Oh, what a long fall! This harvest felt like it was 3 months long. Despite, the occasional difficult conditions, the crop was average or even better, considering the struggle!Our awesome crew didn’t give up and we got through it together. Somehow, we made it through the rain, mud, frost, repairs, more rain, mud, frost, and then snow! We finished all harvest activities Tuesday night before Thanksgiving, just hours prior to 4-6” of snow…so we went from harvesting to plowing snow for clients in about 12 hours. Not only did we have to deal with Mother Nature, but we also were impacted by “propane” issues. We assumed that the ag industry would know that farmers would need more propane due to late planting conditions and cooler-than-normal summer weather. We knew we would be dealing with an unusual wet corn crop and would be dependent on our corn dryers to work overtime. Despite contracting large amounts of propane this summer, we were forced to park the combine for about five days awaiting a supply of propane. We already had several bins full of wet corn to be dried and had to put harvest on pause. This delayed us from harvesting about 800 acres during this time period, let alone the wet corn in the bins. We couldn’t get our “contracted” loads and were also forced to pay double the price to get any supply at all. I was so frustrated that I researched and contacted the Minnesota Propane Association Executive Director…the top dog! After I educated him on the issues we were having and he shared his thoughts, it was pretty obvious that part of the problem stemmed from the lack of education and awareness that he had. Moving forward, we survived the slow start and were able to get an adequate supply of propane to finish. It was a lesson to me to not depend on the things you ASSUME will be okay, year to year. To say the least, it was such a relief to finish harvest.
We had a great harvest team that truly impacted the outcome of this year’s harvest! In the past, we generally hire owner/operators to pull our sugarbeet trailers for the fall. We were warned last fall that one of our long-time owner/operators would not have three trucks available for us this year as he was eliminating that service. Over the summer, I learned of a website for “Workers on Wheels” that allowed us to post a “Want Ad” for harvest help. This website targets people that live in their RV and travel a fair amount to experience new things. Most of these people are retired professionals from various careers and move around the country to learn and experience something new while earning some money to keep them going. We hired five awesome people that traveled to this area from Missouri, Colorado, Arizona, and Washington. Some were on-the-road truck drivers, one was a retired Pastor, a career military, and software sales. All of them were excellent people that enjoyed being part of our team. They began the fall camping at Lake Allie Park, north of our farm 10 miles. But, do to very cold temps, had to relocate to our farm, a motel in Hutchinson or hit the road for warmer climates. Most of them enjoyed this “horrible” fall so much, they have committed to returning Fall 2020! With this added help, we were able to rent three more semis and haul all our own sugarbeets as well as keep four grain trailers moving. We were so appreciative of the extra help and truly hope these guys return. Maybe, we can show them a nice, relaxing fall in 2020?
Grain markets seem to continue the same flat line price pattern. Everyone continues to await some agreement between President Trump and China for the trade market. I’m concerned that this process has taken so long to conclude, that we may have lost those markets to other countries in the meantime. Along with these talks, we are keeping an eye on the agreements being made with Canada and Mexico. As farmers, we absolutely prefer a fair market price, rather than “band-aid” payments to us. We are hoping to see some price recovery and better world market trade for 2020. Right now, we are hauling corn to an Ethanol Plant in Bingham Lake, MN. Southwest MN was severely impacted by a record number of acres that couldn’t be planted, that this plant is having to pay higher amounts for corn to continue to process ethanol. We were lucky and took advantage of Bingham Lake Ethanol Plant’s high corn bid for a few days. It’s only a few miles further than hauling to the river ports in Savage, MN. We will also be hauling corn to Lake Crystal Ethanol Plant, Winthrop Ethanol Plant, Cargill in Savage, and our local co-op in town this winter. We like to keep corn moving during winter months to take away from this time-consuming work in the spring/summer when we are in the field. Soybeans will also be delivered to Mankato and Savage this winter.
