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A Family Farm in the Economic Sweet Spot

Just outside the tiny township of Strykersville, N.Y. sits Fontaine Farms, the highly regarded dairy operation run by brothers Jim and Steve Fontaine. In March, the snowbanks around the barn haven’t quite thawed, and for Jim and Steve, the colder it is, the better: the fresh milk cools quickly and helps maintain the quality of the product for which the Fontaines are known.

Last winter, the business was coming off three straight years as a National Dairy Quality Award winner, and until this summer, they were riding a streak of more than 70 months straight of somatic cell counts (SCC) below 100,000. It’s an impressive run, for sure, in a region where dairies are numerous and competitive.

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Storing Profits on the Farm

Stephen Sork knew from the time he was in fifth grade that working on the farm—being with his father, Ernie, grandfather, Marshall, and uncle, Vernon Gwaltney—was the life for him. “Dad and my uncle always let me help out,” says Steve, still a youthful-looking 45. “I loved it.”

Stephen Sork

Stephen Sork

What goes around comes around. Now Steve and wife, Amy, can foresee the day when their children might want to be a part of their Fairfield, Ill.-based Sork Farms. Their five children are all waiting in the wings.

Generally, producers who want to accommodate additional generations have to grow, monitor expenses and maximize income. Steve, who is now partner in the operation with Ernie, is doing all the above.

For instance, during the past few years the two Sorks grew commodity corn, soybeans and wheat—with an occasional small foray into specialty crops, such as food-grade corn—on about 5,500 acres. That’s nearly double what they were farming 10 years ago.

In addition to farming more acreage, income growth has also come by watching markets. To hold their grain until the price is right, the Sorks have 500,000 bushels worth of storage, enough to hold 75% of the corn they harvest in an average year. Half that capacity was added methodically over the past decade.

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Agro-Brief: Creating Performance Seedbeds

Sunflower

  1. Replace worn sweeps, blades, and harrows
  2. Level tillage tools
  3. Set working depths
  4. Monitor speed
  5. Avoid Compaction

Developing a good seedbed is important to get the crops off to a good start; yet often overlooked or difficult to obtain. Seedbeds need to have uniform residue distribution, loose aerated soil structure, and a level soil profile on both the surface and at the working depth of shanks or blades. As we move into spring consider the following:

REPLACE: Now is a good time to check spring tillage tools for damage and wear. Replace worn shovels, blades, and harrow components. It is difficult to do a good job with worn ground-engaging components.

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FarmLife: Spring 2016 Issue Is Ready to Read

0216issuesHFarmLife—our exclusive customer magazine—is now covering all AGCO brands in North America— Fendt, Challenger and Massey Ferguson—in print and online at myFarmLife.com.

Check out the spring issue, out now, for the following stories and more:

A FarmLife Special Report: Passing on the Farm
Succession remains one of the most pressing and critical issues on the farm. In the magazine—and with additional articles online—we offer readers advice from the experts on how to get started, protect assets and keep peace in the family.

In His Hay Day
Barry Schmitt and family run one of the largest commercial hay operations in Canada. We explore how they meet a demanding schedule and protect a hard-earned, global reputation for high-quality product. One very big reason why: The Schmitts rely on multiple AGCO brands.

Sweet Spot
Fontaine Farm has earned the National Dairy Quality Award for three consecutive years and achieved “New York Supermilk” status for more than 20 years. Members of the Fontaine family credit their success to following a rigorous routine, ensuring cow comfort and working with top-tier partners, such as AGCO brands.

Peaks and Valleys
A couple restores a bucolic farmstead and realizes a dream. They cleared overgrown pastures, fixed fences and protected water sources from livestock. It was a herculean task made all the easier with the help of their two small, yet brawny Massey Ferguson tractors.

Storing Profits
Growth, efficiency and innovation are key to making room for additional generations on the farm. One such farmer did all the above with Challenger tractors and GSI storage and handling solutions. See how they’ve helped him prepare for the future, as well as improve his bottom line.

Read these stories and more in the spring 2016 issue of FarmLife— now covering all Fendt, Challenger, and Massey Ferguson brands in print and online at myFarmLife.com.

For more, see http://www.myfarmlife.com/inside-the-magazine/browse-the-spring-2016-issue-of-farmlife/.

Soldier, Farmer, Innovator

Former news anchor Tom Brokaw dubbed them “the greatest generation,” World War II heroes who came home to parades, the G.I. Bill and a grateful nation. In 2016, the 75th anniversary of the start of U.S. involvement in WWII is commemorated.

Ben Grant, who died in 2014, epitomized that heroism and can-do attitude. An Oklahoma native who farmed in Pasco, Wash., Grant was commissioned in the Second Infantry Division in 1941. Soon after, Pearl Harbor was attacked. He flew 56 combat missions in North Africa and Italy, the last six of which he took on after he’d received papers to go home.

Grant with wife Alma set out to farm in 1946, ending up where the Grand Cooley Dam had made desert land arable with irrigation. He became one of the largest custom cutter operators in the Pacific Northwest. The Massey Ferguson combine engineers were on a first-name basis with Grant, frequently testing in his fields. All together, Grant held 14 patents, 7 in the U.S. and 7 in Canada.

Bughi praises his friend’s generosity—he gave more than $1 million to Oklahoma State University—and Grant’s accomplishments. “Besides being a World War II hero, you’d have to go a long way to find someone who had more to do with Massey combines,” Bughi says.

To see the whole story and a photo of Grant’s Massey Ferguson 750 prototype combine, see http://www.myfarmlife.com/farmstead/soldier-farmer-innovator/.

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