try and correct some of the misinformation floating out there about farming. The more I wrote I realized I was just ranting about how uninformed many people are about modern agriculture, I began to realize what a bad direction I was taking, why should they be educated? Less than 2% of the population now lives on a farm, well over ½ of our population lives in urban areas, and vast numbers of people have never set foot on a farm. Ranting against people that haven’t had an opportunity to learn is going to accomplish nothing.

What I realized I need to do is lay out of some indisputable facts, then explain why the misinformation that is circulating is dangerous in light of these facts. Over the next few weeks I will take a topic each week that I believe is misrepresented and try to set the record straight as I see it and based on the information I have.

I realize that a lot of people who are spreading this false information are truly good intentioned, simply misinformed. While I do wish they would take the time to learn and consider the full impact of their actions before pursuing legislative approach the best thing I can do is be a source of accurate information.

It is very hard for me not to jump into these topics all at once but over the next couple weeks I will have a blog entry or two about:

  • Organic Crop Productions
  • Genetically Modified Crops
  • Farm Subsidies
  • Fertilizers & Chemicals
For now lets start with a few basic facts:

Fact 1: There are more people alive on the planet at this moment than there have been people who have passed since the earth’s existence.

Fact 2: It took 13,000 years for earths population to reach 1 billion people, now we are adding one billion people every 12 years!

Fact 3: We need to grow more food (calories) in the next 40 years than has been grown in the history of man.

Fact 4: There are over 1 billion people on this planet that live on less than $1 a day!

As I discuss my thoughts on the topics above in the next few entries keep these numbers in mind.

Finally, while there are many suggestions out there on how we should be farming, I will say any of them that do not support the production required for feeding of the number of people, including the least fortunate, are personally unacceptable to me.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Information & Misinformaton about Farms

I have been reading some reviews and points made in the new "Food, inc" film that opened this weekend. It is really troubling how little the general population knows about farming and how much misinformation is spread.

From what I can tell the movie really demonizes farming and claims that our food is largely supplied by "Factor Farms" or "Corporate Farms" and agribusiness giants.

I wish someone, anyone who throws around those terms could explain to me what a "Factory Farm" or a "Corporate Farm" is? Especially as it pertains to grain farms. I know literally hundreds of farmers-and have never met a single one who farms for a company other than brothers, cousins, etc. who have incorporated on paper for tax purposes or liability purposes. As I look within 15 miles of my farm in any direction they are farmed by Craig, Jeff, Steve, Gary, John, Bob, Bill, Eric, Matt, Allen, Mike. Not a single one is a corporate employee or employee of any factory.

According to the US Department of Agriculture 98% of farms in the US are family farms. I am guessing the 2% are probably the large southern Chicken or northern Hog farms owned by Tyson, Pilgrims pride, etc.

The thing that is really most disturbing is that most people (and legislators) are so far removed from the farm there are many more sources spreading misinformation than those spreading a realistic picture of agriculture. I did run across a great website this week at: I would encourage everyone to check it out.

Here is a link within that which is a perfect example: This giant agribusiness is made up of Barry, his wife, three kids, and 73-year-old father.

The Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, Iowa, and Ohio Farm Bureaus, an organization created, funded, and managed by family farms all across the country has spoken out against Food Inc. and called out it's playing fast and loose with the facts but I doubt that 10% of the people who would see this obviously biased film will ever get to hear another perspective.

Some would say so what, let them believe what they want. But the same groups that would spread this misinformation have now begun lobbying efforts that if successful will greatly hinder the ability of the family farm to produce the affordable safe product that they have so successfully done for the last 100 years. The very group they claim to be trying to protect. The truth is they have no interest in helping family farms-unless you are farming the way they want you to farm-basically taking farming back to the way it was done a half century ago.

What these groups are greatly lacking is a basic understanding of not only the way our food is produced but how it MUST be produced if we are to feed everyone in the world-not just their backyard. This will become even more critical as the worlds population continues to grow and the amount of farmland continues to shrink.

More on this next week.

Benefits of Living in the Country

Now that the hectic time is done a week of downtime really gave me a chance to refleft on the benefits of living in the country. First, I realized how lucky I am to have a job that lets me work from home so often.

