Rising long before the sun the farmer is
already awake getting ready for the long day that lies ahead as golden rays stretch across the fertile plains shades of red and orange are painted upon the sky The beginning of a long day dawns upon the Midwest farmer an orchestra of sound is heard as the day begins Harvest is here acres of gold stir in the autumn sunshine a dusty haze fills the air Friday night football games take place while machinery is heard in the distance Rivers of grain flow the veins of men and women across the heartland as the tradition of farming is passed from generation to generation Yeah, you’re fine Oh, he’s going to go sort some pigs Yeah, well I started when I was a kid I started on my own with well, I Farmed the first year. I got out school in 76 Excuse me, ’74 is when I started Went on since then, so 42 or 43 years I started here in 1970. Ya, born 48. Got out of the service in 69 and then dad bought this in 1970. Since I was old enough to drive a tractor, which is probably 10 15. I don’t know Probably age of ten, I would say. Or as soon as I can reach the pedals honestly the first time I drove a tractor I Went to a park it didn’t have enough brake. So I ended up running into the machine shed. Well I started driving the tractor probably when I was seven or eight years old. It was a hand clutch on a 50 John Deere tractor And started farming after I graduated in high school in 75 so 1975 I started farming on my own Farming is not only a man’s job but requires the strength and energy of every family member Sons and daughters have regiments of their own From doing chores before school to driving to the surrounding towns picking up parts Farm kids quickly learn the importance of hard work and helping family The life of the farmer’s wife is just as complicated as the farmer from running dinner out to the fields and picking the kids up from practice to Running grain carts and sorting hogs a wife’s time must be very flexible to accommodate the farm life Oh, Yeah Farmer wives farmer moms they don’t get enough credit for what they do. I mean my mom will make Everybody’s lunches for the day. She’ll be in the tractor She’ll pretty much do whatever she needs to do to help keep us going There’s not a certain time for anything life on the farm is unpredictable Harvest season may come only once a year but the responsibilities of running and maintaining a farm as a year-round practice All that hard work long hours and tough times lead up to harvest when the crop that’s been cared for since early spring is ready to deliver its bounty Farmers are a breed of their own. Strong enough to toss bales across the loft. Yet gentle enough to cradle a new born child. (off camera) Say, “bye Pappa” They rise before the sun and work under the stars, where a spectacular light show presents itself every night Setting sleep to the side they race to get the grain in before the harshness of winter arrives, but stop midfield to help their neighbor As well as make some homemade goods from time to time So, how’s the corner looking dad? Looks good. It’s standing real good. Fungicide, it makes a difference. It’s showing up here. Yeah, the dark green is like 250 in the light green is 221 to 250 Guilty of tall tales and sharing jokes they can talk all day You’re on candid camera, Rob. (laughing) (on radio) What did you see? Haven’t even seen deer or nothing. (on radio) Big ‘ole raccoon. Bout as big as that woodchuck that one day I saw But when there is work to be done farmers lower their heads and head to the fields Think you’re alright, Cory, you’re gonna be turning up hill so that’ll help. Yeah I can call you after I get when I’m on my fifth load or so up give you a call because let you know how long it’s gonna be Well I got it sold over here for three dollars fifty or three dollars and sixty cents corn right now. And right now corn is only like $2.99 So that’s why its worth 50/60 cents a bushel for me to do this. and at 200 bushel an acre at .60 cents that’s $120 an acre difference from selling early to selling now. It’s always a gamble isn’t it?? Yes it is. Sometimes you’re right, sometimes you’re wrong. Now this next one. That gives you your average moisture your wet bushels for the field so far and then the dry bushels and then if you come down here I’m doing 9.4 acres an hour. I’ve got 40.9 acres worked I’ve worked four hours and thirty three minutes. “Wow, it keeps track of everything” I’ve used 50.7 gallons of fuel. So it it tells you pretty well anything you want to know and then this will also have a Now here’s his. You can see that. That’s a little bit different over 240 is the dark green and over 200 is the yellow Over 160 is the orange That’ll kind of tell you through the field if you need more fertilizer some where “Okay, so you take that information and put in the fertilizer then?” It’s gridded on every four acre increments. So then you can variable rate your fertilizer. “It’s changed a lot since when you first started, huh? (laughing) From the days with the old two row corn picker. (laughing) “It’s a big giant computer.” That’s what it is. I just need Russell to set it for me. (laughing) I just drive it What is it that drives a person to rise early in the day and work until the sun has set What is the satisfaction received from gnarled hands, broken backs and sweaty brows? “Do you like farming?” It’s way better than going to work everyday. (laughing) I can do what I want. It’s not bad really. Still got time to go to baseball and drive bus for baseball. Aside from crops farmers have a whole load of responsibility to tend to There’s feeding cattle, driving truck, maintenance around the farm and many other tasks to keep one busy Most the time I was working for somebody else on the side plus full time job with the seed company kind of doing the farming on the side. Driving truck locally and over the road. Long hauls, California, New York, Florida, Nova