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Green Bean Harvest 2017

21 Jul

We don’t grow a lot of acres of green beans, but even one acre produces a ton…or a number of tons!  This field was harvested this week and will produce around 500,000 bags of green beans for grocery stores!  That’s a lot of food!! 

Even Hoot and Auggie couldn’t make too big of a dent in our yield with those kind of numbers. Which doesn’t mean they didn’t try….these boys LOVE green beans!

So keep eating those veggies and we will keep on growing them!  

Cropping Decisions and the Weather

19 Jun

The cropping rotation on our farm, which includes around 11 different crops every year, is planned about 5 years out.  We plan that far out because there are a lot of things to consider.  Examples such as, which crops can follow others, keeping the mix of crops at the right acreage amounts, assessing our risk with each crop, what we can get contracts for, overall economics, level of labor intensity, etc.

But also the weather…oh that darn weather.  When we get a year like this past one, it doesn’t just mean that we wear our muck boots and rain gear more, it means that we have cropping decisions that are made for us by Mother Nature.

This field of green beans is the perfect example.

  • Plan A: Plant to Tall Fescue.
    Didn’t get the ground worked in time due to many circumstances.  On to plan B…
  • Plan B: Plant Perennial Ryegrass.
    It started to rain in early October….it never really stopped until that planting window was well closed.  So plan C it is…
  • Plan C: Plant peas.
    This would have worked, but then we got a contract for another crop that could potentially be better economically.  And finally Plan D…
  • Plan D: Green beans were planted….phew!

This is a bit oversimplified in many respects, but I thought it was a good way to show how much we are the mercy of the weather.  Other factors absolutely come into play, but the weather is one that we just can’t control and is tough to protect yourself against because it can be so unpredictable.  So the weather, economics, cropping decisions…they all play a part in the answer to what seems like the very simple question, “How do you decide what to plant in what field?”

So now this field when I drive by, just sort of exhausts me…it’s been a long road, and one that I will see happy to be harvested.  Of course it’s so we can go ahead and try again next year, Mother Nature willing of course!

A Farmer’s Bottom Line

15 Aug

Everyday farmers make decisions that affect their bottom line.  Being a conventional farmer, I make decisions all the time regarding which chemicals to spray based on what the fields need and what they don’t.  But it’s not as simple as you may believe.  There are many factors at play, and this week I experienced just how complicated it can be.

Matt and I were out walking our green bean field that is due to be harvested this week.  While walking around, we noticed a good amount of spring wheat sprouting.  This wasn’t too surprising since last year the field was planted with spring wheat; these were “volunteer” plants growing from residual seeds left over.  We had both seen the wheat before, but figured that it wasn’t a big deal given that the harvesters would have no problem cutting through the thin stocks.  So, in our minds there was no issue. final-144The grassy looking crop is the spring wheat that has volunteered in the green bean field.

Unfortunately we were wrong.  After consulting with our field man, we were told that wheat is a huge issue because of allergens that could move from the field to the processor and eventually to the end product.  I have to tell you here that this never even crossed my mind, but I’m sure glad someone mentioned it to us!  If there is wheat found in your green bean crop, the processor can reject the whole field. Yes, that’s right; you would have to just leave the entire crop right there, unharvested. As you can imagine, this would be devastating to our farm.

This is where the story gets interesting. After telling us that this is a major problem, the next words out of the field man’s mouth were, “Too bad we didn’t find this last week, you could have sprayed.  But now it’s too close to harvest and the label doesn’t allow it.”

I’ll stop here and mention that all registered pesticides have a label attached. This is a booklet that is on the jug that outlines the rules and regulations behind spraying that pesticide. This is where you go to see the order for mixing chemicals, the precautions to use when handling the product including what protective gear to wear, and how long a person has to stay out of the sprayed area.  This is also where you find the “pre-harvest interval” or the amount of time required between application and harvest.

Matt and I hear this as we are standing in a field of green beans that we had worked hard to raise and take care of, one that would provide healthy food for thousands of people, one that hopefully will give us a good return and one that we hoped we were done spending money on.  And now we were faced with the knowledge that we could take two hours, with minimal cost in chemical, and get rid of the wheat entirely.  But that would not be following the label and would essentially be breaking the law.  Or we could tell all of our employees that they had to walk a field of green beans and pull wheat by hand, the cost of which would be substantial with six employees taking about four days to get this accomplished.  Also taking time away from other important tasks on the farm.final-145

I say this as though it was a decision that we talked about.  But it wasn’t.

The only option on our farm, the only option on farms across the nation, was to pay for the labor to get the job done right.  My point is that these rules are in place for a reason, and we all appreciate and respect that.  While I don’t have a regulator out in my fields all the time, I still follow the rules because there is good reason for them!  And it’s the right thing to do.

This week, when we head out to harvest these green beans, you can bet that my kiddos will be out there right beside us, eating those green beans that are being harvested right in front of them.  They will do that because the beans are safe, because we followed the rules, and because we farm responsibly, like farmers across America, to grow safe, high-quality food.

Decisions made on a farm are based on continuously moving parts.  Decisions made today might change if made tomorrow. Factors, such as the weather, pests, the crop, the timing of the plant itself, all come into play to make a seemingly simple decision to just go out and “dowse” our crops because it’s cheaper become incredibly complicated.  I have experienced this decision many times while farming, but the answer is always very clear: It’s not just about our bottom line, it’s about safe and healthy food. Period.

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