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 tenth 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!
Harvest is in full swing! If you’re married to a farmer (like me), or have many farmer friends, you KNOW you won’t be seeing much of him or her this time of year. Even once they’re done cutting corn or beans, farmers are still up early and out late this month.
This year’s crop:
- Harvest: Combines are rolling through the fields with auger wagons following closely alongside. Grain trucks, grain carts, and semis are bumping down gravel roads. Wives, kids, or a spare hired man is following in the pick-up truck to help move equipment from field to field. Farmers are constantly moving during harvest. They don’t want the grain to get too dry before hauling it to the elevator, and they certainly don’t want a bad wind knocking a stand of corn down before they can get to it. Farmers have been investing blood, sweat, tears, and MONEY in this crop for the last 11 months and it’s time to cash in on the literal “fruits of their labor”.
- Money in the bank: September and October are busy grain marketing months. As the trucks roll across the scales at the elevator a farmer may choose to sell it immediately rather than storing it there. As you’ve learned in past posts, elevators charge a small fee to store grain in their facility. You can think of it as paying rent. A downside to selling it immediately, though, is that since there’s such an abundance of it available, the price the farmer is getting is typically lower in the fall. (Sometimes a farmer just needs some cash, though, or has sold it ahead for a better price).
- Manage Break-Downs: As mentioned last month, with all those moving parts there are bound to be breakdowns during harvest. Be it with combine, tractor, flat tire on a grain cart, an overheating truck, a jammed up grain auger or a miscalibrated dryer, breakdowns happen and then need to be dealt with in an efficient manner.
Next year’s crop:
- Looking ahead: With “this year’s crop” being hauled away, it’s time to implement next year’s game plan.
- Some farmers do fall tillage by working up the ground to break up plant matter and prepare the seed bed for next year’s crop, while others follow the “best management practice” of reduced-till, which leaves the ground intact, preventing soil erosion and compaction.
- Regardless of tillage decision, most farmers apply fertilizer and other dry products such as phosphorous and potassium (commonly referred to as P&K) and lime may be applied to fields. Some farmers may also apply liquid nitrogen in the fall, but The 4Rs of nitrogen management, per the The Fertilizer Institute’s 4R Nutrient Stewardship Program, recommends applying nitrogen as the crops need it:“By postponing a portion of the N treatment until the crop is better able to utilize the nutrient, plants take up the nitrogen more quickly and efficiently. That means growers get more from their fertilizer investment and fertilizer losses that can contribute to environmental concerns are lessened.”
- If farmers are using over-wintering cover crops such as cereal rye, it may be applied post-harvest, depending on what is being planted.
- Finally, this is the time of year winter wheat is planted in order to harvest the following summer.
Enjoy this beautiful season and be thankful for all that is sown, Happy Harvest!
Membership Administrative Assistant
We talk a lot about food and food labels and how we wish all Americans felt comfortable buying all kinds of food (because all of it is safe!), but maybe we haven’t talked enough about how much some of your food is tested and vetted before it gets to you.
Of course we understand that a new car, a new iPhone, or a new medication are tested completely before they are allowed in the marketplace. But did you stop to think that the same rigorous testing procedures apply to … food?
People are nervous about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and that makes sense because we’re all a little worried at first about things we don’t know much about. But this video from Monsanto explains (in 60 seconds!) what a new GMO seed must go through before farmers can actually plant it.
Still have questions?
We’d love to hear from you!! Leave us a note in the comments below!
Here in Illinois, the harvest is in full swing. Over in western Illinois, it seems as though there isn’t much left to be harvested. Most of the corn and beans are gone, and it seems like everyone can take a small sigh of relief…for now.
However, for me, I’m sad that it’s all coming to an end. Sure, I’m glad it’s over because that means my dad gets to enjoy a less stressful Dad’s Weekend at the University of Illinois with me, but the harvest is easily one of my favorite times of the year. The picture below is one that I shot coming home from the University of Illinois a couple of weeks ago. Sometimes we can take this harvest for granted, but if you look a little closer at the photo, there’s a story to tell. So here are five things about this photo!
- As I mentioned, this picture was taken on my way home from school. I noticed a few family members in the field and decided to stop by. My grandma was ready with a field meal (complete with homemade bread and cake… she doesn’t mess around when it comes to this stuff), and the sun was setting on a long and relatively warm day. I enjoy being able to come home from school and spend a little bit of time hearing about how everything is going!
- The grain cart has an orange and yellow triangle; this shows to the people driving down the road that it is a slow-moving vehicle. This cart takes our corn from the combine to the elevator. It is important to notice these triangles while traveling on the road and to drive cautiously. These people are feeding you!