Scotia And then in 1990 I started with the seed… Well I was a seed dealer, but then I started being a district sales manager in 1990. up until today Yeah, theres a lot of livestock I like watching cattle move and going out to Montana getting cattle. That’s pretty fun. “So you bring cattle out to Montana?” No, we bring the calves home. Yeah, it’s like a whole different lifestyle up there Being a farmer is a job that requires around-the-clock service. So what drives them to work such long hours regardless the weather, temperature or time of day. I enjoy farming because it’s pretty much me and well me and my dad. You don’t have to work for anybody. It’s pretty much on you if you get the job done do it, right You don’t have to worry about it And you know at the end of the day that if you got what you needed to get done You did and you can sleep good that night and wake up and do the same thing next morning. It’s just been a good life I guess. Living out in the country. Being out by yourself Taking care of business and working overtime Doing what you want to do. Still got to get things done though. I was up at 4:30 this morning, putting in yield data from the plots I took out the last two days. He just broke the bearing out on the auger. I guess we are going to have to stop probably go down get my auger. Everything’s every day is different You always got something different going on and you never know what’s gonna happen You can’t plan your day everything changes as the day goes along. It’s something you get used to doing. Go with it you know what you expect and can’t control the weather or nothing. No. I love it. I don’t consider it work. You can see your crop, what you’re taking out. Love to feed the cattle gives you something to do. I couldn’t sit in house. I gotta have something to get me up in the morning. I’ve never considered it work. Dad always said if you can’t keep up get up an hour earlier and work an hour later. (laughing) You work till it’s done. You got to finish. It’s something, you know, if you’re broke down You got to keep going. You get long hours sometimes but you’re your own boss You’re your own boss, you know, yeah, you’re kind of getting control of your own destiny Had a guy one time tried to sell me some insurance so I had something to retire on And I I said well Way I look at it. If I got any money, I’m gonna buy land because I’m gonna invest in myself if I can’t trust myself to make a living. I better not farm, right so So I’ve kinda lived by that old adage “What’s your favorite time of the year the farm?” Harvest “Why’s that?” I just…just fun to get it out and see what you got for the year. See how it all did. “and it’s the end of the busy year isn’t it??” Yeah (laughs) Yeah For this part of it anyways, but not with 9,000 hogs. Yeah, it is. Most definitely. Nice to see the yield we got for the kind of year we’ve had. With the lack of rain and stuff. Like during harvest season I love it because the air gets crisp and it just heightens the stars and you get a clear night You look up and you just see the stars your like, damn. It’s awesome. Ya then you know, the tractor lights…just working at night it lights up the skies. I love it “Hey, I’m sorry to hear about Joe.” Thanks. He suffered. Gosh, darn. He put up a gallant fight, but he just…..that cancer you don’t win. You just don’t win. It’s a son of a gun. It is tough. Yeah We miss him a lot. You know, he’d like to be in the grain cart or in the combine. Be around doing something with us, you know Him and I farmed together since he got out of school Yeah, so we kind of been together a long time “Well, you know now you have Joe looking over you. I’m sure it’s you know be on the field it so reminds you of him Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah And every time you go up there, you know like tomorrow. We’ll go up there and we’ll harvest up there Yeah, he won’t be around to talk to You know even like this summer, you know, we’d haul grain. He’d still come out and visit with you If he could help a little bit he’d help a little bit. Go get the meal for you. You know, or something. He wanted to be active and be in it. Wasn’t to be I guess so. Nothing we can do about it. It’s a unique life. Farming and family activities become closely linked, connected and intertwined It is a complex lifestyle that is often misunderstood by those looking in from the outside Country life may be seen as being slow-paced and easygoing. A time to sit back and relax. But if you look past those smiling faces you see the reality: That family farms are businesses Aunts, uncles, brothers and cousins are business partners. Each one finding the happy medium between having the requirements of their own farms and the goals and aspirations of their family members. Ultimately the farm needs to be profitable to support the family. A constant challenge as markets change and costs rise. They say the strongest steel goes through the hottest fire. That the strongest steel withstands one heavy blow after the other until it is finally shaped and molded into something productive and useful. Like forging steel a farmer’s life is constantly being tested shaped and molded blow after blow until the end result comes a family built on sweat, blood and tears. A strong foundation that keeps a family grounded through tough times and brings them together in times of joy There’ll be a day when we were gone and our bones become dust and our spirits return to the skies Our children and grandchildren will stand in our footprints and know it was our love for the land that brought them to where they are. Though loved ones pass, their memories will never fade. Their voices can be heard through rustling corn, the dirt clinging to our boots will remind us of the paths they once walked and when day turns to night, the stars will become their eyes watching over us as we continue to build something that is much larger than ourselves.