Its spring and we are rapidly approaching planting season! You may have even seen farmers out and about already, turning over dirt and maybe even planting! As a row crop farmer myself, these warm days have my head spinning as my to-do list gets longer and longer. So here’s a list of five things that farmers keep in mind as we prepare to put in 80+ hour weeks on tractor back.
1. The Weather. Every farmer this time of year has their eyes on the sky. I put weather first on my list because it is impossible to do field work without reasonably dry conditions. Personally, I use an iPhone app called AccuWeather. It gathers local weather data into one place and is fairly reliable and accurate. It also has an estimated time until precipitation feature that can be really helpful when you are rushing to get some last minute work done. It’s also a good idea to have a few different weather apps. I like to have differing opinions on something as unpredictable as Northeast Ohio weather. An easy default is your local television news station(s).
It’s pretty tough to get any work done with a tractor that doesn’t run, or a plow with a flat tire. Ideally most of our equipment is ready to go by this time of year. We don’t want to fall behind or miss good tilling/planting weather because we’re waiting for a part to come in for the tractor. Even though our equipment is in tip top shape and we are ready to get out there, tractors get flat tires, hydraulic lines break, and implements fail. Keeping a reasonable collection of replacement parts saves us a lot of time and trips to the farm store. We also have reliable resources to call for help when we’re in a tough spot. We always have to remind ourselves that we are not alone out there in the middle of our field. Whether it’s a farmer next door, or the farm equipment store 15 miles away, having our list of problem solvers is vital.
3. Planning. Great weather and the best equipment are nothing without a farm plan. It is important to plan ahead and prioritize what needs to done first. Efficiency makes for a more successful and stress free planting season. On our farm, we like to sit down and write out what we are going to plant in every field. That may seem simple, but it’s more complicated than just deciding where we will plant soybeans and corn. There are over 400 different soil types in Ohio according to the Ohio Department Of Natural Resources. Figuring out what variety corn will do best in different soil types is a difficult balance, but if done properly, it can result in spectacular yield and silage quality. Done poorly and we could pay for it in the long run.
4. Execution. Going hand in hand with a good farm plan is our execution and how we go about our days plowing or planting in the field. Efficiency is important. I always try and remember to pack a lunch. In my experience, working on an empty stomach makes me grumpy and hard to work with. Not to mention it gives me a pounding headache. When it comes to getting into the field,being efficient with my time is vital. Stopping my rig just to eat lunch might not sound like a huge deal but it makes a real difference in your race against looming spring showers. Having a reliable staff is also incredibly important. On many farms, including ours, field work needs to be done on top of daily chores so we are sure to have a realistic approach to our day and plan to have an extra pair of hands on deck when things get busy.
5. Expectations. We’re not going to get it all done in one day. That’s the simple truth. No matter how hard we work to keep our equipment running, something will break down. No matter how fast we work to try and beat the rain, we’re going to get rained out. And no matter how hard we try, we will make mistakes. At the end of the day it’s important that we keep daily to-do list manageable. Stretching ourselves too thin and getting stressed, just makes farming that much more difficult.
We also try and enjoy our time in the tractor. We are lucky enough to live in a time where some tractors have radios and air conditioning, so it helps to find a good station I like. Smart phones are also a great resource for music, podcasts and other audio entertainment. It always helps make the days go by a bit faster. Most farmers out there enjoy the work they put in this time of year. The anticipation of planting season for some is just as exciting as the fall harvest. As the corn starts to sprout this spring, think of the thousands of hard working farmers out there doing their best to feed the world. Oh and if you get stuck behind a tractor on the road, try and be patient. They’re just headed to work.