“We’ve been farming here since the 1840s. It’s definitely part of who I am,” says Dan Baum. Yet, the Illinois producer continues, “Realistically, I am not in the business just to say I am farming. I am making a living.”
Making that living, however, is a whole different scenario than it was even in his father’s generation, as the need for good communication and efficient machinery has become paramount for today’s farmer.
In west-central Illinois, farmland is typically held closely, especially the highest value land. With area land values having more than doubled since 2004, it’s attracted a lot of investor interest and, as a result, increased competition for farm properties. That’s one reason why the Baums’ acreage base extends almost 120 miles from their home farm near Geneseo, Ill.
For the Baum family, such a sprawling operation has spawned the need for new farm management ideas. “It does cause some of our operational costs to be higher for things like fuel, but we try to think about all of that when planning for those farms” Baum says. This approach puts a premium on performance, and that’s a big reason the Baums chose the Massey Ferguson 9545 combine to get the job done.
“We’re looking at fuel efficiency, ease of maintenance and simplicity of design,” he says. His AGCO-made equipment fits that bill.
Another challenge Baum and other farmers face today is that newer generations of landowners have less direct ties to the land. As a result, producers can find themselves hammering out farmland lease and ownership deals in a much different way than in decades past. As a result, Baum takes care to devote more attention to education and information-sharing with his landowners.
“We are working on a land deal right now that is only happening because of our focus on communication,” says Baum. “It’s a lot of time and energy. And, it can be tough at times of the year when you really need to be out planting corn.
“We’ve had land opportunities we wouldn’t have had otherwise because of our communication levels,” he continues. “We’re aware that we need to continue this work to keep those opportunities growing in the future.”
Flood irrigation has been one of the biggest casualties of drought and general efforts to reduce water consumption. The age-old method is frequently being replaced by subsurface irrigation (SDI). Yet, effluent—used at most dairies as a fertilizer—has frequently clogged SDI’s underground lines. That is, until recently.
A test of new SDI technologies at De Jager Farms, a 17,000-acre operation, supplying feed to some 25,000 dairy cows in California’s Central Valley, has shown considerable promise solving the clogging problem.
Working with drip-irrigation pioneer Netafim and Sustainable Conservation, a nonprofit organization focused on environmental concerns, De Jager has hosted the pilot project for the past two-plus years. Via proprietary technologies, the test has harnessed electrical conductivity and other methods to maintain the appropriate levels of effluent and keep the lines open.
It’s been an auspicious beginning, say those involved in the study, in which effluent was applied via SDI in a 40-acre field of corn. An adjacent 40-acre control plot received a synthetic fertilizer, which was also applied via drip tape. Not only did the use of on-farm nutrients eliminate $200-plus in synthetic fertilizer expenses per acre, the field with effluent applied in SDI showed yields 25 to 30% greater than the control plot.
Says Nate Ray, the De Jager farm manager, there’s not only more crop per acre, the corn is also higher quality. In addition, consider that crops grown with SDI, with or without effluent, require some 30% less water than flood irrigation, which has historically been the practice of choice for many dairies in the Central Valley and elsewhere.
Implementing SDI has, however, created an even greater need to reduce compaction. Ray found the solution in the form of a Challenger® MT865D. “We chose this Challenger track machine for our minimum-tillage operations,” says Ray, “and basically it was to reduce our compaction and just to give us more power to the ground.”
The recent drought has made the expansion of SDI and the effluent test all the more critical. “For the last four years,” Ray says, “we’ve been in the midst of one of the most historic droughts. The drought and the subsequent heat that’s come with it, it’s basically put a real strain on our water supply.”
All involved agree that protecting that precious resource and producing food are critical. Projects like this one at De Jager help farmers do both.
On Cody Waters’ first day of basic training, sirens sounded the lockdown of Fort Benning, Ga. “We’re going to war, boys,” a fellow soldier solemnly said.
It was Sept. 11, 2001. Waters, then an 18-year-old farm kid from Illinois, had followed family tradition by enlisting. Both of his parents served in the Vietnam War, while generations before them had enlisted as well. A desire to protect and serve the homeland was ingrained long before he was issued his dog tags.
What was not known at the time was that Waters would become part of a generation of soldiers who has never known peacetime service. He’s now also part of an armed force that has served more tours of duty than soldiers of any other era.
Back on 9/11, confusion, and then ire, set in for Waters as details emerged of the attack on U.S. soil. “It made me angry,” he says. “It made me feel more justified in being there. I wasn’t just serving my country. There was a need to serve.”
