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Preserving A Farm’s Beauty in North Carolina’s Big Sandy Mush

A flat grassy patch atop the sloped wooded pasture on his western North Carolina farm affords Dave Everett sumptuous views of the Big Sandy Mush Valley and several 4,500-foot-plus peaks beyond. Fooled by Dave’s presence in the pasture in the early afternoon, a handful of cows begin bellowing, anticipating a meal.

Dave and his wife, Kim, tend to their farm and their 30-head of cattle with the help of their Massey Ferguson 1540 with 4WD, which allows them to manage the steep inclines of their hilly pastureland with ease.
In addition to farming, the Everetts have helped restore and preserve the fields, woods and streams that spread out below their pastures. “We said that we want this farm to be recognizable to folks who lived here 100 years before us,” Dave says.

The Everetts have helped restore and preserve their 130-acre farm.

The Everetts have helped restore and preserve their 130-acre farm.

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. 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.

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Exporting Forage: Barr-Ag Is In Its “Hay Day”

For AGCO customer Barry Schmitt, the disastrous 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan hit close to his Olds, Alberta-based business. “We were shipping hay to one of our customers in Japan when the tsunami hit,” says the owner of Barr-Ag, a hay producer and export company.

According to Schmitt, he and his staff had been in communication with the customer like normal, then, suddenly, nothing. As news of the catastrophe and its scope began to break—some 16,000 people were killed and it caused a nuclear reactor meltdown—Schmitt feared the worst. “These are friends of ours who we go and see, and talk to. We were worried.”

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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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