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Big Dreams and Growing Pains on the Farm

This eastern Kansas farmer has more than doubled his ground in 2014, to 4,700 acres, and the rental parcels are as much as 200 miles apart.

Dustin Edwards with his MF8660

Dustin Edwards with his MF8660

“It’s like being in an office on the farm doing business,” says Dustin Edwards of the ride and technology in his MF8660 and MF8690 tractors, and the new MF9540 combine. “The CVT [continuously variable transmission] is awesome. I can literally stop in the field with the in-line ripper in the ground; I don’t even have to lift it out of the soil. When I start up again, the programmed computer just takes over and brings me up to speed, and can [reach] optimum rpm with the CVT. This is the best thing since sliced bread.”

Edwards believes the CVT saves him up to 2 gallons per hour in fuel over a tractor without. “Saving that kind of money just makes you more competitive.”
He’s just as happy, if not more so, with the MF9250 DynaFlex® header. “If I had to go back to an old auger head, I’d quit picking soybeans,” he says. The speed, efficiency and gentleness with which the header did the job so impressed a prospective landlord riding in the combine with Edwards that “it helped get the business. I didn’t even have to push him.”

His relationship with Schuck Equipment of Lawrence, Kan., is a big part of the reason for Edwards’ loyalty. The company is operated by Michael and Miles Schuck, who took over from their father, Howard, who had purchased the dealership in 1969.

For their part, the Schucks consider Edwards’ far-flung operation and increasingly high profile a benefit to their business. “If you’ve ever met Dustin, you’ll know he’s a stranger to no one,” says Miles Schuck. “He talks about what he’s doing and where he gets his equipment, so yeah, there is a benefit.”

For more on Dustin Edwards and his fast-growing farm operation, see http://www.myfarmlife.com/features/big-dreams-and-growing-pains-on-the-farm/.

American Farmland Trust: I Love My Farmers Market

A farmers market in Shreveport, La.

A farmers market in Shreveport, La.

The I Love My Farmers Market Celebration kicked off its summer-long event on June 13. Now in its sixth year, the program, sponsored by the American Farmland Trust (AFT), promotes USDA-listed farmers’ markets across the nation. Customers are encouraged to pledge dollars online and to follow through with a commitment to shop at their favorite farmers markets.

According to the AFT, for every $10 spent on local food, as much as $7.80 is re-spent in the local community, supporting local jobs and businesses. During the 2013 I Love My Farmers Market Celebration, a total of $259,690 was pledged to be spent at farmers’ markets, the majority of which the AFT calculates went directly to farmers.

The celebration, which is part of AFT’s No Farms No Food® campaign, helps emphasize “how important it is to put money directly into [farmers’] pockets, to help keep them on the land and to keep their operations viable.”

For more, including how to vote, visit: http://www.myfarmlife.com/first-gear/i-love-my-farmers-market-good-food-good-cause/

She’s Number One

This is the story of a long-distance love affair, involving not one, not two, but three men infatuated with one “old girl.” Longtime readers of FarmLife magazine may recall an article from the fall 2008 issue about two British brothers, Steven and Kevin Clarke, who became fascinated with the American wheat harvest after watching a 1976 BBC documentary on the topic. The 50-minute special featured a certain combine—the Massey Ferguson® 760, which, for the boys, became a focal point, an embodiment of much of the “wonder and curiosity” the documentary had instilled in them.

Raised on a farm, the Clarkes themselves grew up to farm and custom harvest with their own fleet of Massey Ferguson combines in North Norfolk, England, about a three-hour drive northeast of London. One of their favorite things to do with their time off is visit their friend Delbert Joyner near Enid, Okla., and help with his wheat harvest.

For six years now, the Clarkes have kept their own MF760 at Joyner’s farm and recently added another very special model—the “old girl” referred to earlier, which just happened to be the first MF760 to come off the production line in 1971.

Found several years ago in the corner of a Kansas wheat field, it had been parked there for 33 years before the Clarkes and Marvin Helland, another American friend and custom harvester from North Dakota, convinced the owner to sell it.

