Where has the time gone? We missed out on providing a Spring Newsletter (my fault!) but I think you will understand why by the end of this!
During the winter months, we stay busy in the shop. Our goal is to perform all necessary maintenance on every piece of equipment to prepare for the next season. We also like to deliver corn on contracts to free up work load in the spring and keep moving corn out of storage to prevent spoilage. This winter, we also built a 24 row planter from the ground up, built another water trailer so each of our sprayers can run simultaneously, and reconditioned a Hagie self propelled sprayer we added to our lineup. The planter was an interesting project. It appears to look like a John Deere planter but in reality very few parts are made by John Deere. We worked with a Precision Planting dealer to obtain all the parts and assembled It piece by piece in our shop. The bar was made in Nebraska and shipped to us to begin the project. This planter has some of the latest and greatest technology installed on it. It is set up to plant at high speeds compared to a conventional planter. We normally plant sugarbeets at 4 mph and corn at 5 mph. This planter can accurately plant these crops at 7-10 mph. It has hydraulic downforce to maintain desired depth. We installed three “Smart Firmers” on the planter that instantly shows and records soil moisture, soil pH, soil temperature, and a few other things. Due to the higher speeds, we could plant as much or more with this new 24 row as we can with our 36 row planter. Because we “pieced” this planter together, we were able to save a lot of money and yet install all the performance attachments. Everything can be adjusted and monitored from the cab on the go. Thanks to auto steer, we can watch all the monitors and make necessary adjustments for peak performance. The planter performed flawlessly until we had the last few acres of corn left when Chris noticed the bar had cracked severely. We were able to finish the corn but had to park the planter and finish the soybeans with the 36 row. The company that built the bar has agreed to supply us with a new and improved design but we need to take everything off our damaged bar and move to the new one when it comes. This will be a lot of work that none of us are looking forward to!
Winter ended early and Spring appeared. I kept waiting for a wet, heavy snow that usually has to happen just as we get our hopes up for early planting. Low and behold, it never happened and we started planting very early. We actually planted a field of sugarbeets the day after Easter, April 5th, conditions were very nice to begin planting and we wanted to test out a new planter we built over winter to make sure it would be fully operational for the Spring. The planter performed flawlessly and we were confident it was ready for the big push. We chose to wait for some time and resumed planting sugarbeets about April 14th. With the new planter running at higher speeds, it only took Chris a few days to have all the beets planted. We then fired up both the 24 row and 36 row planters to plant corn and after a few days, we had a majority of the corn acres planted so we switched Jason and the 36 row to soybeans while Chris finished the corn. These guys are very efficient at eating up acres! Derek and I are the “gophers” and we keep seed and fertilizer tended to them in each field so they can fill up Nascar style and get the crop in when conditions are nice. In no time at all, we were done with planting! I also follow the planters with our two sprayers, one for sugarbeets, and our new to us self-propelled Hagie sprayer applying pre-emerge chemicals to prevent weeds from emerging and causing competition with the growing crop. This worked out very well this year with more spraying power and some extra help to juggle everything. We felt we were off to a great start. Then the weather challenged us. We went from 70’s in early April to 26 degrees in late April, just about the time the sugarbeets were emerging. We did lose some small seedlings to frost and stressed some corn but not enough to replant. Crop growth was slow from cold temps and lack of rainfall as well. To date, we are extremely dry in most areas and as I write this, praying for rain tonight/tomorrow to help our crops! We typically struggle with getting too much water, so this lack of rain seems strange. Surprisingly, the crops are doing ok but the hot afternoons can sure make our corn crop look like its struggling. As the corn nears tasseling, it requires a lot of water so timing of this rain is crucial! We have applied all our fertility for the year and will begin spraying fungicides on the corn at tassel time and also on the sugarbeets to prevent cercospera leaf spot infections that can decimate the leaves which takes away from tonnage and sugar content. The beets will be sprayed every 14 days until mid September. No rest yet!
Our bins are empty and prepared for the coming harvest. Marketing this past crop was very challenging. We typically begin forward contracting our corn and soybeans at profitable levels to lock in margins. This past season threw us a curve ball and began to rally into harvest as China began buying large amounts of grain. Who would have ever thought we would see prices get this high? Adding to that frustration, we lost out on potential bushels with all the acres that were affected by the hail last summer and lowered overall harvest bushels. So, we held tight on filling contracts hoping to get them all filled and not having additional bushels to sell into the rally. We switched our focus on the 2021 crop and have forward contracted about 40-50% of production. The dry weather has us nervous as we aren’t sure how that might cut back potential yields. Marketing is not my favorite thing! We use two advisory services to help make recommendations but they were somewhat caught off guard this past year as well. I’ll let you know if we are doing a better job marketing a year from now!