Waters, who’s been deployed overseas two times in his 15-year career with the Army National Guard, has helped Afghan farmers improve their farming operations when he served as part of an Agribusiness Development Team. While in that war-torn country, where he witnessed an ingenuity similar to farmers back home, Waters helped teach Afghans to improve farming methods, including use of more modern machinery. Previously, many used water buffalo or older tractors, often borrowed and in scarce supply, to pull plows.
These days, the company commander of the Forward Support Company of the 1140th Engineer Battalion of Missouri Army National Guard, Waters spends one weekend a month on Guard duty and two weeks in summer training camp. He walks a tightrope of working full time by day, farming small acreages in two states, Guard duty, education and family—he and his wife have two young sons. “We try to be good stewards of our time,” he says. “We don’t waste any.”
Nationally, 2.4 million veterans returned to civilian life in the United States in the past 13 years. Another 1 million post-9/11 veterans are expected to return in the next five years, and more than 40,000 to Canada.
Only 17% of the U.S. population lives in rural America, but 44% of the military comes from the countryside, according to U.S. Census data. In rural Missouri alone, where Waters now lives and farms, some 300,000 vets are expected to come home in the next decade. Many expect to return to their rural roots where a rooster’s crow—not mortars exploding—wakens them.
To all service personnel, those currently serving and veterans, and to all our customers and readers, we wish you a happy Independence Day and Canada Day.
Dave and Kim Everett rely on a Massey Ferguson® GC1705, a 22-HP sub-compact tractor suitable for a variety of jobs. Seven months of the year it mainly helps mow 4 acres worth of grass on Big Sandy Mush Farm. “With a belly mower, the 1705 is just what we need to make short work of the lawn around the farmhouse and the grass on uneven terrain between our roads and fencelines,” Dave says. The tractor has also been used to skid steel feed troughs around their livestock pastures. “Ours has industrial tires, which provide great traction without damaging the ground,” he adds.
“It has the pulling power to handle the gamut of small tractor chores, including those requiring PTO attachments. “The diesel-fueled 1705, in terms of build quality and control setup, is entirely compatible with the bigger boys,” says Dave.
He also uses a 6-year-old MF1540 with 4WD. “The bucket attachment has moved many tons of dirt and manure and, literally, a couple of million pounds of field rock—all without problems,” Dave says. “The 1540 is our go-to tractor for use on sloped terrain,” and, he continues, the shuttle shift provides instant availability of proper speed ranges for the conditions on his farm.
Dave is just as effusive about his dealer, Western Carolina Lawn & Tractor in Sylva. “This business understands that great products need commensurately fine dealer representation in order to earn customer loyalty,” he says. “They couldn’t be easier or better people with whom to do business.”
In the bucolic Sandy Mush area, such preservation efforts are not as easy as they may sound. The region—actually two valleys with several coves in each—is within 15 miles of the bustling mountain tourist mecca of Asheville, N.C. Nearby mountains and valleys are prime targets for vacation and second home developments consisting of 3,500-square-foot “cabins.” Kim and Dave themselves first used the area as a getaway when living near Washington, D.C.
Simply put, the value of the land in the area is worth a lot more for development than it is for farming or open space.
Despite that, owners of nearly 25% of the valley’s land (approximately 7,000 acres) have placed their property in conservation easements.
“To me this is the embodiment of what we’re trying to do with our land,” Dave says, nodding toward the fields, woods and streams spread out below, much of which he and his wife have helped restore and preserve. “We said that we want this farm to be recognizable to folks who lived here 100 years before us.”
See more about their story at http://www.myfarmlife.com/features/preserving-a-farms-beauty-in-north-carolinas-big-sandy-mush/, and find out more about how conservation easements work at http://www.myfarmlife.com/asides/how-a-conservation-easement-works/.
This week’s coverage of the Crop Tour 2016 highlights some of the precision farming technologies that help farmers make their operations more efficient – from Fairmont, MN, to Rostov-on-Don, Russia. The Fuse open approach is making operational gains possible by leveraging partnerships to provide the most productive, accurate seeding equipment in the world.
AGCO’s Darren Goebel, Director – Global Commercial Crop Care, discusses how applying precision farming to planting is a worthwhile investment, by improving yields through more precise singulation. He also discusses how precision farming technologies can offset soil quality differences including soil texture, organic matter, and topography differences.
To learn more about Fuse, AGCO’s approach to precision farming technologies and services, visit www.AGCOcorp.com/Fuse.