We were able to enjoy some good quality family time taking family 4 wheeler rides, eating out on the back porch, going to a small town festival (Moweaqua Pow Wow), and taking some walks along the waterways in the fields, and plant some more blackberry bushes. Julie and the kids each have some projects entered in the county fair.

Last Fri we were sitting on the back porch after dinner watching the dog lay in the yard, cats playing on the porch, and the kids were sitting there too, and not fighting, just looking over the fields. While the crops may not be the best they have ever been, at that moment I just felt like the luckiest guy in the world.

This month marks the 4th year since we moved from the country-I can't believe how much our lives have changed in that time-and all for the better. It is so easy to get used to something and take it for granted but I am really going to try and take time to appreciate the blessings we have living in the country-and decided to make a list. It is much longer than this but a few things are:

  • Being able to walk out the back door and pick some strawberries and blackberries

  • Quiet walks

  • Ability to jump on the 4 wheelers and ride for 20-30 minutes checking crops and never leave your own ground (well-family ground anyway)

  • Let the dog out and go for his morning runs without worrying he is messing on neighbors lawn

  • Quiet dinners on back porch

  • Watching the crops grow

  • Great neighbors!

  • Being close to family, and where I was raised-gives a sense of stability-farming the ground that my grandfather farmed when he wasn't much older than me-hard to explain.

  • Watching a storm roll in-see the rain a mile away and watch it come across the field
  • Did I mention quiet?

I guess it is just in my nature to have lots of "wants"-always thinking about a bigger combine, newer tractor, more ground, etc. But I realized that I am so far from lacking a single "need" that I don't take enough time to sit back and appreciate all the blessings we have.

Spraying and Back in the Shop

This past week was spent spraying bean ground and switching the planter over to beans and planting beans. Thurs and Friday finally allowed the beans to get planted. All of the corn that didn't get the nitrogen sprayed down ahead of planting had its final bit side dressed on Friday.

Here is a video of planting beans:

All of the corn has spiked up and some of the early stuff is about 2 feet tall now. There are some more planting pics here:

With everything planted and 1st pass spraying done I am hiring 2nd pass done. So that pretty much wraps up my spring other than mowing and scouting crops. I will try to keep the blog going if anything interesting appears.

I have done all I can, crop is in gods hands now.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Roading Equipment

Moving equipment 14ft wide even when folded up on roads with two 9ft lanes with a fair amount of traffic and sometimes no shoulder has given me an entirely new perspective when driving around others moving farm equipment. You don’t need to worry about the farm equipment-they are not going to go fast or make any sudden moves-but something about the presence of equipment on the road makes almost everyone in the vicinity in cars behave like maniacs.

Just a couple examples:
1) I was sitting waiting to turn left with my left turn signal on, needed to wait about 20 seconds due to oncoming traffic -and was passed on the left by some crazy at about 50mph. Had I not seen him coming and had decided to turn rather than wait-which would have been doable-he would have been a goner.

2) Some people will pass if there is one extra inch of room and they can clear oncoming traffic by 50 feet. Others will not pass unless you pull completely off the road-even though there is plenty of space and time and I am waving them around.

3) There is a stretch of road about 1 mile long with quite a deep shoulder, so I could not pull over. Witnessed at least 3 suicide passes-Several times I had 1 car pull behind another while the first was still passing me. Once a 3rd car actually pulled in behind #2!!! How does #3 not know that #1 or #2 aren’t cutting it close? Scared the hell out of me just watching it.

Notes for my friends with sense:
1) The law actually states you must slow down to the speed of the vehicle you are passing before overtaking it. Please do this for your own safety, and I must say getting passed unexpectedly at 75mph when you are doing 19 scares the poop out of you.

2) When you are around farm equipment-watch the other drivers as closely if not closer than the farmer. When overtaking someone on the left see if you can get a view up to the right-for some reason people pulling onto roads don’t feel they need to consider that someone may be passing that piece of slow moving equipment-thus pulling right into your path.

3) Dirty looks or any other gestures at the guy on the tractor don’t make the tractor go any faster.

4) It is not always possible for equipment to pull over, sometimes it can be too soft of shoulder and equipment may get stuck-or dropoff may damage the equipment. Also be prepared for equipment to unexpectedly move over even farther into opposite lane if there is a mailbox or some other roadside obstruction.

