These Boots….

A good pair of boots become a part of who you are. In ways, they can be like a loyal dog. They are always there for you no matter the situation, providing protection and comfort when needed, and never complaining. Though work boots are often easy to take for granted, you couldn’t imagine living life without them. Maybe that is why it is so hard to let them go.

If you are anything like me you spend probably to much time finding a new pair of boots, trying them on for fit, analyzing every feature to be sure they are up to the tasks you’ll put them through, inspecting every last stitch hoping to catch a flaw while still in the store and not when in the muck. They are an important tool that you’ll use every day and you don’t mind shelling out the money for a good pair as long as they live up to expectations.

The life of a pair of good work boots is often very harsh. You trust these boots to keep your feet dry and protected day and night. You walk, run, and stomp unknown miles in them, in all sorts of terrain and, uh, substances. They get covered in manure, oil, grease, mud, fuel, you name it and it is probably on your boot. They’ve saved you from smashed toes and feet more times than you can count. Then one day it happens, they finally give you a sign that they are ready for retirement.

The first sign came a couple weeks ago, I managed to tear the leather on the heel area of my right boot, not knowing what else to do, and shoe repair places becoming a thing of the past, I glued a rubber tire patch over the hole. Then yesterday as I was out in a corn field I felt a sharp poke in my right foot, upon further inspection a piece of corn stalk actually penetrated the sole of the boot, a definitive sign of what must be done.
Though my other, more beautiful, half tried to tell me a couple months ago it was time to replace them I didn’t listen. I just couldn’t bring myself to get a new pair. These boots are MINE, they’ve conformed to my feet, they’ve been well weathered and worn and have gotten quite comfortable, and until yesterday never let me down or given me any reason to doubt their worthiness. Now, I see she was right, it is time to find a new pair and that leaves me with a decision to make regarding these Georgia boots of mine. Do I hold a funeral for them, sending them to cremation with other farm trash or do I relegate them to light duty? Either way, as the torch gets passed on to the new pair, I will be a little sad to see these old ones go.


Case IH Robo-Tractor

As you probably are already well aware, CNH Global revealed their new autonomous tractor concept. They have been showcasing both the cabless Case IH version as well as a cabbed New Holland model. These tractors have been paraded around the country to some of the biggest farm shows around, but are these tractors really a look at our immediate future? Well here is my take.

If you are like me the announcement of the Robo-Tractor, as I like to call it, made you cringe. I just can not imagine a world where the tractors did the work with no operator. It seems to go against our agricultural legacy. However, we all should know by now that new and improved technologies emerge every day and this Robo-Tractor wasn’t exactly a huge surprise to me.

Personally, I don’t see this Robo-Tractor coming to a farm near you anytime soon. For one, this big reveal was not a new model or product announcement, it wasn’t meant to show you what will be on every dealer lot next year, this is only to show you what they are working on and what the future of farm machinery COULD look like. These autonomous tractors as well as their new slogan are nothing more than a marketing gimmick to try to boost sales for CNH.
The public’s opinion on these machines is less than optimistic based on everyone I’ve talked to and numerous articles written about it. Most farmers just aren’t ready for the day where they spend less time out of the tractor and more time in an office. Many farmers have pointed out the obvious pitfalls of such a machine, such as it not detecting a wet spot that a human operator may have been able to avoid or problems with the implements hooked behind the tractor, it does you no good if you have to drive out to the field 8 times  to fix or adjust a piece of equipment. Roadability is a big concern, in the video released by CNH they mentioned it being able to travel to the field on its own on private roads and paths. That doesn’t always work real well in some parts of the country where you are more often than not moving machinery on public roadways. There is a real concern of price. We can only speculate now, but everyone is guessing these tractors will be very, very, very expensive, higher than tractors are already.

I believe the version of the Case IH tractor they revealed will be a flop if ever released in that form. It isn’t versatile enough to be of much use to the average farm. The New Holland version they are showing however, could have some success as it still has a cab as well as a user friendly operating station like our current tractors and is meant to be easily used either driverless or with an operator. The only way I see very many of either version being sold is if big corporations buy them in an effort to reduce labor. I’m talking the farms that the owner or share holder owners don’t make any real day to day decisions but are there to manage the finances and try to collect a healthy profit for themselves. These are people that have likely never farmed or even stepped foot on the place they own.


