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Posts Tagged With: modern farmer

Not Your Grandpa’s Combine

There is so much more to farming than you’d ever think.  I’ve been here for eleven years and I’m still amazed.  Last week I had a great time visiting a neighbor’s farm to see how they calibrate their combine monitor for accurate harvest data– and believe me, this is not your Grandpa’s combine!

There is so much to harvest! Here a farmer calibrates his combine's monitor for accurate data.

A combine’s monitor senses the grain coming in and records how much is being harvested.  This lets you know right then how well the field did.  On Bray Farms, Brad used this field to test two different brands of seed, filling half his planter with each type.  Now as he harvests he can see exactly how well each brand did.

That is, he can see exactly if his monitor is working correctly.

There is so much to harvest! Here a farmer calibrates his combine's monitor for accurate data.

To calibrate the combine’s monitor Brad first harvests a small sample of corn.

There is so much to harvest! Here a farmer calibrates his combine's monitor for accurate data.

He gets a reading from the monitor,

There is so much to harvest! Here a farmer calibrates his combine's monitor for accurate data.

and then unloads the corn into a weigh wagon equiped with scales.

There is so much to harvest! Here a farmer calibrates his combine's monitor for accurate data.

This wagon belongs to Cory Robinson of CR Seeds & Services.  He’ll be busy this fall taking it to many farm fields to calibrate monitors and checking to see if the seed he sold is working well for his customers.

There is so much to harvest! Here a farmer calibrates his combine's monitor for accurate data.

Now the wagon weighs the corn as well.

There is so much to harvest! Here a farmer calibrates his combine's monitor for accurate data.

And Cory will check the grain for a few other things while he’s at it.

There is so much to harvest! Here a farmer calibrates his combine's monitor for accurate data.

This tests the percentage of moisture in the corn.  Usually the places you sell corn to want “dry” corn, about 15%.  Brad’s was measuring closer to 19%, which means he’ll need to dry it before it can be sold.  As fall progresses the corn will dry out in the field and less air drying will be necessary.

There is so much to harvest! Here a farmer calibrates his combine's monitor for accurate data.

Cory also uses this little thingamajig (technical term) to find the test weight of the corn– also important when you sell the grain.  Once the tests are done Cory unloads his weigh wagon back onto Brad’s semis, which take the grain back to the dryer.

There is so much to harvest! Here a farmer calibrates his combine's monitor for accurate data.

There is so much to harvest! Here a farmer calibrates his combine's monitor for accurate data.

Then Cory gives Brad the numbers to put into the combine’s monitor.

There is so much to harvest! Here a farmer calibrates his combine's monitor for accurate data.

Look at the last line.  The second column tells what the combine believes the total weight of the load to be. A simple click to the third column allows Brad to input the weigh wagon’s results.

There is so much to harvest! Here a farmer calibrates his combine's monitor for accurate data.

And the monitor will calibrate itself in just a moment to give you the most correct results.

There is so much to harvest! Here a farmer calibrates his combine's monitor for accurate data.

This was Brad’s third test (bottom three rows– top two are from 2014) and the total was 3 pounds off– 0.0%.  The monitor will retroactively change the data from whatever has already been harvested and Brad will have accurate maps he can use to submit to his insurance agent (insurance is based on a five year average for a field), use to plan how much grain to sell, and compare to his planting or fertilizer maps to see what seed is working well and what nutrients the crop may need.

This modern world of agriculture is pretty cool.

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Categories: Farming | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

Picture A Modern Farmer

The AgWired team has been busy at the Farm Progress Show, so I’ve been reading, writing, and posting lots of information about everything new in agriculture.  I’ve been wading through information about ag app developers, tweeting John Deere’s newest tractor capabilities, and watching drones take flight.  Which got me thinking.

Despite being eighty-five years old, American Gothic is too often the picture that comes to mind when you mention “farmer.”

Grant_Wood_-_American_Gothic_-_Google_Art_Project

It would be harder to find something farther from the truth.  In fact, today’s farmers use as much technology as anyone in Silicon Valley.  Let me try to paint that picture for you.

We call it “precision farming.”  First, you might hire a company to come to your field and mark it off in a grid.  A bit of soil is taken from every square on the grid, carefully recorded and tracked.  These soil samples are then sent to a science lab and tested.

A picture of today's modern farmer

It’s then possible to take the maps with those results and upload them to a device in your tractor.  The right kind of equipment can read those maps as the tractor drives through the field and make changes in the amount of fertilizer placed in each grid square so you put on exactly what is needed.  The same idea can happen as you’re planting– putting more seeds in good soil and fewer on thinner ground.

