Farming questions never end

Since moving to the farm, I’ve realized how incredibly hard farmers work and how little I knew–and know–about farming. I’m learning more because I now live here and I see farming up close, but I still have a lot of questions. Sarah in Illinois is back today to share some of her experience living with a farmer and some of the lessons she’s learned so far.

Corn cobs in the field

Growing up in a farming community, I have always been familiar with some aspects of farming. I could always identify a corn field from a soybean field and a tractor from a combine. I knew that farmers put seeds in the ground in the spring and harvested crops in the fall. But what else did they do all year?

Why did they always seem so stressed about the rainfall, the wind, and the temperature when there was nothing they could do about it? What were all those other pieces of equipment that traveled up and down the roads and slowed me down?

When Steve and I started dating he was working for a company that sold seed and chemicals and applied chemicals to fields. And I was fascinated with what he did. I asked questions, and more questions, and more questions. And after 6 years, I realize that I still know so little.

What else do farmers do all year? They watch their fields for weeds, fungus, and insects and then treat accordingly. They maintain their equipment, they keep the ditches mowed, they clean out grain bins to prep them for harvest, and I am not even talking about the farmers that also have livestock.

Why are they so stressed about the weather? Well, there are some obvious reasons, but they also have to be concerned whether the root system of the plant is strong enough to hold up against a bad windstorm. Did they plant the seed too deep? Not deep enough? Did they apply the right chemical, fertilizer and at the right time? And all of those pieces of equipment? I am still learning their names and what they are used for.

Now that Steve is finishing his second season working for himself, and we have crops of our own, my questions have only multiplied.

Every one of those decisions, every single factor affects the quality and the quantity of the harvest. Should we have put on more fertilizer? It may make more bushel, but will it be worth the cost? How much damage have wild turkeys and deer done to our field? (This year, we had a fair amount of damage.) And now that Steve has harvested, should we sell right away? Or store it and hope prices go up? And if we store it, since we don’t own any bins, will the price go up high enough to offset the cost of storing it?

Ear of corn

I saved our first ear of corn!

But even with all of those scary decisions and all of those risks, all of the evenings I spend home alone because Steve is in the fields, all of the stress wondering if we are making the right decisions, I still love that we are taking a leap into farming.

We are growing crops that feed people, feed animals and produce fuel. There is so much to learn. My questions to Steve will only increase.

I never tire of watching a tractor driving through the field turning over the ground or the combine cutting beans and unloading them into a waiting truck.

I hope that we are able to grow our business, rent more acres and even buy some when possible. And I hope to continue to learn all I can about farming!

Thanks so much for sharing your questions (and some of the answers), Sarah. I learned some new things. When it comes to farming, I find there are lots of things I’ve never thought about before–like root systems.

What about you? What questions do you have about farming? Or any surprising lessons you’ve learned?

5 thoughts on “Farming questions never end

  1. Both of my parents came from the farm. However, they did not continue farming, and neither did I. One set of my grandparents grew corn and soybeans. They had animals (Turkeys and pigs) before I was born. My other Grandparents were cattle farmers, and they had a large flock of chickens too. It was there that I learned to ride horses and check for broken fences. 🙂 It was my favorite. So, I don’t have questions or lessons learned. I just have some memories. 😀 I love that you saved your first ear of corn.

    • Hi Stacy! I love that you have farm memories! In some ways I feel like I am showing up way too late to the party. So many farmers are 2nd and 3rd (or more) generation farmers and it is in their blood. And here we are just starting!
      My great grandfather was a farmer and my dad has memories of helping on the farm. But I am just learning.

      We have mentioned possibly raising cattle some time in the future, and I have wanted to raise chickens and bees. But they were both shot down pretty quickly by Steve! 😉 I will have to work on him!

      • My mom thanked my dad over and over for not being a farmer. LOL Her memories include a lot of missing out because they had to get back to the farm to take care of the livestock. Even knowing that, I do sometimes want a herd or a flock of “something.” 🙂

        You are learning very well. It seems to bring you great happiness, which is key to the success of an all-consuming career.

  2. Your first ear of corn looks like just what I look for in the store – bright yellow kernels right to the end, and nice, even rows. Yum!
    My dad was raised on a farm. He left the farm to go fight in WWII, then used the GI bill to get his first degree. He wound up with six degrees (three honourary) and a career as a college president, so we had anything but a farm childhood. However he never lost his sense of roots, and had a lovely earthiness and practical side to his personality.
    Some of my favorite memories are of visiting the farm of one of his colleagues during vacations. She was a biology prof who also had a farm where they bred Arabian horses. It was there that I fell in love with barns (that smell! those kittens!!) and learned a few things fast, the hard way. The barn could be entered from either side. One side meant traipsing through the cow pasture, and the other side, the calves. I was afraid of the cows because of their big, staring eyes, so chose to go through the cute calves, the first time I went by myself to the barn. BIG mistake – the herd of about 20 calves thought I was bringing food and stampeded after me! Never had a little city girl run so fast and learned in one fell swoop how to fly between the strands of a barb wire fence without slowing down…
    Ah, the memories! 😀

    • Wonderful memories Jan! I am sure you were scared at the time, but I love that it brings you good memories.

      We have no animals on our farm, but Steve has experience with farm animals. I know that there is a lot to learn and you have to have tougher skin to deal with the death and illness and butchering time!

      On my farm animal wish list is raising bees and maybe chickens. Steve would like to raise cattle. But all of this so far is just us daydreaming! 🙂

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