State of farming for 2014

When it comes to the weather, it has been an interesting year to say the least.

Since what happens on the farm affects what happens in your kitchen.
The drought in California may affect some of our vegetable costs, but a lot of what happens with prices in the grocery store depends on what happens right outside our windows, down on the farm.

Farming is not an easy way to make a living. There is no steady income and much of your success comes down to one thing, the weather.

Brian Totzke says, “Sometimes it's very overwhelming. But you just make the best of it, take each day as it comes. I have a great wife and good family to support it all, so we do what we got to do.”

It is either too much rain, or too little, or too much heat, or not enough. The weather is rarely perfect. Recently, Brad Rippey, one of the top meteorologists for the US Department of Agriculture was in Southwest Michigan with me to hold an AG forum with local producers. They could pick our brain as to what we thought was coming the rest of the summer and into the fall. However, we could also learn facts from the field.

Rippey says, “Like you Mike, spending the day with an office job, there's nothing that compares to getting out and seeing what's in the fields.”

During Brad's day in Michigan, the skies opened up a couple of times, which is what we have seen a lot of since winter. Once was while visiting Bixby Orchard.

Brian Bixby says, “Everything is very lush. I feel like I live down in the tropics.”

Rain seems like a good thing for crops, but too much at the wrong time is not necessarily good. The wet spring was not a good thing for some of the orchards in Southwestern Michigan. Brian Totzke also has some concerns for the rest of summer for his corn and beans.

Totzke says, “Grandma always said a dry June makes a good harvest.”
That is because if it is wet in June, then suddenly becomes dry, the roots are too shallow to find water. Corn and soybean farmer Steven Baerg agrees with that concern.

Baerg says, “We do definitely need the late July and early August rains.”

Brad and I agree, though, that for the rest of the summer, we do not believe a drought is likely. In fact, we believe the rains will continue to fall from time to time. Therefore, the possibility of an early frost or freeze becomes a concern. Brad and I both agree that a cooler than normal weather pattern will continue overall, and so if we get an early shot of cold air this fall, that could harm some crops before they're done.

With all the different possibilities in the weather, continued crop research is very important.

Al Gratkowski says, “We call this our stress plot. In our area here in SW Michigan, we have a lot of sandy, droughty soil.”

So finding the right variety for each type of soil and for each of his clients is important to the success of ac seeds, and of course to the crop itself.

Gratkowski adds, “so like in this set here, two-thirds of these are all brand new hybrids, brand new genetics, all that. We're always looking, it's evolving, probably every 3 to 4 years we roll varieties.”

While we've had some parts of fields drowned out from too much rain, a few spots flattened from the strong winds earlier this month, and some crops still behind from the late spring…timely rains and a normal first freeze will still give us a great crop in most areas come harvest.

Brad Rippey says, “We'll just have to take it day by day, week by week and see how the weather systems play out. Right now, there's no shortage of Canadian cold fronts coming down and that's something we'll have to watch as we get into September and beyond.”

The stressful life of farming, but it's a passion and it's in the blood for most.

Totzke says, “I've been part of a family farm for a long time, and got two boys coming up and hopefully they want to follow in my footsteps.”


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