Quite frankly, I don’t like this thing and I share the same views and opinions of many others. I believe it will cost to much, not necessarily make life or work any easier, and the cost of repairs will be horrendous. I also see almost zero benefit to the average farmer. We already have GPS guidance systems and auto-steer to help us out, what will this thing do that we can’t already do? If I own a piece of equipment I prefer a human to accompany said equipment in case there are any issues. I don’t want to be tied to my computer or smart phone any more than I already am. If I send an employee out to the field with a tractor to do some tillage I know that he/she will only call me if there is a question or issue, and other than that I know the machine is in good hands. If I send a Robo-Tractor to the field to do some tillage I have to periodically check on it with my computer, tablet, or phone thus limiting the amount of work I can get done myself. I don’t like the idea that this computerized abomination can possibly put people out of a job. I am frustrated with the fact that CNH is trying to come across as leaders of unmarked territory, when in fact there are companies already producing autonomous tractors as well as converting existing tractors to be fully autonomous. I’ll give them credit on that paint scheme though.

Do I believe the autonomous tractor will eventually make its way into every day farm life? Of course I do, but I think we are still a ways off from that happening. I think the agriculture economy will have to improve drastically before many people even consider purchasing such a machine. I also believe that the technology still has growing to do before that day arrives.

The Importance of Carpet Farming

If you grew up on a farm or around a farm or in a rural area you likely have fond memories of farming several thousand acres on the floors of your bedroom, kitchen, living room, hall ways, and even some custom work for a neighbor over in the bathroom. You likely had some of the newest equipment of your favorite color. There were probably times you had to beg your sister for some pasture space in her room for your newest heifers.

At times I see kids tearing across the floor combining corn or baling hay and I’d give nearly anything to be able to go back to those days when a trip with Mom or Dad to the local farm store or implement dealer meant a chance to hopefully bring home another piece of equipment for MY farm. My birthday, Christmas, and sometimes Easter usually meant I’d get at least one new addition for the farm.
Carpet farming taught me as well as other kids some very important lessons over the years. A large part of that state of the art machinery I had was purchased with my own money and I learned early the importance of saving for what I wanted and budgeting expenses accordingly. I also learned what it felt like to beg the banker (Mom and Dad) to spot me the money that I PROMISED to pay back (I wonder how many of those promises I actually made good on). I still remember the first time I learned about sales tax. I was at the Clay County Fair and though my farm was primarily green, a toy booth had a New Holland tractor and implement, I think a ripper, and for some reason I thought I needed that for an upgrade. I happily went to the check out counter and bought my newest equipment, after walking back to where I was meeting my parents I realized the change I received wasn’t correct, or so I thought. I failed to realize we had to pay sales tax, boy that was a shock.
I’m sure you all have similar memories and lessons learned from those days. We also shouldn’t forget how much fun a kid has when his/her parents, grandparents, or any adult really, gets down on the floor and plays along. Kiddos love that, especially if you let them be farm manager. You may be amazed at how much fun your having yourself, that is until you try to get up and those old knees are stiffened up.

To all my Carpet Farmers out there; Farm ON!

What the New World Record Soybean Yield Means to Soybean Growers

There has been a lot of talk since Randy Dowdy broke the soybean world record with a yield  of 171.8 bushel per acre. Dowdy is also a former corn world record holder as well. When talking with growers and various people involved in agriculture following this record there seems to be two groups that people fall into, I’ve labeled them the “Overly Optimistics” and the “Soybean Bummers”.

The Overly Optimistics are all people that believe that now that we know soybeans can produce nearly 172 bpa that it means in the very near future we will all be well above 100 bpa for farm averages on beans. I admire the enthusiasm of the people in this group though I think they are a bit off the mark to assume we will all be growing 100 bushel soybeans.

The Soybean Bummers are the people who come up with every reason to be upset or unimpressed at this feat. They claim it only happened due to perfect weather. I’ve heard the “well it was only on a couple of acres” line. I’ve also heard “I bet he spent more producing them then they are worth” line. They believe that this has no bearing whatsoever on the their farm or the farms of anyone they know and should be ignored. While the Soybean Bummers may not be completely wrong necessarily, they aren’t completely right either.
My take on the record is that it is overall great news for progressive thinking growers. I have listened and spoke to numerous yield champs not only growing soybeans but corn, milo, wheat, etc. I have spoke with former soybean world record holder Kip Cullers, I’ve listened to many NCGA champs including Jerry Cox. I encourage anyone who has the opportunity to listen or speak with any of these highly successful growers to do so. What I’ve heard these guys say time and time again is that these contest plots and fields may not always be the most economical on their farm but the knowledge they gain from doing them is invaluable. Don’t take this to literally however, just because something worked for Joe the farmer in Kansas and he topped corn or soybean yields doesn’t mean it will work for a Steve the farmer in Ohio.

