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Harvest has begun early this year. Perhaps that’s not such a surprise considering what type of year 2012 has been. From the unseasonably warm winter to the unfortunately dry summer, this has certainly been a year most people won’t forget.
Here in southern MN, most farmers have started harvesting corn and while it’s early on the calendar, the corn is mature. Moisture levels started high, in the mid to high 20’s, but a few good drying days and strong winds have brought those levels down. Early results say the yields are better than expected, but remember it’s still early. Perhaps the dry summer made us lower our expectations too.
I know that others around the country have not done as well. I work for an animal nutrition company and through my contacts across the U.S. I hear reports of very poor yields or rather almost nonexistent yields. In addition to the reduced quantity of corn, some areas need to be concerned about the quality of corn. Aflatoxin, which can be detrimental to animal performance, is often produced by molds that grow in drought stricken corn. This creates a challenge for farmers because now they may not only be short of corn, but the corn they do have contains mycotoxins that can be harmful to their animals.
September is my favorite month of the year. The combination of warm days and cools nights create a wonderful atmosphere. The excitement of harvest and seeing the results of the growing season fills the air. Kids are back in school with a fresh new year ahead of them. It’s a great time to live on the farm.
Throughout this blog you’ve had the chance to get to know us. Now I’d like to tell you a little bit about our farm. Dale’s grandfather Ed Stevermer started this farm in 1917. We are living in the house he built. It’s changed a bit over the last 93 years. The house has gotten bigger, while the number of people living in it has gotten to be fewer. That’s typical farm house progression.
We have a farrow to finish operation which means we have sows that give birth to little pigs on our farm. We raise those pigs until they are ready for market, which is about 5 ½ months of age and weighing about 270 lbs. We sell about 2500 pigs per year. Each pig will eat about 9 bushels of corn so our pigs require about 118 acres of corn for feed. An acre is about the size of a football field, so it takes 118 football fields of corn to produce the pork on our farm. We grow corn to feed to our pigs and then sell the pigs to provide lean protein for others to eat. Meanwhile, the manure from those pigs is organic fertilizer for our corn and soybean ground. It’s a nice sustainable cycle.
We also grow soybeans, which provide a nice crop rotation for the corn. Dale will sell them to the processor, as a cash crop. The soybeans are crushed and the meal is separated from the oil and we’ll buy back the soybean meal to feed to our pigs.
You may be wondering how our farm got its name. Grandpa Ed was selling Chester White breeding stock and needed a name for the farm. He called it Trails End Farm because it was near the end of an old Indian trail.
After getting off to a very wet start, the fields dried out surprisingly well and now harvest is in full swing. Except for a few small wet spots, bean harvest is complete. Yields haven’t been totaled, but appear to be better than expected. Dale has started to harvest corn. The quality seems good and he was happy to have fresh corn for the pigs, which they always seem to eat better.
This is an exciting time of year as there is lots of activity with tractors, wagons, trucks and combines. Six months ago tiny seeds were planted. The ground has been fertilized, cultivated and watered. The combination of sunshine and good weather along with the hopes and prayers of many farmers has culminated in what they glean from the fields today. It not only takes science, skill and technology, but a little good luck to get a great harvest.
I listen to the drone of tractors going late into the night. Fall harvest means long hours. Farmers take advantage of the good weather while they can. Everyone has a job to do, even if it’s just making lunch for the workers. Growing food for people and animals is an important job.