Our crops yielded fairly well considering the year and conditions. Soybean yields were surprisingly very good where we could handle the excess water. The poorer tiled fields were more affected and these yields suffered. Corn was much of the same story. Our earlier planted fields were fantastic! We actually saw over 300 bu/acre on the yield monitor a few times! We didn’t see averages that high, of course, but none the less some very nice results. As planting date was delayed into June, yield, moisture, and quality threatened to drag our averages down. We continue to see the need for more drainage and plan to try some tiling after the crop is planted in soybean fields for 2020. Fall weather like this year, doesn’t allow us to install tile so we need to look for other opportunities. Sugarbeets followed a similar course. The earlier fields planted were very good, but we had two farms that couldn’t escape the wrath of pounding rains and hail several times throughout the season and showed very poor results. It was very frustrating at times.
When not hauling corn, we are still in the process of cleaning up all the fall equipment and parking in the shed. Everything is quite a mess! After clean up, we will begin our maintenance process, which involves inspecting and repairing all our equipment to be ready for another year. This will take several months but we are fortunate to have skilled help to accomplish most of this ourselves. We do take our John Deere equipment and run through their inspection program to eliminate any downtime in the future. It’s great to have a large, warm shop to service these things ahead of time. Of course, when it snows, we continue to do snow removal for over 30 places in the area too. Never a dull, quiet moment in our shop! We all plan to schedule some travel time in the winter as well. Scoob will no doubt take his family somewhere warm during spring break. Chris will join his in-laws in Texas for a week. I have a few trips planned as well. A friend from Toronto, Canada has asked me to come to a Conference in his area to talk about the conservation methods we are implementing on our farm. So, in mid-February, I’ll be going to Canada for three days. Serving on the sugarbeet board, I will be in Orlando for five days in early February. In late February, we won a trip to San Antonio to the Commodity Classic farm show as well. Our strip till manufacturer, Environmental Tillage Systems, encouraged our farm to apply for a 4R Award given out by the National Fertilizer Institute. The application asked many questions about our operation in dealing with fertilizer application. The 4R’s are right source, right time, right amount, and right method of application. Our farm was chosen as one of only five awards given out in the nation! We are truly humbled and appreciative of this honor! To add to successful recognition, our farm was also chosen as the Sibley County Conservation Farm for 2019 and we are very thrilled to share our story with others.
Our family continues to stay very busy. Sandy is still teaching part-time and keeps our farm records and activities in order. There is never a day that she is sitting still or going to different events for the kids. Ethan and Vanessa are enjoying Bemidji and its beautiful surroundings, as they moved there this past summer. Recently, Ethan has begun working the night shift in the ER of the clinic at the Red Lake Indian Reservation. He’s seen some wild things already but really enjoys it. McKaia has settled in nicely in Edina and is challenged with her job for the City of Minnetonka. Last week, her boyfriend,Jack, graduated from NDSU and is seeking a job in the Human Resources/Management industry. They will no doubt find plenty to do around the cities. Malli, a senior at BOLD, continues her post-secondary education at Ridgewater in Hutchinson. After graduation, she will attend Mankato State University for Graphic Design. Her school dance team is doing well, so far this season. Maleia, a junior at BOLD, is taking several online post-secondary classes like her older sisters. She had an awesome Cross-Country season and has chosen to help out as a manager for her younger sister’s basketball team this winter. She continues to run most days after school to be ready for the spring track season. Mari, freshman at BOLD, had a great volleyball season and is now playing basketball. At 5’10”, she has been a starting member of both the varsity volleyball and basketball teams. Mari also plays on a traveling volleyball team out of Willmar and stays busy with school and sports! Miraya, 7th grade at St. Mary’s, also did well in Cross-Country this fall and is currently on the BOLD Dance team with her big sister. All the kids are fun to watch as they progress in their activities.
This holiday season, we take time to reflect on the year. It has certainly been a wild ride! We are so appreciative of our farm crew, our landlord and business partners that make our operation successful. We’d like to offer our blessings to each of your families as we celebrate the holidays this year. May your 2020 be filled with good health and prosperity!
-Brian and Sandy and Family