So, no I don’t know the cost of inputs on this 171.8 bpa soybeans but I do know that due to this yield we learn more about the soybean plant than we knew before. Yield contest plots are a great source of experimentation and research. These plots often lead to new or improved practices and techniques for raising crops as well as new products. So whether you are a Soybean Bummer or a Overly Optimistic remember that we can all learn from this record yield and help improve our own bottom line.

10 Supplemental Incomes for the Farm Family

With lean commodity prices and no drastic changes in sight many farms and farm families are looking for new ways to supplement their farm income without taking jobs in town. Many of you already have diversified operations, you may have both livestock and row crops and still finding yourself needing a little more. Below is a list of 10 supplemental income ideas without having to take a 9-5 job in town.

1. Bee Keeping:
 It is no secret that honey bees are struggling and scientist don’t quite know why. It is also no secret that honey is delicious. Many farms are finding a new cash flow source in raising honey bees. 

Money can be made off of bees multiple ways: 1. Selling honey directly to the consumer. 2. Selling honey to a wholesaler 3. Selling bee by-product (aka wax) 4. Making and selling products made from the beeswax. 5. Renting out hives. 

 Due to bees and other pollinators having issues, there is now a market where beekeepers actually rent hives to growers as pollination tools. The principle is pretty simple, the beekeeper rents the hive full of bees to a grower whether it be a crop farmer, gardner, etc and in return the bees pollinates the growers plants and everyone is happy. The average hive rental is somewhere between $100-150 each.
2. Selling Manure: 
If you have livestock of any kind, you have manure. More and more gardeners, landscapers, horticulturists, etc are using livestock manure to fertilize their plants. Whether it is plain ole manure or composted manure the demand is growing. I know many of you are spreading your manure on your farm fields but keep in mind that what you don’t use might be able to be sold. I know a local individual who raises show rabbits who sells the rabbit manure, and is compensated adequately.

3. Renting parking space: 
Some farms have discovered that the little 2 acre pasture by the barn is making more money rented out for trailer, camper, RV, and boat parking than it was making by housing livestock. If you rather not have a bunch of other people’s stuff sitting outside near your farm, consider building a shed and renting out space. Space for trailers, RV’s, boats, etc is commonly rented per foot in length, locally the spots start at $20 per foot. This may make a building a new machine shed worth the cost. Many people who are doing this are building sheds a bit larger than what they personally need and keeping their equipment and things in one half while renting out the other.

4. Selling Produce: 
You probably think I’m crazy at this point, especially after reading about bee rental, but pretty good money can be made selling produce. Since I am from Iowa I will use sweet corn as an example. Every summer people love to eat fresh sweet corn. What Wal Mart or the local grocery store has though, may be anything but fresh and often imported from the Southern U.S. With sweet corn season comes roadside sweet corn stands. Many of these stands this last summer were advertising their corn at $6-7 per dozen ears. Doesn’t take a math genius to tell you that there is pretty good money selling sweet corn. If you have a smaller field it may be something to consider. In other parts of the country selling fresh vegetables may also be a viable option. Other produce you can sell directly to the consumer may include strawberries, asparagus, rhubarb, or even firewood.

5. Renting to Photographers: 
Many photographers like to go to farms for photoshoots. They may like a barn or building on your property, your grove, or an old dilapidated truck or tractor you forgot was sitting in weeds as a back drop. Don’t feel bad charging if a photographer knocks on your door and asks to use your farm, but keep it realistic. If the photographer asks they probably won’t mind paying $10 for that photo session as long as you don’t allow every other photographer in the county to due the same. Try making an “exclusive deal” with a photographer. An example may be to charge $5 for every photo session but you will give them exclusive access to your farm. It may not be much, but then again you never know, you may end up with $20 extra every month.

6. Renting your farm as a Wedding or Event Venue: 
Many farms now are offering space for outdoor weddings and other events. This can be challenging. There are some liability issues, so you’ll want to talk to an insurance agent about this before deciding to to do it. You also may not want to deal with the noise and commotion if you live on site (though you’d likely have to be there anyway to monitor things). What is also becoming popular is using old barns for weddings and receptions. If you have a barn that you aren’t keeping livestock in this may be a good use of it with a few renovations.

7. Leasing ground to Hunters: 
If you have some timber, CRP, or any other good wildlife habitat and you aren’t a hunter yourself, this is an excellent opportunity to make some extra dough. Many hunters don’t mind paying for a hunting lease on good land. From white tail deer to wild turkey to game birds such as pheasant and quail if you have the habitat and animals the hunters will come. Even in places such as South Dakota and Kansas people will actually pay land owners to shoot vermin such as prairie dogs and coyote. Keep in mind this may also require you to purchase some sort liability coverage.