GPS and auto-steer mean the tractor can drive along its path by satellite, with less than one inch of error along the way.  GPS also lets the planter know where it’s been and each row can shut off as the equipment drives over a spot that has already been planted.  Expect the same for the machine that sprays crop protection products over the field.  Automatic shut-off means no waste, no excess.

planter

As the plants grow, farmers can now keep a watchful eye on disease and pests that might ruin a crop with the use of an Unmanned Ariel Vehicle (UAV) or drone.  Or a livestock farmer may use a drone to check cattle grazing on large acreages.

drone

Monitors right in the field can let a farmer know when an irrigation system needs to be turned on, most likely through an alert on his phone.  The farmer can often turn the water on from his phone too.  Fruit and tree growers have access to the same smartphone technology to alert for frost, and animal farmers can check their barns while sitting at a soccer game.

And then there’s harvest.  Combines create maps as they move across the field, recording the yield as it goes along.  These maps can be overlaid with spring planting maps for even more information.  All of that may be tracked with another app from a smartphone.

Modern agriculture is a long way from pitchforks and overalls.

Categories: Farming, Technology | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

What You Don’t Know About Farmers

If a picture is worth a thousand words then the message a film can convey is simply amazing.  Which is why you need to see this movie.  You might be amazed what you don’t know about farmers.

FARMLAND

FARMLAND Teaser Trailer 2014 from Farmland on Vimeo.

It’s available for purchase at Wal-Mart tomorrow, March 3, 2015.  You can also get it from Netflix on DVD (not streaming) or upload from iTunes, youTube, Amazon, and several other stores.

This is how food is grown in America.  FARMLAND documentary

I highly recommend it.

The documentary follows the stories of six young farmers and ranchers of all shapes and sizes.  There’s the “One Woman Farmer” growing produce in the northeast, an organic farmer handling everything from seeds to bar codes in the southwest, a poultry producer, a cattle rancher, hog farmer, and a row crop guy.  And their stories are real.

Really, really, real.

These are the problems we face.  These are the decisions we make.  This is what our life looks like.

This is how food is grown in America.

That’s not something you don’t want to know about.

Categories: Animals, Family, Food | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Resolve to Learn about Your Food in the New Year

The New Year is a great time to set goals for yourself and if being healthier isn’t something you need to work on, well, that would make you pretty awesome.  For the rest of us, and yeah, that’s me and my family, learning about your food can seem like an overwhelming task.  So I’ll be taking the month of January to break down some of the major concerns about the food you eat.  No diet plan, no supplements to buy, just straight-forward knowledge.

I’m ready to go with posts about:

Before we jump off the deep end, lets stick our toes in with a few facts.

I write about me, my farm, my family.  Every farmer has his own story.

Regardless of how different they may be, 97% of of the farms in the US are owned by families.  Corporations own just 3%.  We are men, women, American Indian, Hispanic, Latino, African American, big, small, organic, conventional, livestock, crop, first generation, fifth generation, moms, dads, children, and grandchildren.

Nothing I could ever write would encompass us all.  What works on my farm won’t help my neighbor.  What is true for my family isn’t the same for a potato grower in Idaho.  And for all the thousands of farmers holding to good old American values there are those who don’t.  But that’s not farmers, that’s people.

In fact I can only think of two things we have in common.  The first is that there are just over 3 million of us in the US.  That’s 2% of the population.  We are a minority.

The second is that we eat.  We eat the food we grow.  We feed it to our children.  The choices we make on our farms are important to us, just like they are to you.

Because there aren’t many of us you might not know a farmer.  Maybe you haven’t been on a farm since you were a kid, or maybe never at all.  There is a 98% chance your family doesn’t grow the food we eat.

My goal is to share what we do and to help you make choices about the food you buy.  I want to show you the decisions we make and why we make them.  And no more than I can tell my neighbor what is best for his farm, I’m not here to tell you what is best for your family.

But knowledge is power.  So resolve to learn about your food in the new year.

Categories: Food | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Harvest Humor

Question.  How do you move corn from one grain bin to another?  Answer.  Not easily.

When we take corn from the field the combine harvests it,

How a harvest crew travels! {DaddysTractor.com}

the combine unloads the corn into the cart,

Harvest photograph

the cart unloads into the semi,

Harvest

and the semi unloads into the grain bins.

But moving corn from bin to bin isn’t something we’re set up to do easily.  So when we needed to move some grain around Daddy planned for a full day of unloading grain into the semis the way we do when we take it to the elevator to sell it and then putting it back into the new bin we way we would from the field.

