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.
A New Generation of farmers is transforming the way the world is farmed and is demanding the most appropriate tractors, harvesters and equipment.
That was the message from Thierry Lhotte, Vice President of Sales and Marketing Massey Ferguson EAME at the “For a New Generation from Massey Ferguson” SIMA Press Conference this week.
Mr Lhotte referred to a New Generation of young people who are choosing farming as a career because of its bright future.
“Their youthful enthusiasm, energy and optimism is combined with a growing demand for food and fuel across the world. They are open-minded and ready to embrace the opportunities that come their way. For them change is ‘business as normal.’ Compare this to more established businesses for whom ‘business as usual’ means a steady decline.”
He said that no country across the world is immune from generational change and that in Europe it is countries in Eastern Europe that are at the forefront of change. Others such as France and Germany are catching up and that the most dramatic changes are set to take place in countries such as Portugal, Italy and the UK, which currently have the eldest farmers.
“But it is important to stress that the New Generation of change is not just about age, the key thing is attitude. Without the right attitude, no farmer, whether they are 25 years-old, 45 years-old or 65 years-old, will succeed. And the New Generation of younger farmers are reliant on and benefit from the experience and guidance of their predecessors”
Mr Lhotte said that a New Generation of farmers is responding to the changing demands of consumers who want safe, reliable and affordable sources of food and energy as well high quality products that link them to farmers.
“In the past the farm stopped at the farm gate – no longer. Across the world younger farmers are taking over family farms and revolutionising the way they are operated. Countries such as Brazil and China and those in Africa are at the forefront of this change and European farmers have to respond to this challenge, particularly as most of the growing markets are outside Europe.”
A New Generation of farmers provides exciting opportunities for Massey Ferguson, a global machinery brand that continues to deliver a New Generation of straightforward innovation and dependability. Mr Lhotte highlighted the new MF 6600 Series tractors, launched at SIMA, which complete the ‘Super Six’ Range of most advanced Massey Ferguson tractors ever“Like the other ‘600’ ranges, the MF 6600 Series has been designed to meet the needs of the New Generation of farmer who is demanding a smart, efficient, clean and reliable tractor to increase output and preserve resources such as the soil and environment.
“The New Generation of farmers are looking to adopt the next generation of machines as soon as they can and want to influence their development. This is particularly exciting for us at Massey Ferguson as we have always taken the lead in developing the appropriate solutions farmers need. That is why we continue to invest in research and development, in young people and understanding the needs of both the New Generation of farmers and the Next Generation of farmers.”
Believe it or not, but winter is a very common season for fires due to the use of additional heat sources. Fire can be particularly destructive on the farm. From property to lives, take a few steps to prevent it from happening to you.
Children, especially age 5 and under, are at the greatest risk of home fire-related death and injury. Young children don’t know what to do and are likely to panic in a fire. They may hide in a closet or behind a bed instead of escaping. Practice fire drills at home once a year. Show your children all of the safe ways to escape a fire from every room of the house and every building on the farm. Designate a meeting place outside and make it part of the drill. One way to prevent fires in the house is to install smoke detectors. There should be a smoke detector on every level and outside bedrooms.
Fire extinguishers are essential items on the farm in case a fire breaks out. Besides the house, keep fire extinguishers in barns, other farm buildings, and machinery including tractors and combines. The local fire department is a terrific resource as well. Ask them to help you start the process of protecting your farm from fire. Both you and the fire department will be better prepared if a fire should occur.
And follow these fire safety precautions on the farm:
- Test smoke detectors once a month and replace the batteries twice a year (when you change your clocks for daylight savings).
- Replace smoke detectors that are ten years of age or older.
- Place proper fire extinguishers in strategic locations, making sure they are accessible.
- Get training on how to use fire extinguishers.
- Plan your escape routes.
- Designate one place outside where family members should meet in case of fire.
- Keep matches away from children.
- Don’t enter a confined livestock area or housing structure if it catches on fire.
- Install lightning rods.
- Store gasoline and other flammable fuels in proper containers in a cool place.
- Turn off engines when refueling machines.