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A Farmer’s Perspective: Immigrant Workers and Their Critical Role

AGCO Blog

The Farm is a special place in California’s Salinas Valley. Including a 15-acre demonstration plot situated just off busy Highway 68, it’s peppered with large murals by artist John Cerney that depict the largely immigrant labor force responsible for making Monterey County “the Salad Bowl of the World.” Begun in the 1920s by Chris Bunn’s grandfather, The Farm and surrounding farmland benefit from Monterey County’s long growing season, which runs March through November and allows the valley’s producers to double crop.

“It’s an alluvial valley,” says Bunn. “It doesn’t get really hot or really cold.” It’s the ideal climate for growing an array of crops, and the Bunns grow four different varieties of produce over the entirety of their 300-acre farm. At the farmstead, where they maintain a “demonstration farm” for visitors and school groups, they produce 35 different crops, the big ones being corn, tomatoes, pumpkins and strawberries.

The Bunns farm both owned and leased land. “Everything here is farmed patchwork,” says Bunn. “Nobody farms contiguous like in the Midwest.” That’s because land is so hard to come by. In the Salinas Valley, it’s not unusual to see producers cultivating land almost up to the doorstep of their homes.

“If you couldn’t double-crop this ground,” Bunn adds, “it wouldn’t be worth it.” Adding to the value of what’s grown on the land, Bunn and family are organic farmers (certified by California Certified Organic Farmers) and have been for nearly three decades. “It’s not a philosophical choice,” says Bunn. “It’s about economics.”

Smart decisions are a hallmark of Bunn’s operation, including his choice of farm equipment. He uses three Challenger® tractors on his farm, all purchased in 2009. “Soil compaction in our Blanco adobe soil conditions is extremely important,” he says, “and the Challengers all float across our fields with great comfort and speed like ships on the sea!” He also appreciates their power, fuel efficiency and ease of use in many roles on the farm.

Despite a popular misperception, cheap labor is not what drives this region of the country to employ so many immigrants. What does spur the hiring of immigrant workers is that most longtime residents in the area don’t want to work in the fields.

Bunn says strawberry pickers in the valley, for example, typically earn $1.20 per case. “A good picker can pick 100 cases a day,” he says. That translates into a wage of $120 a day during harvest season. It’s “back-breaking work,” Bunn acknowledges, and farmers like him have suggested that’s why native-born citizens aren’t inclined to apply for it.

For Bunn, immigrant labor is critical, as it is for many producers in California and elsewhere. “Labor is one of the most expensive and important inputs for agriculture [here],” he remarks. “With commodity crops, it takes one person per 1,000 acres; for us, it’s one to two people per 10 acres.”

For video, photos and more of the story, visit A Farmer’s Perspective: Immigrant Workers and Their Critical Role.

Introducing the Square Baler Classification System

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To support hay producers to be better able to choose the right baler for their operation needs, AGCO and Hesston by Massey Ferguson are introducing a standardized classification system for small and large square balers during the 2017 World Ag Expo in Tulare, Calif.  The square baler classification system places balers in Class 1 through Class 8 and clearly defines the capabilities of balers and their most appropriate uses.

You can learn more about this new Square Baler Classification System here.

“Hesston alone offers four models of large square balers ranging from 3’x3’ to 4’x4’ and six small square balers to produce four sizes from 14” x 18” to 16” x 22”,” explains Shaun Allred, marketing manager for hay and forage at Hesston. “Dairy, beef and equine customers, as well as commercial hay and biomass harvesting operations that harvest, store and ship large quantities of material all have different needs in a baler.”

“These classes clearly define the capabilities of the various models from Hesston by Massey Ferguson and Challenger®. The baler classification system will give customers a better understanding of the entire lineup of balers so they can make better purchase decisions,” Shaun Allred continues. “This system is similar to the classification system for combines that uses horsepower ranges to rank the size and productivity of combine harvesters.”

The square baler classification system uses rated plunger load to define each of the eight baler classes. Plunger load was chosen because is the most measurable factor impacting the density of the finished bale.

“Bale density is a key consideration when customers purchase a square baler, because it affects the amount of material in the finished bale; bale weight; stacking, storage and transportation, as well as the productivity and efficiency of the baling process,” Allred points out. “Producers will be able to use this system to choose the baler that fits the crops they harvest, their end-use needs and the baler that optimizes their hay harvesting productivity and efficiency for the best return on investment.”

