Welcome to the first installment of Fridays in Farmland 2013!
When my family visits from the city they are surprised at how many people drive through our yard. When my local friends from non-Ag backgrounds visit they, too, are surprised at the number of vehicles driving in and out of our yard and how many phone calls Boss Man answers. Their questions inspired me to share how our Farm operates.
The most important element in our Agriculture life is the People!
I will introduce you to the details of our agriculture operation through these characters.
I hope you find this series entertaining and educational….I also hope to give an individual interested in breaking into “farming” (agriculture) other possibilities outside the stereotypical image of a farm with a milk cow, a handful of chickens, a horse and tractor.
My view point is directly influenced by our operation….So before I introduce the characters I will introduce the setting, Our Family Farm.
We operate a family farm and cattle operation in Central Kansas….. South of Great Bend. Boss Man is also part of a family farm partnership including his parents and twin sister.
Farms are often categorized by size based on number of acres farmed or head of cattle run. But my hope is for you to see farm size alone is not indicative of what a farm represents or how a farm is managed.
*acre: about the size of a football field minus the endzones
The ground we farm consists of a variety of soils..but the most surprising to me was sand…sand in the center of the USA may not be a surprise to off-roading enthusiasts…but it was to me..as were the sand burrs. Farming Sandy soil provides great benefits…When it rains several inches over night creating muddy bogs out of fields to the North…Boss man can get on his sandy fields…they have great drainage! And, just as our human strengths are often our weakness, great drainage is a detriment in the middle summer…or the middle of a prolonged drought.
For some reason a farm is called an operation…Our operation involves row cropping corn, wheat, and soybeans…and backgrounding cattle.
*I am realizing as I type that many of the words I use are jargon…I will offer definitions with links to other posts or websites as I remember my limited pre-farm vocabulary…but please leave a comment if you are uncertain of a meaning.
*row cropping: placing plants in rows…and I just learned that wheat is not a row crop..a row crop is a crop such as corn that leaves enough space between the rows to culitvate the ground…yes I know another word..
*cultivate: break up soil to prepare for planting…farmers also cultivate ground between crops to get rid of weeds…we do not do this very often because of the herbicides (weed killer/preventers) . By using the chemical weed management we use less fuel and compact the ground less.
I, Amber, married into this fourth generation farm family in 2003…fulfilling this Kansas City Suburban girl’s dream to live on a farm…partially…it is NOT a horse farm and we do not live thirty minutes outside of my Johnson County hometown of Shawnee. My mom often says there should be a disclaimer on the Kansas State University application…if your daughter attends our college she may marry a farmer…many of our Farm friend’s wives are also KSU sweet hearts. On the other hand my baby sister graduated KSU and is in the process of moving to Paris….so there goes my mom’s theory.
While in college Boss Man’s 3am Saturday morning wakings so he could drive 2.5 hours home to work ground, plant, cultivate….
“farm” did not make sense to my suburban-raised mind …but soon I realized farming is his job and his hobby…and that his favorite smell is freshly worked ground..or silage
…or cattle on pasture….I soon understood he was attending to his calling….his vocation. He was at college as a requirement to come back to the family farm…a common right of passage in our area.
I, also, put my foot in my mouth and expressed my ignorance at farming many times through our relationship. Here is the short version of my early learning curve…
Boss Man, “I am going to plant a quarter of corn. It will take me most of the day.”
Me, “That sounds like a lot of hard work..how do you carry all the corn?”
Boss Man, “What do you mean?”
Me,” A quarter of an acre is a lot to plant by yourself..don’t work you r body so hard you think you will finish.”
Boss Man, “It’s not like I carry a backpack filled with corn and poke in each seed by hand…I am going to plant a quarter section with a tractor.”
*section: 640 acres (an acre is roughly the size of a football field minus the endzones)….one square mile
*Quarter (of a section): 160 acres… a quarter of a mile square
I guess I am not good at telling stories…the mis-communication was in terminology…I thought Brent was going to plant a quarter of an acre…he was going out to plant a Quarter of a section..160 acres. This story brought many, many a laugh from his friends..and knowing looks from other city turned farm wives. There is another story but it involves the cattle side of our operation…and I have to get to know you better before i share the details of that mis-hap.
Sorry, I digress.
We farm dryland (non irrigated) and mostly center-pivot irrigated ground planted in a thought out rotation of corn, soy beans, wheat and rye…occasionally another crop will be added to the mix…. (I may mention alfalfa..but all the alfalfa production transitioned back to row crops a few years into our marriage.)
One more piece of my fairy tale shattered when I realized…deep breath…the farm is not contiguous and we do not have a big red barn….well there is a red barn under the galvanized tin.
I thought a farm consisted of a house surrounded by farm land….BUT…when I arrived the “FARM” was comprised of land in five counties. Not contiguous..and even harder to swallow was the fact that the Farm Site was five miles from his parents and a few more miles from us and had satellite sheds on random fields…..I eventually grew to appreciate the distance as the cattle pens were also located at the farm site…because cattle have a special fragrance and groupies….aka flies. Though, even today as we try to choose a site to build a new home…I wonder at trading the distance and fly free zone for more time and access to Daddy? (this is actually a very short description to a long and drawn out struggle for both of us…we currently live on an unofficial wildlife preserve consisting of hundreds of turkeys and deer and seclusion that even renders Fed X packages unable to be delivered at times versus living near a feedlot and closer to town…once again I digress)
Today, the main farm site location is a commercial feedlot fifteen miles from our home…it is only partially full with family cattle…
I almost forgot the sky…the setting of our farm is framed under a wide open sky…that I can hardly resist photographing.
The farm employs three full-time team members and a part-time cowboy.
Farming and ranching is not a competition sport it is a business of passion…at least on our family farm so I, after being trained by one of the most mute men I know when it comes to sharing info, tread lightly when sharing the details of our operation all at once…when we know each other better I am certain to divulge more…
I think that is a very random introduction to our farm…Our Farmland.
I welcome you back next Friday to meet another character… (here is a hint; we are a FAMILY Farm)