Corn is Planted!!

Corn here is finally planted. It was a long, tough, but exciting week last week. I think I counted about 20 hours sleep over a 5 day period, just now getting my life back in order to have time to update this blog. Tuesday and Wednesday last week were spent spraying. Thurs and Fri corn planted pretty good but was a little wet, corn planted Sat and Sun was really into nice conditions. Moving equipment 30 miles to the new farm was interesting to say the least, my next post will have some observations about driving around farm equipment, I have a whole new perspective after this week. I finished planting the North farm around noon on Sat, as I was preparing to move home the thunder started and I got rained on pretty good on the way home. We ended up not getting any rain at home and I was able to continue planting late into Sat night-I felt like the luckiest guy in the world to finish that close ahead of a rain and to be able to plant another farm that evening. Would have like to started bean planting this week, but it is starting out just like corn season-with rain forecast for 5 of next 7 days.

Here is a video from inside the tractor.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Corn Up-But More Delays

The corn planted April 25 is up. Bad news is it has been wet since then. It has also been cool so corn sat in cold wet soil for a while. We were able to get out and get that corn sprayed yesterday, but then in the evening we got another 3/4 of an inch. I was really hoping to start planting on Monday the 11th, but looks unlikely now.

Some of the larger farmers around are really starting to worry, and looking at renting extra equipment to plant as quickly as possible once the weather does break. 2008 was the latest spring I had seen in my short farming career. Looking back at last years records we started planting corn on May 2 and finished on the 7th. Now on the 8th we have barely started. We are now getting to the date where yield will really start to be impacted. I heard 1973 was a disaster and a lot of corn was planted mid June, but it was a terrible year with 40 bushel yields.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

FINALLY Planting

Conditions were borderline but finally some corn in planted. 1st day problems with new planter as usual but ran pretty well. Didn't get in a hurry and got about 50-60 acres planted. Forcast looks wet wet wet for the next week but I am way less stressed with at least something in the ground-even if it is only a small percentage.

With as warm and wet as it has been I am going to have to switch back to spraying before planting anymore-going to take a lot more roundup-but that is what mother nature has given us.

I don't want to complain about rain too much as we may be begging for it in July and August, but if the forcast hold I would bet not much will happen before the 2nd week of May.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Still Nothing to Report

Still too cold and wet here to do anything in the field. Corn is all labeled and laid out in the order it will be planted. I spent about 20 minutes walking around the shed looking at equipment and trying to find something to do, for the first time in 5 years I can honestly say I can't find anything to work on-it feels odd. Suppose I could do some stuff on the combine but that just seems wrong before anything is planted.

From the look of the weather probably not much going to happen before May 1.

The girls and I did go out and picked up trash in the ditches. What is wrong with people? We picked up almost a 50 gallon trash can full of bottles, cans, cigarette packages, etc. Found a 1/2 full can of hairspray and a cell phone charger, lots of other junk. Apparently Bud Light bottles and Miller cans are the most popular beers around here. I wish these people would think for a second, a glass bottle can ruin a $800 tractor tire when mowing roads. I would love to catch someone doing it and follow them home and dump my trash in their yard for a few days.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Watching and Waiting

Still cold and wet here, I don't anticipate any fieldwork this week or next week. Soil temps need to be about 55 degrees for corn and it is getting to the low 40s at night for the next week.

Probably a little premature but I went and picked up all chemicals for this year. It looks like the late start to planting will push planting and spraying times together so one less thing to do once the planter gets rolling. While it wasn't dry enough to do any fieldwork we were able to get the 4 wheeler out and do some spot spraying in the worst of the weedy areas and pick up some rocks.

Profit margins are going to be a lot tighter this year so I was able to save a couple bucks and acre by getting chemicals in bulk tanks. We will combine them in an inductor as they get loaded into the sprayer. This will mean a lot less handling and disposing of all the 2.5 gallon plastic jugs.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Rain rain go away

Lots of rain here in the last week. I am starting to sound like a broken record with not much new information. I got the disk out Sat morning and tried to work a couple gulleys shut but they were too wet. Some flatter and dryer spots would have worked well but being no-till I don't touch those.