Rated plunger load is determined by measuring the Kilonewtons (kN) of force on the face of the plunger. One Kilonewton equals 224.8 pounds of force. Load sensors on the plunger arms measure compression of the plunger arms to provide the plunger load rating. Current AGCO customers are familiar with this number because it is displayed on the in-cab monitor as the Load Setting.

Using experience gained from more than 70 years as an industry-leading manufacturer of equipment for producing and harvesting quality forage, the hay experts at Hesston developed clear descriptions of the most appropriate uses for balers within each class. See the below table to learn more about the different classes and the operations each one is ideal for.

 

Class Ideal For: Hesston
Models
Challenger Models Plunger Force (kN) Bale Size Bale Weight* (lbs)
1 Equine Operations
25-1000 acres/year; Individual use or commercial production; Small bale size (50-85 lbs.): easy to handle, transport and feed; Handle individually or with accumulator
MF1836
MF1838
MF1840
CH1838
CH1840
15 to 44 kNs 14″x18″ 50-85 lbs.
2 Equine & Dairy Operations
100-500+ acres/year; Individual or commercial production: equine, small beef or dairy; Small bale size (70-110 lbs.): easy to handle, transport and feed; Handle individually or with accumulator
MF1842 45 to 74 kNs 16″x18″ 70-110 lbs.
3 Equine, Dairy & Export Operations
250-1000+ acres/year; Individual or commercial: equine, beef, dairy & export; Largest, small square bales: (90-140 lbs.) May be hand fed or double pressed for export; Handle with accumulator and forks
MF1844 75 to 199 kNs 15″x22″ 90-140 lbs.
4 Dairy Operations
250-1,000+ acres/year; Individual dairy & beef operations with limited custom baling
MF2250 CH2250 200 to 324 kNs 3’x3′ 700-900 lbs.
5 Dairy & Commercial Operations
250-3,000+ acres/year; Large dairies, commercial hay producers, custom balers & fleet use
MF2270
MF2290
CH2270
CH2290
325 to 449 kNs 3’x4′
4’x4′
1,000-2,000 lbs.
6 Commercial & Biomass Operations
500-3,000+ acres/year; Commercial hay production and crop residue baling
MF2270XD CH2270XD 450 to 574 kNs 3’x4′
4’x4′
1,400-2,000 lbs.
7 Commercial & Biomass Operations
1,000-5,000+ acres/year; Large-scale custom hay and crop residue baling
575 to 749 kNs 3’x4′ 1,400-2,000 lbs.
8 Biomass Operations
1,000-5,000+ acres/year; Large-scale crop residue and biomass baling
750 + kNs 3’x4′ 1,400-2,000 lbs.

 

Young Farmers: Growing Their Future and Ours

agco blog

Quite possibly better educated and prepared than any generation before them, young producers still face major challenges in getting off the ground. For this FarmLife Special Report, we asked several young farmers about their challenges and goals, then listened as each spoke of hard lessons learned, their passion for farming and hopes for the future.

Three families are featured in profile stories and video interviews: the Skobergs, who grow peas, wheat and canola on Twin Oaks Farm in Lougheed, Alberta; the Robertses, who farm and run a fencing and custom gate business in Pittsylvania County, Virginia; and the Boeres, whose dairy operation is in Modesto, California. Each has a unique story to tell, including the innovative ways they have made a life and a living on the farm.

To go along with the family profiles, the Young Farmers Special Report includes advice from parents, resources to help young and new farmers, a look back at our previous special report and more.

In the article “Raising Farmers,” father Jerry McDonald and son Jon—now a father himself—offer advice on preparing the next generation for a career in agriculture. You’ll also read about how the National Young Farmers Coalition works to connect beginning farmers with resources, such as information on loans and subsidies.

See the entire special report, including video interviews: Young Farmers: Growing Their Future And Ours

Silage Chopping, Packing and Storage: Top of the Heap

Butch Gist and Marvin Davis are something of a dynamic duo. Together, they own D&G Chopping, a silage harvesting and packing operation, and run the latter’s family business, Gist Farms, a conglomeration of trucking, rail, equipment repair and farming.