Thought to quite possibly be a terminal case because of how long it sat in the elements unused, the original MF760 is now running again, thanks to its hardy construction and the efforts of its three enthusiastic new owners. Amazingly, “number one” helped complete the harvest at the Joyner farm this year, and all involved hope she’ll continue working for many years to come.

See more at http://www.myfarmlife.com/farmstead/shes-number-one-restoring-a-vintage-massey-ferguson-760-combine/.

Budding Trend: Young People on the Farm

Evidence mounts that young people are returning to farming in many parts of Canada and the U.S. Can it last?  Given demands on their time, slimmer margins, price of land and other obstacles, it’s little wonder young folks have for decades opted for non-farm careers.

That trend, however, has recently shown signs of reversing.

While the 2011 Canadian Census of Agriculture, the most recently released, showed a continued decades-long exodus of youth from farms, more recent anecdotal evidence points to an increase in the number of young producers. Extension agents, dealership staff, farmers and others describe seeing more men and women under the age of 40 at meetings, in their stores and on their farms.

Gavin MacDonald (left) and his father Donnie, tag-team their approximately 150-year-old dairy near New Glasgow, Nova Scotia.

Gavin MacDonald (left) and his father Donnie, tag-team their approximately 150-year-old dairy near New Glasgow, Nova Scotia.

“Lately,” says 26-year-old dairyman Gavin MacDonald of the region near his family’s community of Greenhill, Nova Scotia, “there has been an influx in young people that are really gung-ho to start farming or to continue farming, and that’s a really nice thing to see. I think [they] are interested in farming now because the technology is advancing in everything from milking cows to tractors they use, so it’s a lot different work than just manual labor. Even feed salesmen to tractor salesmen, they’re even getting younger too because there’s now a younger group of farmers.”

There’s now tangible evidence of the same trend in the U.S., albeit, as in Canada, the growth is mostly in the smaller farm sector. The most recent USDA Census of Agriculture—the 2012 edition, released in February—showed a 1.1% increase since 2007 in the number of producers younger than 35. A modest rise, but made all the more substantial when you consider that in 1982 young farmers less than 35 years old comprised 15.9% of the total. The most recent census shows the percentage of producers at just 5.7.

Perhaps these new census numbers and other evidence signal the exodus of young people from farming is abating. For more on the trend and Gavin MacDonalds’ dairy operation, see http://www.myfarmlife.com/crops/budding-trend-young-people-on-the-farm/.

Hay Equipment Maintenance Checklists

Downtime is costly for any producer, but it’s even worse for commercial operators who depend on quality hay for their livelihood. That’s one reason Larry Krepline goes through his two Hesston big square balers and Hesston windrower every fall with the help of Gruett’s Inc., his Massey Ferguson dealer in Potter, Wisc. That is, after he totally cleans each machine at the end of the season with compressed air and/or a power washer.

“One of their technicians actually comes out here to the farm and we go through the full checklist on each machine,” Krepline says. “After that, my crew and I will make most of the repairs ourselves based on the recommendations. At the very least, we’ll change all the fluids, including the oil in the cutterbed, and replace all the disc header knives, along with the bolts and bushings. I don’t need any of them breaking during the season.”

With three windrowers, two big square balers and ten 3-twine balers, Mark Atkinson, owner of Atkinson Hay Company in Dixon, Calif., has a big maintenance project each winter, too. However, by the time he and his crew finish, Atkinson says every machine they own has been restored to like-new condition.

“In fact, our dealer usually has somebody waiting for a machine when we trade it,” he adds. “We literally take every machine apart and rebuild it, replacing any part that we have doubts about. If there’s any question about whether it will make it through the next hay season, we replace it,” he adds, noting that replacement parts include everything from knotter bill hooks to bale chamber side plates. “Downtime is too expensive to risk it.”

Another tip, this one from Dean Morrell, product marketing manager for Hesston by Massey Ferguson hay products: “Months down the road it can be hard to remember that noise you wanted to check out before next season. By writing it down, when you notice what might be a problem, you have a big head start on maintenance that will leave your equipment in top condition, ready for another productive season.”

For detailed checklists for hay equipment maintenance, including a video from our own Dean Morrell, product marketing manager for Hesston® by Massey Ferguson hay products, see http://www.myfarmlife.com/advantage/hay-equipment-maintenance-checklists/.