Early October has brought beautiful weather (so far) to the Upper Midwest, and area farmers are taking advantage. The harvest of remaining crops — mainly soybeans, corn, sugar beets, potatoes and sunflowers — is going full bore.
I talked recently with an employee of a North Dakota grain elevator. “We’re super busy,” she said. She laughed and asked, “Want to come and help us out?”
I laughed, too, and said I wouldn’t mind but couldn’t get away.
Yes, farmers and grain elevators are busy. But it’s a good kind of busy. True, digging potatoes and sugar beets out of dry ground isn’t easy, but spud and beet farmers have suffered through wet falls that left fields a soggy mess.
One more thing: Whatever your role in harvest, stay smart and safe.
Harvest is the most exciting time in farming. Nothing else measures up to bringing in the crops that were planted and nurtured so carefully. But harvest is stressful, too, especially when the weather doesn’t cooperate.
This harvest is bringing both more and less stress than usual. For some producers, this harvest season has gone unusually smoothly. For others, the season is challenging, both emotionally and financially.
Read my story in the Sept. 10 issue of Agweek.
I talked with a farmer in Montana recently who’s already finished his harvest of wheat and pulse crops (peas and lentils). That normally doesn’t happen for him until well into September. Early planting this spring and hot, dry weather this summer caused all his crops to be ready for harvest at roughly the same time.
Typically, the farmer said, his harvest consists of “a lot of sprints. This year, it was a marathon.” Though weary after doing so much work in such a short period, the farmer appreciates having time off this harvest season.
If you’re a farmer, which would you prefer at harvest? A series of spread-out spreads? Or a marathon that gives you a break at the end?
This is perfect weather to harvest wheat. The days are long, warm and dry, with little wind.
On a recent trip through northeast North Dakota, I saw dozens of combines roaring through wheat fields. Chaff billowed out in great clouds and hung heavy in the air.
Yields. though erratic, are pretty good on balance. Quality is excellent.
Area farmers have mixed emotions right now. They’re worried that the hot, dry weather will further stress drought-damaged row crops. But they’re also enjoying wheat harvest.
In an ideal world, farmers will finish wheat harvest in the next day or two — then receive 2 inches of slow, gentle rain for the row crops.
Two years ago, on a gloomy, overcast day in early November, I drove through northwestern Minnesota and looked at the crops.
What I saw was a little scary. Few of the row crops had been harvested — even most of the soybeans remained — and soggy fields ruled out any immediate harvest blitz. For many area farmers, November and even December that year required a grueling fight against the elements and the calendar.
Things are radically different going into November this year. Our beautiful September and October allowed farmers to make rapid progress, and harvest is on the home stretch now.
So this promises to be a good November. Farmers and others involved in ag still have work to do, of course, but they’ll also have some time to hunt deer, watch high school and college sports and even follow the development of Minnesota Vikings’ rookie quarterback Christian Ponder.
This is the way November should be.
Area farmers have suffered through some wet, dreary falls in the past few years. Too often, harvest was long, frustrating and memorable for the wrong reasons.
This spring was wet and cool, which delayed planting and slowed crop development. Another wet fall would have been even more troublesome than usual, given the less-advanced-than-usual crop. So warm, dry weather this fall is really appreciated by farmers. Farmers generally are making excellent harvest progress. Yields are nothing special, but there’s value in getting the crop off in a timely fashion.
To be sure, recent warm temperatures aren’t ideal for all crops– area potato farmers would prefer cooler weather during harvest, for instance. But on balance harvest conditions have been wonderful.
If you’re a city resident, enjoy the beautiful weather. Our farmers certainly are.