And then they came up with this.

On your left you see the yellow stream of corn as it comes out of the bottom of the bin and a grain vac brings it up to dump into the wagon.  The wagon’s bottom is open, allowing the corn to dump right into the next auger, which transports it across the lot into the semi.  The semi’s bottom is also open, dumping corn into another auger, which then lifts the grain up into the proper bin.  The tractors are there to provide power for this little operation.  They have hook ups in the back that allows them to transfer energy from their engines to the augers.

A nicely set up operation might have a grain loop to accomplish this with much less effort.

But where’s the fun in that?!

Categories: Science | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Knee-High by the…

If you can make jello salad with marshmallows six different ways you might know what I’m talking about.  Actually if you’ve been on the internet anytime in the last 15 years you’ll definitely know what I’m talking about.  Those lists.  You know, 15 ways to tell you’re the mother of toddlers.  (Write checks with the crayons in your purse.)   8 things both college and preschool students do.  (Wear your backpack on both shoulders.) And 23 ways to know you’re from Missouri. (That’d be the marshmallow salad.)

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And while making salad from jello and marshmallows is a legitimate way to assess your geographical origins, there is always one notation on these lists that suggests knowing the corn should be knee-high by the 4th of July is a trait Midwesterners share.

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This one drives me nuts.

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It is true that corn in years past didn’t grow as tall as corn today, but I’d never claim to be old enough to tell you if this adage once held any truth at all. Just let me assure you that corn standing two foot tall at any point in July is a sure sign of trouble for today’s farmer.

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In fact our earliest planted corn has tassels and silks already. Tassels are these on top:

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And silks are the pollen tubes that will fertilize each grain of corn.

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So now you know, knee-high by the 4th of July is a rural myth. 😉 I need to start my own list: Things you know if you’re a Daddy’s Tractor follower!

Categories: Science | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

A Farmer’s Gamble

This is our wheat field.

A farmer's gamble

There are different ways to grow wheat, but on our farm we plant it in the fall when the wheat has a chance to germinate and grow just a little before the cold weather sets in.  During the coldest months wheat hibernates and then with the first rays of spring sun the little sprouts are ready to green up again.

Or they’re supposed to.

 

The reality of this year was the POLAR VORTEX.  Snow flurries began just days after the wheat was planted and the spring sun, well, we’re still not sure its around to stay.

Which means an entire wheat crop has been lost.

A farmer's gamble

We brought out an agronomist and the insurance adjuster to look at the fields.  Both pointed out that, besides the bare spots where no wheat is even growing, the plants that are growing are not healthy and only a third will develop wheat berries.  Of that third almost all are developing wheat heads that are growing sideways instead of straight up.  That means they won’t pollinate well, loosing another third of whatever crop we might have had.  Then there is the matter of the plants being small and stunted, meaning the combine won’t be able to pull the crop into its reel and we’ll loose even more grain.

The end result was estimated to be less than 2 bushel of wheat per acre.

DSC_0054

Yeah.  That’s about the same as nothing.

Thankfully we will be able to kill the wheat (the lingo is “burn” the wheat) and go ahead and plant beans in those fields.  It will hurt most where we planned for a wheat harvest in June so we could repair terraces in the summer.  Beans won’t be harvested until after repair work is over, meaning these fields will wait another year.

A farmer's gamble

But farming has always been a risky business and we knew that before we planted wheat last fall, or before we planted crops the previous spring, and even before we ever began to farm at all.  Every year is uncertian; every crop is just hope.

Every day is a gamble for a farmer.

Categories: Science | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

Top 10 Spring Planting

The farm is a busy, bustling place in the springtime!  The kids and I keep busy randomly adding critters introducing productive livestock to the backyard pasture and Daddy, well, we’re always glad when Sunday rolls around and we get to see him!  Some of you may be lucky enough to live on a farm and understand the process of planting, but for those of you who would like a clearer picture of how your food is grown, well, maybe this will help!

Top 10 Posts About Spring Planting

Take a virtual tour of the tractor

Take a virtual tour of a modern tractor! {DaddysTractor.com}

 

Read about the technology the modern farmer uses

a modern farmer

 

See the planter be prepped for field work

How is your food grown?

 

How to grow happy plants

A harvested field {DaddysTractor.com}

 

Preparing the fields

There's more to fall than harvest! {DaddysTractor.com}

 

Ride in the tractor, a video of planting

Planting wheat

 

We can even grow sweet corn!

compare and contrast life on a family farm

 

See how growing wheat is different

growing wheat

 

Starting from scratch, preparing a new field

Using the bulldozer to ready fields for spring planting

 

Why we’re so busy in springtime!

planting time on the farm

 

Categories: Science | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

This Situation is Critical!

