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Sour Grapes and Saddle Sores

George Hirst

Summary of farm visits December 22,2005

I visited by telephone with operators of six farms in Stark County, all family farms. I wrote awhile back that the family farm is alive and well in Central Illinois. The size of those farms has changed from general farming to grain farming. Family farms are several generations old and have grown in size. The farmers of the 21st century are skilled in organizational methods and very knowledgeable in planning, purchasing equipment, keeping machinery in repair, growing, storing and selling crop production.

The 2005 crop production as expected was below normal although not as bad as predicted. There were some surprises. Sub soil moisture plus early rainfall helped provide the better numbers. One of the farmer told me that some brands of seed and some varieties added to the results.

Planting plans for 2006 varied between staying with a fifty percent rotation plan between corn and soy beans, with a little wheat thrown in, or a wait and see plan which depends on how much moisture spring brings. Which brings up an interesting point, the wheat crop was good with 75 to 95 bushels per acre with a goodly amount of straw harvested and sold either as bedding for livestock or sold to a mushroom growing plant in Princeton. Wheat is a dry weather crop, as this old Kansas person knows.

The wheat crop is hauled to Davenport, Chicago or one of several milling operations in the area that produce flour. The estimated acreage of wheat in Stark County was 5,000 acres.

Grain is hauled by semi trailer truck, as we know, to several destinations, to the "river" at Henry or Lacon, to Peoria, Pekin. Galesburg and several other places where the grain is processed.

Grain is sold by contract with a negotiated price. A farmer cannot simply load a truck with corn or soy beans and haul it to an elevator. The grain is hauled to a destination and shipped to the designated purchaser. A farmer told me that the estimate of stored grain in Stark County this fall is 2.4 billion bushels of corn and 400,000 bushels of soy beans. That means that between now and next planting time the trucks will be moving!

Farming is a year round job, it is not just preparing the land, planting the crop and harvesting the crop. It is also keeping the machinery in repair, hauling the crop to market and doing all the necessary desk work and communications with prices and insurance and government reports. All that adds up to big business however it is organized.

I appreciate the six farmers for their conversations with me. Every time I visit with these friends of mine, I learn something and acquire a deeper appreciation for this part of our community. We all should be grateful to this part of our population who feed the world through excellent planning and hard and careful work. They and their families contribute to the life of the community of Stark County by their involvement in our common life.

Created by KKris. Last Modification: Saturday 09 of September, 2006 17:53:07 EDT by KKris.