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Time has stopped, he’s in the zone and on autopilot.
Body is square to the jump, knees bent as he pops up and off at 25 mph. Flying high into the air, body twisting, contorting in different directions at once—gazing skyward, blind to the ground and seemingly out of control.
Air squeezes puffs of snow spray out as the board and rider land as one, straight and true. The jump is nailed.
Mitch Keet says he still revels in the feeling of when he has nailed a landing, or “stomped it,” even thousands of successful jumps later. “It feels so good. You just know that your hard work has paid off,” he says.
Growing up on the family poultry and grain farm amid the Canadian prairies, snow-covered mountains and big bodies of water are not exactly something in Mitch’s backyard. The nearest ski hill is more than 100 miles away, and the closest lake about the same distance. Old-fashioned rural ingenuity brought the altitude and wet stuff to the farm near Grandora, Saskatchewan.
During the winter, one of the family’s Massey Ferguson® tractors scoops and pushes snow together to build a small jump beside the poultry barns. An elongated pond of water was dug behind those same barns for summer wakeboarding. With his father, Derick, at the throttle, a homespun, carnival ride-sized winch pulls Mitch through his practice maneuvers for both wakeboarding and snowboarding. He can do more jumps in an hour than he can in a whole day on the natural slopes or water.
Mitch’s wakeboard achievements include being named Saskatchewan Rookie of the Year in 2011 and the Most Improved in 2012. He won gold at the provincials in 2013. Mitch has also achieved membership on Canada’s National Development Team.
Mitch gives much of the credit for his work ethic and the confidence to pull off his amazing areal stunts because he’s been so grounded through his experiences on the farm. The Keet family’s 600-acre farm, Double D Poultry, was started by Mitch’s grandfather David. Derick took over much of the day-to-day work of running the family farm the year Mitch was born.
Every eight weeks they ship 100,000 broiler chickens for processing to the nearby city of Saskatoon. Derick and David handle most of the work using their fleet of Massey Ferguson tractors. Mitch, however, can be counted on to handle a daily list of chores. “I go through the barns and pick up chickens, and when the birds go out, I’ll clean barns and spread straw and dump feed and spread manure, and harvest and combine for long days in the fall,” says Mitch.
While Mitch has his sights set on making the National Pro Team and competing at the world championships, he wants to do it his way. “The farm is the best; it’s open, it’s nice here all year round. And,” he continues, as if divulging the secret ingredient to his success, “the farm, it taught me skills and working, and that kind of stuff. I’ve got a good family, so I don’t want to go anywhere,” he says.
Mitch said being raised on the farm with chores and parents who take the time to teach him has made him both tougher and definitely more confident. “I’ll always remember that my dad taught me how to drive a tractor. He taught me how to drive the combine. My father’s confidence in me makes me very much more confident.”
And that attribute, says Mitch, is a big reason for his success, in boarding as it is in life.
A legacy of sustainability is evident from the talk around the table in their farm shop on a recent warm afternoon. Dave Ring, his son Brent, 38, and grandson Dylan, 8, laugh about a story in which the boy informed his grade-school teacher that he may have to come home soon to farm full time.
The reason? It seems his dad had accumulated some gray hair around his temples. Dylan took that as a sign that Brent would be retiring soon and his time to take over was at hand.
“Dylan is 8 going on 21,” laughs Dave, obviously proud of his grandson. Dave also feels confident the operation will be healthy when Dylan is indeed ready to take over.
The Rings farm more than 1,000 acres of corn, soybeans and wheat, milk 100-plus dairy cows and raise thousands of tom turkeys annually on a contract basis. They have always been proponents of good conservation. They seed cover crops in the fall, do minimal subsurface tillage, incorporate dairy manure and turkey litter in the soil, and buffer waterways.
“As for conservation, you have no choice in this part of the world,” says Dave. “We have rolling ground and you have to prepare the land to slow erosion. If we weren’t good stewards, there wouldn’t be anything left for my grandson.”
Dave is used to thinking about new generations. For 28 years, he was a high school business teacher, then vocational agriculture teacher and FFA leader. Now 68, he spent his younger days rising at 3 a.m. to milk cows and work the farm before heading off to his teaching job.
He thought the teaching would only be temporary—to help out the school district fill a sudden vacancy, then later to secure the agriculture program in danger of being cut for lack of an instructor. Turns out he was a natural. “I was starting to enjoy it,” Dave admits.
He is particularly proud of nearby Southridge High School’s FFA program, which had 15 members when he started teaching it and 160 when he retired in 2009.
Earlier this year, Dave Ring was recognized with the prestigious Master Farmer award from Indiana Prairie Farmer magazine. The nominees are considered for the honor based on the quality of their operation and community service. The awards were given this past spring at a banquet sponsored by the magazine and the Purdue Ag Alumni Association.
“The Rings have done a super job of being diversified,” says Kevin Lubbehusen of Blesch Bros. Equipment Co., Dave’s farm equipment dealer.
“You don’t often see someone of his age staying out front on the technology side,” says Kevin. “That ability to stay current, along with his years of experience and his reputation for being a straight shooter, make him someone people listen to.”
Tommy Porter chokes up when he talks about the land. As he tops a hill, he leans on a young oak tree. Eyes misting. Cheeks flushing. Spring green hay fields and cattle pastures roll out behind him.
Porter owns these 600 acres and another 308 down the road. He raises beef cattle, poultry and hogs, but he subscribes to the belief that he’s a borrower, a steward.
“The bank and I may hold this property, but we’re here for a short time,” he says.
