Wow, what a nice fall! It’s incredible as I write this just days before Christmas that it’s over 40 degrees…..in Minnesota! And no snow yet! We had more snow in October than in December so far! I feared we would struggle thru harvest when we were shut down for about 5 days in October due to snow. We actually had to put our plows on the pickups and move snow for people during that break in harvest. Then we go on to see record temps and beautiful weather after harvest. As much as I enjoy the change of seasons and a white Christmas, we have enjoyed the nice weather.
Harvest started for us on August 15th as we began to open sugarbeet fields. Our beet co-op expected a record crop and therefore we needed to start “pre-pile” in mid August. All growers get a tonnage allotment to be harvested and delivered to the piling sites to allow the factory to start processing. We don’t want to begin piling the beets on the strips until ground temperatures are close to 50 degrees. So we deliver beets to designated piling sites that are then reloaded onto other trucks to deliver to the factory for processing. No beets are left on the piling strips much longer than 5 days or they begin to rot or spoil. We have two “rounds” of pre-pile throughout September before full harvest begins around October 5th. At this point, we harvest on a 12 hour shift that began at 3 am to 3 pm. We typically try to open up every field during this pre-pile harvest but this year chose to take our first round allotment and harvest our hail damaged beets from the July 11th storm. These beets were completely defoliated and actually produced new leaves again but took all the root growth and sugar accumulation out of the beet to grow new leaves. The crop was poor and by harvesting early we could maximize our crop insurance coverage. This insurance helps but is a far cry from getting paid for a good crop! Our beet crop was hammered by 6-8” rain events and hail on some. Our average yields were all over the place depending on how the weather affected them. Some fields were respectable and others very frustrating. Fortunately, the weather cooperated and harvest went pretty good. I ran the beet lifter for most of full harvest and enjoyed it as I haven’t done this for about 10 years! Sugar prices have been good and our sugar content was almost record high for our cooperative. This combines to allow for a much better payment and brighter future. Although we were not happy with our results, we are excited about 2021 and the possibilities for a more profitable year.
Soybean harvest began about September 20th. Yields again were variable. We had 70 plus bushel beans that missed bad weather, 25-35 bushel beans where it hailed some, and zero bushel beans where it hailed them off or drown out from too much rain. Our bean crop was much more affected by the weather events than the other crops. We had been aggressive in contracting soybeans for delivery either during or just after harvest. Because of the short crop after poor weather, we were forced to purchase some bushels of soybeans to fullfill our contracts. On top of poor luck, the grain markets found a way to rally during harvest which never happens. So, we were short beans that cost more to buy than we had contracted for to deliver. Aaaarrrggghhh! The bean bins are empty as we watch the market continue to rally with high demand. Isn’t farming fun……a double whammy!? Yuck!!
Corn harvest wasn’t near the roller coaster crop as the others. Early harvested fields were about 24-25% but dried down quickly to keep us closer to 20% or less as we finished. What a change from 2019 harvest. We used about 40 % of the LP we had to purchase in 2019 and at about half the price! Yields again were somewhat varied but we had some phenomenal fields and some disappointments. Quality is very good so this crop should be easy to store until deliveries throughout the winter and spring.
We raised 100 acres of wheat this year. I have never raised this crop in 35 years of farming! The intent was to plant the wheat to give us the ability to pattern tile part of a 210 acre farm in August. Despite poor seeding conditions as a result of the horrible fall of 2019, the wheat got off to a slow start and excelled thru the summer. We harvested 46 bushel wheat and delivered to Cargill in Savage for $5.60 a bushel. We hired the straw to be round baled and still have that to sell. It will be a great rotational crop and we look forward to the corn crop we will plant on this well drained portion of this farm next year.
Our harvest crew was again phenomenal! We had several of our “RV Crew” return to thankfully experience a pleasant harvest! We also were able to have a few local guys help out as well. Again this year, we rented a few trucks and most days during the heat of the battle we had 8 trucks and drivers hauling loads of corn, soybeans, sugarbeets, lime or fertilizer.
We also had a truck on hauling peas and sweetcorn from mid June to October 1st this year. Our trucks get lots of miles and fortunately, held up pretty well!
Jason had suffered with hip/back pain since late summer. After dealing with chiropractors, doctors and MRIs, it was determined he had a ruptured disk that would need surgery. We had to finish harvest by Nov. 9th as he would be going under the knife that day! He had to recover for 6 weeks and we are happy to have him back in the shop as of last week. He does a fantastic job keeping our combine rolling as we need to cover a lot of acres with one machine. I felt sorry for him as “sitting” was very uncomfortable, so it was no surprise to see him take a break once in a while or at the end of the night and climb down from the combine and lay down in the cornstalks to stretch! Now if I would’ve only taken that picture!? Jason and Steve Friedrichs, that runs our grain cart, probably handled over 800,000 bushels between our crops and custom work we do! Great job guys!