It’s literally the most important thing that happens on our farm and it’s happening now!  Just ask the little red hen, if you want to eat the bread, first you have to plant the seeds!

Planting time on the farm

Our Case IH tractor pulls a John Deere planter– proof that it can be done! 🙂

Planting time is the most intense season on the farm.  There are an estimated 10 days that are just right for planting corn in our area.  Even if we had perfect conditions (which we won’t) and no break downs (that won’t happen either!) there is no way we could plant all our corn in 10 days.  But we try.

Planting time on the farm

Daddy has added lots of Precision Planting parts to the planter, making sure every seed counts!

During the first two days of our planting season the tractor ran around the clock.  Grandpa traded off with Daddy in the middle of the night so Daddy could get a few hours of sleep.

planting time on the farm

Anna helps Daddy check that the planter is working by digging up a row and looking at the seeds.

It’s also not just putting seeds in the ground that is so time-sensetive.  Daddy got out of bed a the usual time the next morning so Grandpa could put on fertilizer and crop protection products, which are every bit as critical.

planting time on the farm

Daddy drove away with a piece of pizza in hand– no time to stop for dinner!

Monsoon-like rains put an end to our field work late Saturday night and this morning there is snow on the ground.  Like I said, we won’t be getting ideal weather!  The weather man says we should be in the mid 60s again in two days with lots of wind as well, so the ground will dry out and we’ll be back in the fields.  While not ideal by any means, the snow shouldn’t stop the seeds from growing once the weather warms up.

Just please weather, do warm up!

Categories: Family, Technology | Tags: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Why We Are Using a Bulldozer for Spring Planting

Tractors, planters, sprayers– all equipment you might think about using when spring rolls around.  But this year we have been putting a lot of hours on Grandpa’s bulldozer in order to get ready for spring planting.

The field just across from our house was pulled from a government program called CRP and the owner wanted to rent it out for the first time in 20 years.  (The CRP program was started years ago as a way for farmers to allow poor production land to rest.)  It was mostly great news for us.  It meant more land that is very close by and a landlord we enjoy working with.  You can imagine the downside if you think of trying to use anything that has been left alone for 20 years!

The field looked like this, all 200 acres of it.

DSC_0125

Using the bulldozer to ready a field for spring planting

So much brush everywhere!

It has been no easy task to get it ready for spring planting!

The landowner used a mower to cut down the small trees.  Cory used the skid steer to pull out the larger brush and Grandpa has been handling the largest obstacles with the bulldozer.  Wayne used the custom cultivator to pick up stray sticks and then whoever is free has been using the tractor and disk to cut up the stalks so the planter and later the combine won’t run into anything capable of tearing it up!

Daddy made a custom cultivator to pick up brush

Daddy and the guys made this custom cultivator last year to pick up brush. The prongs are close together and all along the back bar instead of spaced throughout. You can see how it catches sticks!

Using the skid steer to ready the fields for spring planting

The skid steer can pull small brush and pick up the piles. Because the attachment on the front is shaped like claws the skid steer can shake the dirt from the piles, leaving more soil on the field.

Using the bulldozer to ready fields for spring planting

The dozer knocks down the larger brush and then pushes it into piles

Using the bulldozer to ready the field for spring planting

When the disk comes through it chops up the ground into big chunks, hopefully getting rid of pointy stalks!

Using the bulldozer to ready the field for spring planting

Last the harrow smooths up the dirt, leaving a happy field ready for bean seeds!

The field looks quite different from those first brush pictures, wouldn’t you agree!

You may remember from previous posts that, while this field looks picture perfect its not how we usually farm.  The loose soil can easily wash away leaving our fields without the necessary top soil to grow good crops, plus polluting nearby streams.

Grandpa also added to the farm this year, buying the field across from his house.

Using a bulldozer to ready the field for spring planting

This field connects all four farms, Grandpa’s home, this new farm, our new rental, and the field our house sits on. What a difference in how it looks!

This farm will not be worked at all.  It’s been cow ground for years but we won’t be tearing up the grass or anything.  Instead we’ll simply plant beans directly into the sod.  The first year won’t likely be a great one, but taking care of the soil will have more benefits in the long run.

Because really, we’d rather not be using a bulldozer to get ready for spring planting!

Categories: Science | Tags: , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

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