Posts Tagged ‘FarmLife’
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.’”
The quality of machinery—the iron, its design and functionality—will always be important. More often in the years ahead, though, customers will want to know what the machinery can deliver in the way of precision farming capabilities.
“Even with the exceptional productivity gains farmers have made in recent years,” says Bruce Hart, AGCO’s director, ATS Global Marketing, “there will continue to be expectations of greater gains to come. Things like uptime will need to be increased, so will in-field efficiency, yield per acre—even in less-than-perfect conditions. One of the biggest differentiators in the future to help with this will be electronics.”
In some ways, that future has already arrived. Ken Salsman considers that nearly every time he cuts hay using his Hesston® by Massey Ferguson WR9770 windrower equipped with autosteering. “I really like the accuracy,” says Salsman, who farms about 500 acres near Macon, Mo. “Each swath is the same as the one before. The bales can get lopsided if you don’t get the same cut every time you go through the field. Plus, I can cut for six to 12 hours and not feel nearly as tired as when I’d run four hours before we had this system. I save fuel because I’m not overlapping.”
Now, even more revolutionary and helpful tools are being incorporated into farming operations. The latest advancement allows the machines to recognize and communicate their own maintenance needs, while also helping make real-time adjustments in the field.
Much of that can be accomplished through AGCO’s new AgCommand™, a telemetry system that tracks the location and activity of machinery either via computers in the office or through a portable tablet or computer.
AgCommand has already gained traction with agricultural businesses such as cooperatives and agronomy service companies.
“Technology like AgCommand has shown us how inefficient we can be,” says Terry Schmidt, an agronomy manager with CHS, Inc., in southern Minnesota. “As a result of using the program, we went from having eight fertilization units to seven and yet covered more acres the very next year.”
Schmidt is working with AGCO toward the day when all 29 of the application units he now manages for CHS in the region can be dispatched through AgCommand. That, he says, would allow for even more efficiency in terms of getting the right machine in the right location without any confusion or delay.
The ability to monitor and control machinery remotely will also make it easier for farms to employ machinery operators who don’t necessarily have to understand what every screen in the cab is doing. That’s an important factor in an era where farmers can struggle finding qualified employees.
AGCO is also working to make sure AgCommand remains easy to learn and compatible with a variety of equipment, even with other brands.
Now that these pathways for the technology are being paved, the emphasis is shifting to working with the data that’s being collected. For example, readouts from the planter or cultivator might show that field conditions are actually still too wet to be worked—and may advise a two-day wait. Or the suite of technologies built into the system will have the ability to advise the best hybrids to use in changing conditions.
Missouri farmer Ken Salsman, 65, doesn’t doubt the potential of the technology. He recalls writing a paper in college on the future of agriculture that suggested tractors will drive themselves one day.
“I didn’t think I’d live to see that actually happen,” says Salsman. “But with autosteering, we’re seeing it now.”
Read the full story at http://www.myfarmlife.com/advantage/ground-control/.
As a U.S. Navy fighter pilot, David Garfrerick jockeyed a rocket while helping to protect his country. He broke the sound barrier and mastered the art of aircraft carrier takeoffs and landings, piloting a 20-plus-ton jet loaded with ordnance and fuel on and off a football-field-size runway.
“It was a thrill, a challenge,” Garfrerick says, after a little cajoling on the subject. “It’s like being thrown off into the wild, out of control, but it’s a lot of fun.”
Even while flying high, Garfrerick says he’s always been fascinated by something decidedly more down to earth: gardening. While still in the Navy, he raised a variety of vegetables and other plants. “I’ve just always loved growing things and wanted some land to retire on, and bought this land, and just started growing things. It got bigger and bigger,” continues Garfrerick about the property near Alpine, Ala., “and at some point, I guess, I just had to start calling it a farm.”
All told, he and wife Dede own about 200 acres of rolling hills, including 80 acres of timber, 80 acres of pasture for his cattle, and about 5 acres of crops and orchard, from which he grows fruits and vegetables.
His produce and meat have a starring role in his latest “adventure,” a restaurant he owns and runs in Oxford, Ala., about a 45-minute drive from his home and farm. Opened in 2008, the philosophy behind the restaurant, Garfrerick says, is that “fresh, healthy food can be delicious.”
With so many responsibilities, Garfrerick counts on his MF275 to help him get the job done. The MF275 performs a multitude of chores on the 200-acre farm. It’s used to operate a vertical tiller, move hay for cattle, maintain the roads on his land, work a front-end loader, pull a wagon—and that’s just a sampling.
“The Massey is the only thing I’ve ever used, and I find it very convenient,” says Garfrerick. “It’s easy to change out implements and maintain. It just saves a whole lot of physical labor, having a good-size tractor like that.”