We reorganized to allow Chris to be our tillage guy. His job was to “catch the combine” by doing all the vertical tillage and operate the strip tillage equipment. Despite some major issues that reared their ugly head with our limited tillage equipment, he managed to cover all the acres as we wanted to prepare for spring planting. That’s a great feeling after getting cut short the past two falls. Not only does he keep his rig running but coaches the rest of us with all the technology on our operation. He truly is way ahead of my “tech” abilities! Well done!
Derek has stepped up from “jack of all trades” to assume the sugarbeet defoliater driver. This is very important to remove the leaves of the beet plant to allow for a clean, petiole free beet to be harvested and delivered to the piler. This operation not only affects the tonnage harvested by keeping them in the row to be able to harvest but also maximize the sugar content that we are paid for. His field operation has to happen before I could harvest them so he would generally start 30 minutes before our shift would start so my tractor was nice and warm when I’d get to the field at 2:30 am! He and I were a mechanical team when the lifter broke down. After beet harvest, Derek got some hours in a tractor to run the vertical tillage equipment to help catch the combine. Nice work, Derek!
Howard, my Dad, was kept busy helping us move to the next farm or running for parts. He was always just a phone call away and was such an asset to have involved with us.
I’m kind of the floater during harvest. I was committed to running the beet lifter and then jumped in wherever needed. I got some seat time in the combine, vertical tillage, and the strip tiller, besides helping fix equipment, crawl up grain legs, etc. We have a great team!
After we all completed the long harvest, what did we do…….tile! Although we didn’t have a full crew as Jason was out of commission, we were able to get some tile lines in some areas that have been problems for years. We also installed several thousand feet on some new land we will operate next year. We also did many repair jobs that have been hanging over our heads! It’s so nice to be able to finally scratch some projects off the “to do list” rather than just add more items to it. I think we could spend all winter working on these projects and never get done! But such a great feeling to make improvements to these farms.
We are excited to have the opportunity to expand our operation again. We have some fantastic, life long neighbors that are retiring and called to offer us the chance to rent some of their great farms. This will fit very well into our operation as some of the fields border some of our own land and will make farm operations more seamless. We are so grateful to add them to our RFI family!
Our operation was humbled once again to be chosen as a recipient of the American Soybean Association Conservation Legacy Award winners. We completed an application during harvest after being encouraged by a local Soybean Growers board member. We were one of five operations chosen in the United States for our conservation efforts. It is so rewarding for being recognized for our methods we have come to believe are so beneficial to the environment.
Grain markets surprised us by rallying during harvest. That rarely happens! After a long political battle with China, it appears they are purchasing massive amounts of our commodities. South America was struggling with weather issues also which helped support our markets. This demand should be supportive well into 2021. This paints a much more bullish outlook than we have had for several years. Fingers are crossed for better prices ahead!
How can we not talk about Covid-19! I hope all of you are healthy and avoiding the ill effects of this virus. Our family had a turn at this after harvest as I first became ill and was quarantined to the basement bedroom for 12 days. Severe headaches and fatigue kept me wiped out for 3-4 days and then progressively got better. I avoided joining the rest of our family and would sneak out to the shop on weekends and go for a drive to break up the boredom! One of our daughters came down with it next but only had minor symptoms. As we look back to January, we are wondering if some of the other kids had it and we didn’t know it. Everyone is healthy and anxious to have some freedom back…..without a mask! As vaccines become available, hopefully this becomes a memory in six months! Ethan and Vanessa are still enjoying their new home and projects in Bemidji. As pharmacists, they have seen the rise in Covid victims. They both have gotten the vaccination already. McKaia and her fiancé Jack are also working on home projects in a house they bought in Eden Prairie. They have both been working from home and enjoying the freedom that brings. They are focused on wedding preparations for next June in hopes all can go as planned. Malli, is home from Mankato State on Christmas break, but may not be returning for a while if they continue online classes. Maleia, Mari and Miraya have been also distant learning from school. They are anxious to get back in school and partake in sports activities, hopefully soon. Sandy is probably busier with them home as the groceries disappear quickly and the clothes hamper is always full! She continues to keep us all focused and the house and farm books organized. She is taking a break from teaching this year and enjoying more freedom. We actually snuck away for a quick trip to Orlando, Florida last week for 4 days. It’s not difficult to enjoy the warmth and the beach! I continue to stay busy with farm operations, Zoom meetings for a bank advisory board and sugarbeet coop board. We will be Zoom experts by the time this is over! Travel will be limited so we’ll be closer to home this winter.
With the Holiday Season upon us, please enjoy the time we have with family and friends even though our time together will be limited. Stay healthy! Take time to remember the Reason for the Season! We look back at a crazy 2020 and all the unexpected events that we survived. We are so thankful for our growing Ryberg Farms Inc. family and the continued relationships we build with each of you. Despite a frustrating string of events, we are truly blessed to work with all of you! Thank you so much for your presence in our lives! God Bless you and your families! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
-Brian and Sandy Ryberg