- If we look at the sky, we see it is a perfect day for harvest. The clouds are covering the sky just enough to ensure the farmer has shade to take a rest, but the sun for them to remember why they do what they do. In the FFA, the sun is the token of a new era in agriculture. As more and more technologies are brought into the agricultural industry, this new era is becoming one of the greatest we’ve seen. However, it’s important to trust the agriculturalists who are making these great strides!
- The field to the side of the tractor and semi show the promise there is still more to go. Agriculture is an industry that will always thrive and produce. The field in the background illustrates the essence of harvest, the work that never ends in the life of the farmer.
- This picture most importantly shows hometown agriculture. I am thankful for having the opportunity to grow up in a town that is so heavily reliant on agriculture and for it being such an important industry to my family. The sense of community is only strengthened by the bond of agriculture, and for me, it is always exciting to come home and witness this first hand.
University of Illinois
Here’s a picture from our archives. Captain Cornelius has been powering our community for years!
1. What is the TPP?
TPP stands for Trans-Pacific Partnership. The TPP creates rules and agreements for trade all over the world. The amount of tax on imports and exports and other regulations for countries are laid out in this agreement. A review of the effects that the TPP will have on agriculture in the United States can be read in full here.
2. What will the TPP do for United States Agriculture?
The implementation of the TPP will increase cash receipts for livestock. What this means is that the United States will trade more livestock products to other countries, increasing income from what we get from these goods now. This estimated raise in livestock exports pairs well with the expected decrease in the country’s trade of corn. This is because we will be able to keep that corn in the country and use it to feed the higher number of livestock that we are growing for trade. This use of corn is adding more value to the industry than it would if it was simply traded in bulk. Also, the overall farm income is expected to increase $4.4 billion for the country which is a very positive result for agriculture.
3. What will the TPP do for Illinois Agriculture?
As the deal increases cash receipts for the entire country, it would also do great things for Illinois agriculture. The chart shown explains that cash receipts for many Illinois products increase greatly with implementation of the TPP. This increase in income also comes with an estimated 960 jobs into the Illinois economy, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation. Corn is the biggest agriculture industry in Illinois and the exports from the country are expected to decline; however, Illinois is a perfect example of how that corn that is not being exported can be used to raise livestock. The TPP will also increase overall trade for other Illinois products such as pork, soybeans, and processed foods.
This trade deal is a big step for agriculture and the economy of the country. The American Farm Bureau Federation stresses the importance of the United States getting on board with the deal quickly. Other countries are ahead of the United States in making trade agreements that could help their economies.
There will soon be more news on the ratification of this in the United States.
Any questions? Ask in the comments!!
Illinois State University
It’s pretty simple to incorporate another subject into whatever lesson you are teaching. We do it all the time in agriculture education without even thinking about it. For example, in a BSAA (biological science applications in agriculture) class we practice surveying the lay of the land which includes being able to calculate slope, something that is learned in a math class. In an introduction to agriculture class we learn about the dust bowl which was caused in part by poor agricultural practices and without even thinking about it, we are incorporating a history lesson into an agriculture class.
As an agriculture education major who is currently student teaching, this seems like no big deal to me. I incorporate different subject areas into my lessons every single day, but I think it’s pretty rare to see agriculture incorporated into another subject’s lessons. So let’s talk about a recent experience I had that I know would have been one of the best ways to incorporate agriculture into a different classroom setting.
My older sister is a high school and junior high health and physical education teacher. At a family dinner recently, she was talking about how she was currently teaching nutrition in her health class and was having students ask questions about whether organic food is better than non-organic and other topics of the such. As soon as she said this, a light clicked on in my head and I realized that would have been a perfect time to incorporate an agriculture-based lesson on teaching students to understand where their food comes from.
To incorporate this into her lesson, she could simply start the class out by getting a basic understanding of the class and what they know and believe. To do this, she could start out by asking students if they know where their food comes from. If the students understand that their food is grown by a farmer and doesn’t just appear in a grocery store, then she could move on to asking if they know how the food is grown or what it takes to grow a plant? On the Illinois Ag in the Classroom website there is My Plate activity that shows not only the correct portion sizes of food, but you can also click on each of the portions on the plate and learn how that food is grown and also do some activities with each food group. After explaining to the students how food is grown, she could go into a discussion of asking students who choose to eat organic food and why they choose to do so. She could then proceed to ask students what they believe some of the current buzz words and phrases me. One topic she could discuss is that of Subway’s current promotion of “antibiotic-free meat.” This marketing scheme actually doesn’t even make any sense as it is illegal for farmers to sell any type of meat or animal food product that has any trace of antibiotics. If this is a topic that she feels uncomfortable teaching, she could have students use their devices to go to the Illinois Farm Families where they can learn what all these buzzwords mean, actually meet the people who grow their food, and even personally ask questions to farmers and growers around Illinois.
With all of the co-teaching and diversity within teaching happening right now, don’t forget to try to incorporate in the area that feeds, clothes, and fuels you and your students everyday!
Illinois State University