As mentioned in our last newsletter, we were awarded a Regional Conservation Legacy Award from the American Soybean Association. I didn’t realize it at the time but the 5 Regional Winners then compete for the National Award. To my surprise, we won the National Award! We are very humbled to be recognized for this award. But, very proud of the practices we have successfully implemented on our farm in hopes to be good stewards of the land.
Along with grain market rallies, fertilizer companies want a piece of the action also! Prices for 2022 fertilizer that we will apply this fall have sky rocketed. We have locked in pricing to secure inventory for this fall but not happy with pricing. On high fertility farms, we will apply limited amounts and use this “savings account of fertility” and replace those nutrients when costs decline. This is possible thanks to our aggressive soil sampling protocols. We monitor and take grid soil tests on a regular basis to maximize fertility. Our strip till practices and multiple applications during the growing season also helps us maximize fertility by placing all nutrients close to the row and lowers overall costs.
How can we not talk about Covid when looking back at last year! While we believe the risks are pretty low for the virus to impact us physically, it has affected availability of parts and supplies. We have had to order items further ahead to allow for lag time. Sometimes I wonder if its just a marketing ploy to increase pricing! It’s hard to understand what all these companies were doing during this time as no one seems to have inventory anymore. Interesting times!
Thankfully, our RV crew is geared up to return again for fall harvest. These guys are such a great addition to our normal crew and they jump in with both feet and help out. Let’s hope for nice weather and not excess rain to make up for our current shortage! We will be harvesting a few extra acres again this year so we are really dependent on these guys to keep things rolling!
Our kids were so excited to finally get back in school. It was refreshing to see school and sports open up again. We enjoy watching them participate in their activities. Life returned to somewhat normal and our busy life returned! Ethan and Vanessa continue to do well in Bemidji, obviously dealing with Covid on a daily basis as Pharmacists. They have both given out plenty of vaccines! McKaia and new hubby Jack are settling into their new married life together at their house in Eden Prairie. Their wedding was awesome and well planned! Yes, I shed a few tears but we are very excited to have Jack as part of our family! They enjoyed a honeymoon to the Lake Tahoe area. Jack works in Human Resources for Eide Bailey, a very large accounting firm with locations nationwide. McKaia will be transitioning to a new job for the City of Brooklyn Park as a Strategic Manager. She is excited about the challenge and her new role. Malli is home from college this summer and doing an internship at a Art Center in Hutchinson and also working at Maurices clothing store as assistant manager. I think she is ready to move back to Mankato and be on her own again. Although, this year Maleia will also be in Mankato and living with her big sister in an apartment off campus with another friend. Maleia is working for Rural Computer Consultants in Bird Island, learning about their fuel accounting software business and working on projects they assign to her. She is also eager to move to Mankato and start college. Mari is working for the local school system that offers daycare and activities for school age kids for the summer. She has been attending early morning workouts for sports and attending evening volleyball and basketball practices when they have them. Her basketball team recently won a tournament in Alexandria and were very competitive in another in Mayer, MN. Miraya is also working several days a week this summer, helping out a family babysitting two little girls at their home. As you can see, no rock pickers left on the farm! We had an 8th grade graduation, a high school graduation, and a wedding within 30 days! They were wonderful celebrations but it was sure nice to have behind us! Since then, we have tried to spend time at the lake on weekends and over the 4th. The kids were all home to enjoy some lake time together! Obviously, with all the family activities going on, Sandy has been extremely busy helping to facilitate the events. I just do what I’m told and show up where needed! Jason (aka Scoob) is off this week enjoying some fishing in Northern MN with is family. Chris has been able to get away also with his wife Sara and daughter Rheagan to participate in some horse competitions.
As always, we are so thankful and appreciate working with all of you! You have trusted us in caring for an important asset of yours and we value that as if it was our own. Please reach out with any questions or concerns at anytime! As we approach harvest, feel free to jump in with us on your farms! Our relationships with each of you is very important to our farm family. Unfortunately, we lost Lila this spring after a long battle with cancer. Lila was a joy to be around and loved to visit. We have worked with her family for 30 years and will miss her dearly. Enjoy the summer and safe travels to all! God Bless each of you! Take care!