8. Ag Tourism: 
Ag. Tourism is huge. In rural communities all across the country people are capitalizing on Ag. Tourism. Consider building a corn maze, planting a pumpkin patch, apple orchard, Christmas tree farm, a haunted house in a barn/outbuilding. All of these will bring in people and give you a way of advertising your new bee rental business 😉
9. CRP: Now before anyone gets mad, I’m not talking about putting every acre you own into CRP. I like to see land in production just as much as the next person but in some circumstances CRP is the way to go. If you have a smaller tract of qualifying land that doesn’t produce the best crops, CRP may be your best option. This is especially true if it is a part of any crucial watershed. Right now it is not uncommon for the CRP rate to be higher than the cash rent would be if rented to a crop producer. For example I know an individual who just enrolled a field that is a little over 6 acres into the program. He was currently getting less than $70 per acre in rent. This field has a pretty decently sloped hill that tends to get wet in the bottom in the spring time and cooks on the top in the dead of summer. The field has been farmed for 25+ years and never really produces real great. It also borders a creek on one side that dumps into a lake. The CRP rate is just a hair over $300 per acre. It was an easy decision for him to make. There are cost share programs available for the preparation, seeding, and maintenance of the CRP as well.

10. Run your own Ag. Business:
 Some of you will really like this idea and many of you will run from it. Owning and running your business certainly isn’t for everyone. Some farmers are providing skilled trade such as welding for some extra income. Others are doing custom farm work such as tillage, planting, harvesting and spraying. While some are turning to becoming local dealers/sales reps. There is always a need for salespeople for seed, net wrap, chemical, surfactants, fertilizers, etc. Many of these positions are commission based so you can grow as large or stay as small as you feel comfortable with. If you’d like more on becoming an ag. sales rep, send us an email and we can discuss how you can get started.

If You Aren’t Learning, You’re Losing

I know to most farmers the terms class, training, clinic, and seminar sound absolutely terrible. I, for one, am in the same boat. If someone approaches me about one of these learning events I usually dread it, but fact of the matter is if we aren’t actively learning we are losing. This isn’t to say that all learning comes from a class room and that all classes/clinics/trainings are created equally.

I recently attended one of Conklin’s Pro Ag 1 events. Pro Ag, for those that haven’t been to one, is a 2 day fundamentals of agronomy clinic. There, they discuss the importance of soil health, nutrient uptake of various crops, nutrient management (particularly nitrogen), importance of soil and tissue tests and how to read them, among other crop production practices and topics. Though this event is put on by a manufacturer of crop input products it is not a sales meeting. While at lunch the first day of this event, a gentleman at my table shared with me that it was refreshing to attend a corporate sponsored event that wasn’t about pushing product. I think its this pushy sales tactic used for years by many different companies that have turned us off on attending these events. I urge all farmers out there to attend a learning event or listen to a keynote speaker whether it is about crop production, livestock, or even tax planning. We just need to make sure the event we plan on attending is an event worth going to.

Now a class, clinic, or training isn’t the only way for us to learn and grow. Something as simple as talking to other farmers, even in different areas of the country can be very beneficial. Some of the best things I’ve ever learned about both crop production and raising livestock is from other farmers sharing experiences and ideas. There are many ways to connect with fellow farmers and ag. enthusiasts. Social media is a terrific way of connecting with others, my favorite is through Facebook groups. There are tons of agriculture groups to get hooked into. My favorite are, and as well as our very own group,

If we don’t do all we can to learn to be more efficient, more productive, and more sustainable we will suffer. Agriculture is in a tough place right now. It is no secret that the current prices are hurting us and input costs aren’t coming down very fast. We are under constant fire from people who don’t fully understand agriculture and where food comes from. Then, on top of it all, we have government agencies striving to make our lives more difficult with new regulations. We must learn to be productive despite all thats going on, while remaining profitable and sustainable.

National Ag Week

As you probably already know this week (March 13-19) is National Ag Week. Today I’ve noticed a number of posts on social media thanking farmers. This of course is great, but I want to make sure everyone remembers that National Ag Week isn’t just to show appreciation to farmers but all those involved in agriculture.

What many don’t realize is that it takes a great number of people to keep up with the world’s demand for the products we produce. Team work is truly needed for all of us to succeed in this rapidly changing industry, if one wheel falls off the whole car comes to a halt. Farmers and ranchers rely on everyone from truck drivers to veterinarians, agronomists to mechanics, sales people to hired help, advisors of all variety and most of all the farm/ranch families. This week is truly for all of us involved in agriculture.

Agriculture is the nation’s largest employer of over 23 million people, and in 2010 the U.S. exported more than $115 billion worth of agricultural products. These figures go to show how much impact each and every one us make to not only the nation, but to everyone around world. Give yourselves a huge pat on the back!