“To be able to tend to part of God’s creation, that means something to me.”
Just 30 miles to the southwest sits the glass-and-steel, corporate skyline of Charlotte. It’s North Carolina’s largest, most metropolitan city. Here on the outskirts of the town of Concord, however, Porter has carved out his peace.
By the late 1970s, he and his wife Vicki were ready to chase the dream and started their cattle herd with five cows. In the mid-1980s, they bought 200 acres of corn and soybeans, and converted them to pasture.
In 30-plus years, they have grown the herd to 350 Hereford-Angus cows and calves. Along the way, Porter invested in the chicken business, expanding that operation to 68,000 broiler pullets and 30,000 broiler egg layers for Tyson Foods. The third leg of the livestock operation includes 2,200 large, white sows that breed between 102 and 105 pigs per week for Murphy-Brown.
Porter’s family has been a large part of his farm’s success. Growing up, his sons, Derek and Jared, and his daughter, Erin, performed daily chores and remained interested in the farm. Even though they’ve all got other full-time careers these days, Derek, a firefighter, still works the farm on his days off. And Jared’s wife, Colleen, now manages the layer houses.
“Tommy started with a dream,” says Chip Blalock, executive director of Sunbelt Ag Expo. “He didn’t inherit anything. He did it all the old fashioned way from scratch.” Judges considered the scope of Porter’s success a major factor when naming him the 2011 Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year.
Part of Porter’s award as Farmer of the Year included the year-long use of any Massey Ferguson tractor serviced by Statesville Ag and Turf. He says he selected the MF5465 for its size. The 100 pto horsepower is the perfect fit for spreading fertilizer on his hay fields, then cutting and baling it when the time is right.
“It’s nice and roomy,” says Tommy, which is no surprise considering it has one of the largest cabs in its class. And the 61 square feet of glass translates to an immense amount of visibility. Another feature they really love is that the cab has its own suspension. “It makes a big difference when you spend 8 or 10 hours riding in something that’s comfortable,” says Tommy.
With one hand, they can move smoothly through the gears of the clutchless Dyna 4, 16-speed transmission. And because the environment, and quite frankly the economy, are so important to the Porters, the AGCO Power engine, with exceptional fuel economy and low emissions, makes a great deal of sense.
Because in the past there were no large Massey Ferguson dealers near the Porters, their farm has used John Deere equipment. But this honeymoon period with the MF5465 has made a believer of Derek, who uses it the most.
“Every time he uses it,” says Tommy, “he makes a point to say, ‘I really like that tractor. I like it better than the John Deere.’”
Ask Dale McClellan about his work and watch his face change. An authentic smile appears, along with a twinkle in his eye.
It’s a sign that Dale, owner of M&B Dairy and M&B Products, is about to tell you a story—about his family history in dairy farming or the newest product his processing plant is planning to roll out. His willingness to share his experience and expertise is a large part of the reason he was named the 2012 Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year.
Other measures of his success are via hard numbers.
1 million: Combined units of milk and juice packaged and processed at M&B Products every day
65,000: The square footage of the M&B Products processing plant in Tampa, Fla.
690: Dairy cows at M&B Dairy
6,000: Gallons of milk produced by those cows on a typical day
140: People employed by M&B Products
Efficiency measures abound at M&B Dairy. The cow barn, which sits on a 2% slope, is routinely flushed with water. The liquids are used to irrigate the fields, while the solids go to a 2-acre compost site where the composted material becomes padding for the cow beds. The compost system allows for 100% use of all manure solids, so no manure waste is shipped offsite.
As it is with any business endeavor, opening the new M&B Dairy came with challenges. At first, residents and business owners in Citrus County, where the dairy resides, were wary of such a large operation being built in their backyard. Instead of reacting defensively, Dale held community meetings to discuss his plans for the site, and invited his family and his engineer to come and speak.
His efforts paid off, and now the McClellan family enjoys a great relationship with their neighbors in the county. Leon and Dale sit on the board for several local business and charitable organizations. Additionally, in an effort to promote ag tourism in Citrus County, Dale and Leon open the dairy for tours. They also work with the commissioner of agriculture to promote “buy local” efforts in Florida, while Dale, along with three other producers, has started a co-op with other area dairy farmers in an effort to help market local milk.
Dale’s son Leon McClellan estimates he’ll put about 2,500 to 3,000 hours of work on the family’s new Massey Ferguson® 5465 tractor this year. As the winner of the 2012 Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year award, Dale won use of the tractor for one year, and both he and son Leon (the primary operator) are happy with the machine.
Used for tillage, planting, turning compost, loading the feed wagon, pushing up feed, putting compost bedding out and loading manure, “It’s kind of an all-around, one-size-fits-all tractor,” says Dale.
So far, the McClellans have been especially impressed with its ability to turn compost smoothly. “It’s got a low gear in it,” says Leon, “so it turns the compost better because you have to go as slow as you can.”
With the amount of time he spends in the cab, Leon cites comfort and visibility as important features. With the mechanical cab suspension, it rides smooth, even on rough terrain. “And the transmission is good,” Leon says of the Dyna-4™. “It switches from A to B to C and D, just like that. You don’t have to push in the clutch for any of it.”
Leon also likes the additional power the AGCO POWER 66 CTA 6-cylinder engine gives him.
When their year of use is up, Dale and Leon expect they’ll purchase the MF5465. “Basically, it can fill any space in the company that we need, small or large,” Dale says.
To read more about M&B Dairy and M&B Products, visit http://www.myfarmlife.com/features/new-age-thinking/?page=all.