Some people think that the only busy times of the year are planting and harvest and the rest of the year farmers spend their glorious amounts of free time vacationing or tinkering with antique tractors. This may be true for some, but not the majority. Today is the fourth post in my one-year series which will give you an idea of a farmer’s workload throughout the year. Keep in mind that all farms operate differently and I am just providing one example of a year in the life of a grain farmer. There are several factors that contribute to the seasonality of the farm such as size and scale of the operation, crops grown, location, livestock, management style and general upbringing or personal work ethic! I hope this provides some insight to what versatile businessman farmers are.
Start at the beginning!
There’s probably not a lot of bookkeeping getting done this month – not with springtime and planting on the brain. A farmer is constantly watching the commodity markets, though. There may be some old crop left in the bins or maybe he’s pricing some of this year’s crop ahead of time. Either way, it’s always good to follow the markets.
This year’s crop
If you see a farmer in April, an appropriate conversation starter would be, “How’s it goin’ at your place – are you anxious to get in the field?” To which you will receive either an overly-optimistic, rosy outlook, or a stressed and grumbly, get-off-my-back kind of response. It’s truly a crap shoot – Much like the weather which is likely dictating their mood. Some major prep work that may be on a farmer’s mind:
- Apply anhydrous ammonia (NH3), if used, and not applied last fall
- Apply fertilizer, either organic (manure) or synthetic, if not done last fall
- “Work Ground” which basically means chop up, mix, or turn the dirt for seed bed preparation. There are a variety of “tools” a farmer could pull behind his tractor to do this, but a disc and/or cultivator are most common.
Finally, once the threat of frost decreases, ground temperature reaches near 50 °F, and the soil dries out enough to drive the equipment through it without making ruts or risk getting stuck… PLANTING can begin! Planting requires quite a bit stop and go:
- Tweaks need to be made to the planter
- Depending on your equipment it can take some time to fill the seed buckets (and refill, and refill again!)
- Farmers try to be very precise on their field pattern and make their rows nice and straight (especially on busier roads!)
- And sometimes they’ll have to stop to get a huge rock, branch, or garbage out of their path so they don’t wreck their machinery.
- Of course, there’s also more major setbacks like a mechanical break-down or a flat tire
Household and farm odd-jobs / repairs
The only time for odd-jobs and repairs is if it’s too cold or wet to be in the field!
Since planting season is beginning to gear up here in Illinois, as you drive, PLEASE keep in mind that there may be a slow moving vehicle or wide load up ahead as you pop over that hill or come around a curve. They may be pulling an awkward or heavy load so keep a safe following distance behind them and allow enough time for safe passing. And a friendly steering wheel wave is always appreciated by a farmer!
ICGA/ICMB Membership Assistant