Trying to keep busy-putting new Air conditioner in big tractor and piddling around the shop.

Even if it would dry out the 10 day forecast still looks cold, so I doubt any corn will be planted in this area in the next 10 days. I am changing my anticipated start date from April 13 to April 20.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Waiting and waiting

Not a lot to write about this week. We did get all of our corn seed delivered.

Planter is ready to go but calendar and 10 day forecast both tell me to chill out for the next couple week at least. Some early birds have gotten out and worked some end rows or put down Anhydrous on some drier fields, but usually not much happens around here before April 1. After that is will be crazy as always. Personally I am trying to get a bit ahead on my day job work so that when fieldwork time comes I can minimize planting interruptions, that always makes me a bit nervous around planting and harvesting time.

Next week I will probably get the disk out ready to close some gulleys if it gets dry. Not much shop work remaining.

Friday, March 13, 2009

I thought spring was coming

Last week really got the juices flowing. I think I put about 60 hours work in the shop over a 4 day period. Now everyting is almost ready to go, and the cold had me back inside in front of the computer for a couple days.

Grain markets moved up nicely this week as I sold 25% of what was left from last years corn. Hoping that sparks a rally for the rest of it, if past history hold my sales usually do.

This next week I plan to purchase the fuel we will use for this year, a little over 1,000 gallons. It is nice to see it so much cheaper than last year, and it reminds me of one of the benefits of being no-till. I would hate to be buying two or three times as much.

I am starting to see more seed being delivered around the country-so while it may not feel like it we all know that less than a month from now there will be tractors rolling in Central, Il.

I am down in St. Louis for a couple days and saw some ground had been worked today.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Feelings of Spring

They say in the spring a young man’s heart turns to thoughts of love. The warm weather this weekend had this farmers heart turn to thoughts of planting.

It is really little too early to think of planting in our area but a couple days in the 60s and 70s has one thinking. Crop insurance won’t cover any corn planted before April 6, and the fields are still well soaked. I have a date of April 13th in my head to start planting, let’s see if the weather cooperates. The warm weather allowed the girls and I to get out on the 4 wheeler and had a lot of fun scouting the new farm this past week. Given how much bean stubble we had last year (beans erode much easier than corn) I would say that both farms are in very good shape. A few minor eroded spots will be need to be worked closed before planting but nothing major.

I took advantage of the warm weather this weekend and the driveway received a much needed layer of gravel and I borrowed a neighbors scraper to get it really nice and smooth. The planter rebuild project from the winter was wrapped up sooner than expected so I finished putting a new boom on the sprayer as that was problematic last year. And found some time to put a new interior in the lower part of the planter tractor. Hopefully that will quiet it down enough so I don’t have to have the radio blaring to hear it.

Crop insurance deadline for sign up is March 16, I had my appointment last week. Having only been farming 5 years this I am starting to realize how good the last few years have been. I had an older famer once tell me that in every 10 years you will lose money two times, make a lot of money two times, and make a little the other six. This is the first year where my insurance will not cover the cost of production-so in that aspect it is a little scary. The main reason is the high price of fertilizer and seed that I purchased last fall, it sure would have been a lot cheaper had I waited until spring. Grain markets are starting to go up a little the last couple days, and hopefully are finally separating from the downward spiral of the stock market, it that trend continues I know a lot of farmers will be breathing easier and have a lot more fun putting in a crop for which there is a positive payout.

I know in a month things are going to get really busy-so in the next couple weeks I am going to really try to spend some extra time with the Julie and the kids.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


Small Grain Farm Blog
This is the first entry in the Butler Farm 2009 Blog. This blog will follow our corn and soybean farm operation throughout the year. We will detail what is being done each week, post pictures when helpful, and generally try to keep those interested in the issues involved in running a small midwest grain farm.

Just the facts:
Approximately 400 acres
No till operation-more on this at a later time
2009 crops will be 290 acres of corn and 110 acres of beans

About the farmers:
Paul & Julia Butler
Years Farming: 2009 will be 5th crop

Biggest Issues Concerning us for 2009:
Crop Prices and Input Costs
Legislation that could negatively impact Agriculture

Still being relatively new to farming we have a lot to learn, but will use this weekly blog to share some of the issues encountered the last few years as we compare this year as it progresses.