Having worked together for 40-plus years, the two have weathered the ups and downs that buffet any business. Having experienced it in the fast-paced, topsy-turvy environment that is California agriculture, it has at times seemed more like a super roller-coaster ride, complete with barrel rolls and loop-de-loops.

They’ve seen business models and farms come and go. Yet, they’ve adapted and survived, even thrived. “We’ve seen a lot of changes in farming,” Davis says. “But we’ve found our way … found a way to adapt as the business changed.”

For instance, some 20-plus years ago, dairies began replacing many row-crop operations in California’s Central Valley. Running a custom harvesting operation, Davis and Gist realized they needed to change their focus, too. “The dairy industry just exploded in our area,” Davis says. “They were moving everything over to chopping, to silage. By the end of that first season, we had three new choppers … and basically a new business.”

D&G Chopping was born. “That was 25 years ago,” continues Davis, “and since then we’ve begun packing that silage for our customers, and all along watching for other opportunities.”

Yet, one of their secrets to success is not jumping into new ventures too quickly. Another is finding the right partners, which Davis and Gist say they have in many facets, including their choice of AGCO and their Challenger MT955E. They use the latter in packing silage and are extremely happy with its comfort, fuel efficiency, durability and power.

Another ingredient, says Gist: “It all goes back to the saying that I always felt was important: ‘The secret to success is putting your shadow on your business … across what’s going on.’ You just have to make sure you’re there watching and stay in touch.”

Read more: Silage Chopping, Packing and Storage: Top of the Heap

The Sunflower 6830 Series: A New Era in Tillage

With wet conditions impacting much of the corn and soybean-producing areas of Minnesota and Iowa, it has been tough to perform effective tillage. However, last week, the clouds parted for a few days and gave way to fair tillage conditions before the rains returned. During this time, I took the New Sunflower 6830 High-Speed Rotary Finisher for a trip across 230-bushel corn planted in the 36,000 to 39,000 plant population. I was very impressed with the tool’s performance in both sizing and mixing residue.

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The corn was harvested using a chopping corn head. Highest-yielding corn was in the range of 240 bushels with an average yield of 203. Row spacing was planted on 30-inch rows. Very soft field conditions were present during harvest leaving ruts 4 to 6 inches deep where the harvester and grain cart was run. Operating speed of the tool was at 11.5 mph. The depth of the 6830 was set and checked at 4 inches. The width of this unit was 29 feet. 11.5 mph x 29 feet = 333.5/8.25 = 40.43 acres per hour. The Sunflower 6830 was pulled with a Challenger 855E tractor, which burned 17 gallons per hour during this operation.

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I took a 5-foot by 6-foot area and painted it with marker paint to give a visual of the chopping, sizing and mixing the residue mat left on the soil surface.

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In the above picture, you can see the extraordinary job the Sunflower 6830 did in chopping, sizing and mixing the residue mat. In some areas of the country, this single pass will provide a sufficient job in allowing the residue to be broken down prior to the next planting season.  Although difficult to see, this picture was taken directly in the wheel track seen in the first picture of the painted residue.  Not only were the residue and soil mixed, but also completely leveled a 4-inch rut left by the combine.

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These pictures show the tool’s ability to manage the root mass that is left and needs to be managed before further tillage or planting the next crop. Not only are we managing the surface residue, but also the below-surface residue. The sooner we can start the incorporation of this residue with the soil and its many helpful microorganisms, the faster that residue can start the decomposition process.

I’m lucky enough to run several of these Sunflower tools. Sunflower 6830 High-Speed Rotary Finisher is one of the only tools that can prepare a seedbed in the spring by leaving a level seedbed to plant into. It can also perform the act of residue management in the fall and succeed at both.

Justin Remus

AGCO Product Specialist

I studied agronomy at South Dakota State University. I have several years of experience working with students, growers and my own family farm to develop practices that work in the real world.

Currently, I cover territories in Minnesota and Iowa for the AGCO Corp working on several projects related to the 2017 AGCO Crop Tour. In addition, I have been working with several of the new tools that AGCO has brought to market in the past 12 months; the White Planter 9800VE Series and the Challenger 1000 Series.

Visit http://agcocropcare.com/ for more information.

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