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Thursday, December 17, 2015

A Bit More Than Just Planting Seeds

I will admit that prior to three weeks ago, I never had much experience with planting crops – I grew up on a cattle farm – and I still don’t a lot of experience with it now. But after submitting a project for my crop science class, I have a deeper respect for those that grow crops for a living. 
Let's see, the rows have 15 inches between them and three inches between each plant. Wait, why is there so much math in farming?
photo courtesy: SumaGroulX
For my project, a few of my classmates and I were assigned a field and were given a description of what the farmer has done in the past, as well as problems that he has run into recently. Our group had to take on the role of consultants to the farmer and provide educated suggestions for what he should do in the coming year. While none of us were experts on the subject, we ended up submitting a 12-page proposal, highlighting as much information as we could. 
Among the most important information, we had to detail:

  • Different types of soil in the field
  • Varieties of seeds for the crops that we were planting
  • How much fertilizer should be used to keep the plants growing and healthy
  • How we should plant the seeds in the ground, how far apart the rows of crops would be and how many seeds we planned to use
  • Estimated costs for everything that we would use
I don’t know about you, but what I knew about growing crops was just a fraction of what we covered in this assignment. I even called a family friend that sells different types of seed, asking for his advice and recommendations.

At times, I think it can be easy to assume that the typical procedure for growing crops is to stick the seed in the ground and pray for rain. That might be the most simplistic view of it, at least. When looking at every angle of it, however, it really looks like a science. Farmers have to know what they are doing to ensure that everything on the farm will work out day to day, month to month and year to year. They also have to be able to adapt, which I found out as I had to provide backup solutions to our group’s original suggestions just in case they would not work out.

Have you ever seen a planting season or harvest? Have you seen the farm equipment going down the road early in the morning? Just imagine how long farmers spend out in the field, and then think about how much time is spent out of the field, double and triple-checking everything to make sure that their plants and land not only survive, but thrive.

I may not find myself plowing up the ground or applying fertilizer any time soon, but when I see a farmer out in the field I will know that he has been up for longer than me, and will probably stay up longer than me, more than likely thinking of what more he could do than just putting seeds in the dirt and praying for rain.

Until next time,


Tuesday, December 8, 2015

There Are No Snow Days in Agriculture

Let me start by saying that I am no fan of cold weather.  Absolutely hate it.  As icy and cold as it’s been across our state lately, I’ve been thinking about how especially thankful I am for farmers and ranchers that brave the elements to take care of their animals and the land.

Growing up with a dad who managed a large cattle feedlot, I learned early on that a change in weather could flip our family’s life upside down.  The worst such occasion was a horrible ice storm that crippled southwest Kansas in late December 2006 and January 2007.  My family had just gotten to Texas to visit my grandparents after Christmas when Dad got a phone call that the weather was getting a little western.  So we turned around and sped the entire ten hours home, only pit stopping in Oklahoma City to buy a few electric generators.

We arrived back in Garden City to find the roads completely iced, powerlines and trees down, and snow and ice everywhere.  Before it was all said and done, we ended up with three inches of rain, topped with over four inches of ice and some snow on top of that.  To be frank, it was my dad’s (and every farmer or rancher’s) personal version of hell on earth. 
Over the course of the next few weeks, I rarely, if ever, saw my dad.  He and the feedlot crew were working around the clock, 24/7.  As you can see in these photos, machinery was constantly running to clear snow and slop out and dump sand in pens.  The cattle still had to be fed, so alleys, roads, and bunks (what cattle eat out of) had to be shoveled and cleared so feed trucks could get the feed where it needed to go.  On top of that, power was out so they ran the office and the mill off of generators for seven days.
Feedyard employees using equipment to clear mud out of a feedyard to keep cattle comfortable
The feedyard employees are using equipment to clear mud out
of the pens and haul in sand to keep the cattle comfortable.
At Garden City Feed Yard the goal always, and especially during those times, was to keep cattle comfortable and take the absolute best care of them as possible.  That’s exactly what they did.  Were they able to make the conditions ideal?  Absolutely not.  Were the cattle feeling like they were living in paradise?  They sure weren’t.  But how would the cattle have fared without their human caretakers?  If they could, I’m sure that the cattle would have said “thank you” to the guys for caring about their wellbeing. 
There are no “snow days” when you are caring for other living creatures—these guys sacrificed time with their families, warmth, and often sleeping in their own beds to do their part.  That’s just how it works in this industry.  Putting your animals ahead of almost everything is simply a way of life.  The next time I feel myself getting ready to complain about how much I despise how cold it is, I’m going to stop myself and remember how thankful I am that farmers and ranchers, like my dad, are toughing it out so that I can have something on my plate to eat.  I hope you will remember that too.

Thanks for reading,


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