Small Farming Can Save Big Money

Whelp. The corn market sucks and the bean market sucks more. Or is it suckier?

Nevermind.

The reality is the prices of most farm commodities are below the cost of production. Farm commodity prices are bad. Really, really, really bad.

It could be worse. We could own an airport with a movie theater on the farm and a cruise ship docked in the back 40. There’s a lot of misery to share right now.

There is one tiny glimmer of hope in this fiasco. If you’ve followed this blog, you should have come to the conclusion that we aren’t big. We have older machinery and have been careful stewards of the land and all of the resources we are in charge of. And that includes money.

Farm Problem Solving Skills

This is how the growing season works. In April and May the fields are prepared and planted, with a shot of weed spray and starter applied next to the seed.

Most farmers would then apply an additional application of weed spray on the crop in June. The average cost is around $45 dollars an acre. We are not going to spend money on a second application of weed spray this year. It’s simply not financially feasible or a good use of money for a crop that may not be financially viable.

The BIG Pivot

Last year we didn’t spray 120 acres because of disastrous weather.

This year we’ve decided to not spray all 320 acres of our farm. Doing back of the envelope math results in 320 acres X $45=$14,400 saved.

High Angle of Cornfield in Iowa
This is a field that was cultivated two weeks ago. Do you see any weeds? Notice the waterways. Important in conserving soil and water.

Weeds can wreck havoc on corn and lower yields. In Iowa we grow great crops of corn and even bigger weeds!

But we have a piece of equipment most other farmers don’t have. Our pristine 4-row Heiniker cultivator! If a farmer had it 30 years ago, when it was manufactured, they either sold it or let it rust, as farmers got bigger and relied on chemicals instead of cultivation. We were left on the sidelines of the bigger is better game. It’s the last inning and we might have a better answer this time.

How to Cultivate
This Heiniker is a “newer model” with wider sweeps that allow the operator to drive faster.

Our Heiniker doesn’t disturb the soil as much as older models, which can be devastating to soil conservation. It’s the closest we can get to no-till. Last year we used it because it was too wet to apply weed spray. Now it’s to save money. That we don’t care to spend.

Any time you move dirt, you have to be careful. This Heiniker causes the least amount of erosion, if any. We are cognizant of conserving the land and don’t use this piece of equipment incorrectly. This unit cuts weed roots and lays the dirt back down next to the corn plant. Any time the dirt is fluffed up a bit, it encourages the corn plant to grow a bit faster. This may add 5-10 bushels more per acre without chemicals.

Cultivation Blade Close Up
I’ve read online that there are farmers welding together cultivators to save money. It’s important to make sure the cultivator blade is a conservation-type apparatus. Dirt is the most important farm resource.

Why Big Farmers Don’t Cultivate

Why don’t other farmers do this? This process is tedious and takes time. Other farmers are much bigger than us. Much, much bigger! There is only a two-week window of opportunity to do this process. After 14 days the corn plant will be too tall. This is where a bigger farmer couldn’t make this cultivation method work. It will take 14 ten-hour days to get this done. The tractor will use approximately 200 gallons of diesel fuel for this process and we will invest 140 hours of driving time to get this project done. It’s still cheaper than spending $14,400. Win!

Cultivation Process Explained
Holy Cats! Can you see how this process is labor intensive? If you look away, you can wipe out a crop. No redos here!

The Farming Video Game

The operator has to crank their body slightly to the right to not run the cultivator through rows of corn. You’d think the operator could just drive, look over the hood of the tractor and keeping the tractor tires in the rows. But there are too many variations in rows, so turning while driving is important. This process is kind of like a video game!

Some of you play video games, keeping your video game cars on the streets of video game cities while robbing video game banks and holding up video game convenience stores.

We wish our farming process is just a fun video game. But instead it’s real life. Feeding the world while trying to keep the farm afloat.

Be Blessed!

Next post will be Cereal Cookies!