It’s also reliable, he says. “We don’t have to do a lot of repair work on it, which is a surprise because it’s old.” Garfrerick, who bought the tractor used, hazards a guess it’s at least 30 years old.
Because of the tractor’s age, maintenance is all the more important. “It’s the only one we own, so it’s critical we keep it running,” he says, adding that his dealer, Bannister Tractor Co., in Oxford, Ala., “keeps me advised on what to do.”
“They’re familiar with the parts and the typical things that will solve issues when I need maintenance and repair. And they’re familiar with the preventative maintenance I need to keep up with. They’re just knowledgeable about the tractor itself.
“That’s a huge help for me,” says Garfrerick, noting that, with running a restaurant and farm, he’s got a lot going on. “Taking care of the tractor is one less thing I have to worry about.”
With the new Massey Ferguson® 1700 Series, customers can create a tractor for their specific needs and budget. Here are just a few of the options from which to choose.
Each model runs on a new diesel engine from Mitsubishi® that features a turbocharger with intercooler for greater combustion potential. Such design allows for more power that’s produced extremely efficiently and meets all EPA requirements to be Tier 4 final emissions compliant.
Transmission choices include either a mechanical 12 x 12 power shuttle or a three-range electronic-servo hydrostatic (HST) option.
For use with mid-mount mowers and front-mount attachments, a mid PTO is available as an option on all MF1700 tractor models.
Customers also have a choice of an open-station platform with a flat floor or a newly designed, climate-controlled factory cab.
Models equipped with the servo HST include:
Max Speed Control: allows the operator to set the maximum desired speed using a simple rotary dial, providing tighter control over a precise speed range.
Response Control: lets the operator adjust how aggressively the transmission reacts when a travel pedal is pressed.
Electronic Cruise Control: lets the operator set a travel speed.
Stall Guard: automatically monitors the engine’s performance and reduces travel speed when necessary to maintain engine power and torque to prevent engine stalling.
The standard 540-rpm independent rear PTO is also gentle on the engine and powertrain. A button on the dash allows the operator to modulate the PTO startup for a slow, “feathered” engagement of heavier implements to reduce shock load and prevent driveline damage.
A roadside stand is a good entry into direct-marketing your crops. In addition to earning extra income without a middleman taking a cut, it’s a good way to promote your farm and test what sells with consumers in your area.
Besides the bricks and mortar (or more likely wood and nails) of your stand, consider the “intangibles” necessary to pull off a successful farm stand that will keep customers coming back week after week. Smiles and a pleasant personality go a long way. “Your people are your most important asset,” says Kent Halla, owner of Sierra Vista Growers (and a fleet of Massey Ferguson tractors) in La Union, N.M.
Halla’s thriving nursery and organic food business started as a small operation that sold vegetables from his adjacent farm. “When you are knowledgeable, interested, engaged and you like what you do, that energy radiates to the customer,” he says.
With that in mind, here, then, are a few tips to help get your roadside stand up and running.
At the state and local levels, you’ll need to inquire about licenses, health permits, sales taxes, weight and measure requirements, and zoning and right-of-way regulations. Accident and product liability insurance may be required.
The best location for a roadside stand is on or near your farm, and, if possible, 15 minutes or less outside a populated area. Ideally, it will be situated on a straight thoroughfare (so the stand is visible from a distance) and where traffic is relatively slow moving (47 mph or less).
Outfitting and Operating
The stand itself can be a simple post-and-beam structure, a pole shed, a tent, a trailer, or a canopy covering a truck or hay rack; it just needs to protect you, the customers and the produce from weather. Face the stand north or south to avoid the withering effects of the morning and afternoon sun.
You’ll also need a moneybox or cash register, a scale, hand-held shopping baskets or bags, and some sort of display system for your produce—bins, boxes, baskets or tables. Clearly post prices, which can be set according to weight, count or volume. Use competitor prices as guidelines.
Hours of operation should be determined by traffic flow and what you have available to sell. Typically, the highest customer traffic will be on the weekends.
All that’s needed on a road sign is the farm name, distance to the stand, and perhaps a drawing of produce. For highest readability, letters on signs should be 1/5th as wide as they are high. Place road signs at least 1/4 mile from the stand in both directions.
The traditional advertising route is signs, flyers and newspaper ads. Free and effective forms of advertising include Internet forums and social media sites. Open a Twitter or Facebook account and keep followers up to date. Make sure to solicit followers to these sites in ads and on signs and flyers.
The best form of advertising, bar none, is word of mouth from satisfied customers. This will come in time as a result of your high-quality products, pleasant atmosphere, and that energy and enthusiasm you offer your customers.