The corn is harvested! It took Matt and I, each running a 9500 John Deere combine with a 6 row corn head, about nine hours to harvest the entire 60 acres. So now that it’s all done, here are my thoughts.
Farming is hard work!
There might be a reason only 2% of Americans do this – it’s hard! I try to battle that fairy-tale version of farming on my blog but I don’t think I’ve given enough credit to the physical aspect of farming.
I see him come home every night covered head to toe in dust and looking physically exhausted. But it never really registered with me. Especially this time of year. I know working cattle is hard, shearing sheep is hard. But driving a tractor or a combine?
Turns out, even driving equipment all day is mentally and physically exhausting. When you’re in the combine there are a dozen different things you have to watch out for, all while constantly monitoring the height of the head, the speed of the combine, your grain tank, and where everyone else is at in the field.
A combine is a huge machine – and it doesn’t exactly ride like a Lexus. I hit a small ditch I didn’t see coming and at 4mph it felt like I had just driven off the side of a cliff!
When I climbed out of the combine on Saturday night I was stiff and sore. The next morning I felt like I had run a marathon!
Hindsight is 20/20.
Who can’t really say this about their job? But it really rings true for farming. When it was all said and done I was disappointed in some of the decisions I had made through the year.
I’ve frequently given Matt grief over missing an event, or refusing to take a break from work. I never quite understood what difference a few hours, or a day could make.
Because I work a full time job, he waited to let me plant #My60Acres on a Saturday. It was the last corn we had in and it turned cold and wet right after planting. When the rest of the corn was already out of the ground and better able to deal with that stress, my corn was submerged in cold, wet dirt.
Because of that my emergence wasn’t as good as I had hoped, especially on the north side of the farm where I was planting into expired CRP fields.
CRP – or conservation reserve program – is a program designed to allow farmers to set aside areas for conservation. Once the 10 year contract expires we can put it back into production.
Matt and I tossed back and forth the idea of spraying the back half of the farm and replanting. This would add time and cost. At the time when the cash flow was looking breakeven at best, I was worried about not being able to recoup the cost of replanting. In the end, I made the decision to not replant. Looking back, it was the wrong decision.
The corn on the front side of my farm was yielding well over 240 bushel to the acre. The corn on the back side, where I should have replanted, was making less than 80 bushel.
My next crucial mistake came in the heat of the summer. Like most summers in Missouri, it had turned off hot and dry. I had been at a conference for work and listened to an agricultural economist tell everyone that farmers needed to be contracting grain.
“Contracting” our corn would mean that we would basically pre-sell a certain number of bushel at a set price. This can reduce risk of price decrease at harvest time. The risk with contracting is that if you do not produce enough grain to fulfill your contract, you have to buyout rest of the contract.
I rushed home from that conference ready to contract my corn because it was over $4.00 per bushel. I told Matt my plan and he replied, “You’d better look at your corn before you decide to do that.”
It hadn’t rained in days. The corn did NOT look good. There wasn’t rain in the forecast except a small chance a week away. If we didn’t get that rain, it was high chance I wouldn’t have a crop at all.
With the weather forecast, and current look of the crop, I made the decision to not contract anything.
As luck would have it, the next week it did rain. And every few days for the rest of the growing season it rained! That rain quickly shifted the corn outlook from bleak to positive, and prices came down in response to the good growing conditions most of the Corn Belt was having.
With my initial cash flow I had projected 140 bushels to the acre. My total operating cost in corn was right at $380 per acre, so I needed $2.72 to break even on operating cost. This is prior to any land cost (rent or in the case of our farm, the mortgage payment to the bank).
Check back soon for a detailed post on the cash flow of #My60Acres!!
On Saturday, the cash price at our local elevator was at $3.02 so I made the decision to sell my corn right as it came out of the field. With an average of 160 bushel to the acre, that resulted in $103 per acre over operating costs, or a total of $6180 left over to cover land expense. For this year, there won't be any leftovers.
It takes a village.
As I was unloading the combine into a grain cart being run by Matt’s grandpa – who is 84 by the way – I thought about all the people who have helped me this year. Many of us often drive by corn and soybean fields on our way to and from the cities, without much thought of just how many people are employed by those acres.
Each farmer in our community is running a small business – they bring thousands of dollars of trade into our rural communities, they help to employ dozens of people locally and hundreds state wide!
There are people that sell seed, chemical, equipment, insurance. There are bankers that finance our farms. There are men and women that work on our equipment, our technology, our soils. There is the plane pilot who flew on my cover crop, the truck drivers who delivered my seed to the farm and delivered my grain to the elevator. There are the dozens of people who work all hours of the day and into the weekends keeping the elevators open so we can deliver and store grain.
Missouri corn industry is responsible for sustaining nearly 66,000 jobs!! The production and processing of soybeans in Missouri employs 25,000 people in the state!
So in about 9 hours my harvest was over. Matt will be hard at it for several more weeks . My cover crop, applied a while back by airplane, is coming up nicely and preparing me for 2017 season.
I told Matt I wanted to grow sunflowers, but he didn’t find my idea all that entertaining. So we will rotate on to number one produced row crop in the state of Missouri – soybeans!
I’ll have a few more posts to follow up on this season, so please join me again!
In the meantime, make sure and visit our store to purchase your gear to show your support of family farmers across this country!
Kate Lambert grew up in northern Illinois, not on a farm but active in FFA and showing livestock.
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