Posts Tagged ‘Farm Life’
Steve Snider still follows the advice of his late father and plans to hand it off, along with the family farm, to the next generation.
Winter farm work in Lerna, Ill., was typically slow. So, Bill Snider encouraged his teenage son Steve to spend those days looking off the farm for productive things to do. The young man occupied his time with odd jobs, including a stint as an equipment operator at a landfill. He also completed computer science courses at the nearby college after the subject piqued his interest.
However, the elder Snider’s nudging served a purpose greater than earning extra money or filling the idle hours. It was a proverbial push from the nest.
“Looking back, Dad was urging me to get out and not just be dependent on the farm,” says Steve, who is now 38. “He wanted me to broaden my spectrum on the world … to get a sense of the world and how other bosses are, to see how things work differently.”
But Steve says his dad was the best boss of them all. “He taught me about management,” says Steve. “Not to overextend yourself. Stay within your means. Try to be a good steward of the ground. And he taught me about conservation, so you don’t lose what you’ve got.”
Steve’s off-the-farm experiences just seemed to make him appreciate his family’s corn and bean operation all the more. “I decided that coming back to the farm was the only thing to do,” he says. “It still felt right.”
Bill eventually fell ill, and when he passed last Leap Day, Steve was grief-stricken but ready to take over. Today, Steve manages about 1,600 acres, with close to 1,400 of those planted in corn and beans. Another 40 of those acres are dedicated to a herd of roughly 20 Black Angus cattle. The rest are wooded areas.
Steve says the legacy of that land was very important to his father. Because of that, Bill’s wish was that upon his death, the farm would be placed in an irrevocable land trust, stipulating that it remain intact and in the Snider family through two more generations.
“We just didn’t want someone else coming in and taking it away,” says Steve’s mother Barb. “That’s what Steve’s grandpa would have wanted too. He worked hard for that.”
For expert advice on land trusts, and to read why Bill and Steve Snider switched from Deere to Massey Ferguson equipment (hint: better fuel efficiency and comfort), visit http://www.myfarmlife.com/features/a-fathers-guidance/.
The Fussell family and sweet wine fans have turned Duplin Winery into the biggest muscadine operation in America. A fleet of Massey Ferguson utility tractors help them get the job done.
If muscadine grapes could talk, they might sound a little bit like the Fussell brothers of Rose Hill, N.C.
For instance, the native Southern grapes would definitely have an accent. Like the Fussells, they would be honest about hard times. And they might be a little bit defensive. See, the muscadine is the Rodney Dangerfield of grapes. It gets no respect.
Taken on its own merits, it’s hard to imagine why the mighty muscadine—also known as the scuppernong—needs a defense. It’s a tough grape. The fruit itself is twice as big as that of the European varieties more common in wine culture (pinot, cabernet, chardonnay, etc.), and though all grapes contain high levels of resveratrol, the anti-oxidant, in their skins, some studies have shown muscadines to contain 6 to 10 times more than other varieties.
Still, some folks look down their upturned noses at sweet wines. “The industry in California has done a good job of promoting dry wine as the sophisticated thing to drink,” says Jonathan Fussell, who with his older brother David took over the family business, Duplin Winery (www.duplinwinery.com), from their father, David Sr., several years ago. “We sort of use that lack of respect as motivation for what we do,” David says.
Which is sell a lot of wine.
Retailers across the country, including WalMart, Food Lion, and Bi-Lo, sold more than 330,000 cases of Duplin’s sweet vino in 2011. The Fussells also welcome about 100,000 visitors a year to the winery for tours and tastings.
It’s a labor intensive operation that requires expertise on the part of growers and reliability and versatility on the part of equipment. Massey Ferguson fits the bill, says Carlos Munguia, the winery’s vineyard manager, who uses several MF2615s in the operation.
“We have some Kubotas, and the thing you notice is the MF2615 has a much tighter turning radius,” says Munguia, which is crucial when maneuvering around delicate vines. Getting as close to the vines with the tractor as possible is important both for spraying, to avoid drift, and for mowing, to keep rows tidy for visitors. Munguia says the quick availability of parts, even for the older MF1220, reduces any downtime drastically.
The formula for success at Duplin Winery, the largest muscadine winery in America, is comparable to the formula for Massey Ferguson’s heritage of quality, says David Fussell. “We make great wines and people expect a certain quality from them, and I think that’s the same as anyone who’s out there buying a tractor. We’ve learned to put trust in Massey Ferguson to provide us with a quality tractor.”
Read the full story here.
In exchange for a little TLC, Rich Bennett’s fields produce healthy yields of grain, while saving him fertilizer, herbicide, fuel and time.
Rich Bennett has gone old school. Like generations before him, he uses cover crops. As a result, he conserves valuable soil, not to mention improve it, as well as save money on fertilizer and fuel. All the while maintaining average yields of corn, soybeans and wheat on 1,100 acres in northwestern Ohio.
“My goal is to keep something growing, to put some value-added material and organic matter back into the soil to produce the next crop,” says Rich, who operates the farm with his wife, Jeannie, and informal partner Ken Griffith. “Our yields are comparable to others in the area, and we don’t have to use the high levels of fertilizer that we once did.”
His soybeans normally yield 40 to 60 bushels per acre, and his corn is in the 165-bushel range. By using cover crops, he figures he saves 30% on the cost of fuel, fertilizer and herbicide—the rye also acts as a weed barrier. There may be a slight yield decrease from a reduction in fertilizer, but it isn’t much.
Rich also reduces tillage. “No-till soybeans into rye saves at least two passes with a disc or finishing tool, and that saves $7 per acre in fuel costs,” he says. “There’s the added benefit of soil protected from wind and heavy rains, plus rainwater infiltration through the rye root structure through the soil, leaving no standing water.”
It’s easy to tell the difference in soils that have benefited from cover crops, according to Rich. Water may stand for many days in other fields, but for only one day at the most where there are cover crops.
The Bennetts also attribute their success to using the right equipment.
They’ve used AGCO-brand and Allis equipment for decades, but made the switch to Massey Ferguson, with a MF7485. “It’s our catch-all tractor,” says Rich, who still uses his AGCO DT180.
“I had an Allis 8050 and a 7045 and wanted to update them, and I did it with the Massey 7485. It’s a good tractor to do anything from hauling grain wagons to planting soybeans. It was the first red tractor Mitchell Farm Equipment sold when they switched from orange to red.”
Everyone on the farm gives high marks to the tractor’s continuous variable transmission (CVT). Rich is totally impressed by the CVT that’s standard on his MF7485. “It’s just so smooth,” he says. “And you can go at such a slow speed. It really takes the stress out of operation. We’re really learning to take advantage of it. With a clutch, you’re always changing gears, but with CVT, you don’t have to be shifting.”