Harvest 2018

*photo courtesy of Ashley Wallace

 

I’m back in the saddle after, what seems like a very short, month off from my last blog.  I think it best if I go week by week otherwise I will find myself rambling and lost in the woods by the end of this writing.

Week 38…it rained, on and off and we essentially sat and watched, waiting for the weather to turn so we could finish combining the organic corn and put a bow on the organic farming portion of the crop operation.  We did get to watch our first calves drop from the fall herd. We have a very small group, 15 in total, embracing motherhood this fall, unlike our large spring herd of now almost 120 head. These are Red Angus, so I hear double the “awwww’s” coming from my 3 kids as we drive by on the way to school.  I have to admit, they are cute little buggers…and they look so good on the emerald green lush pastures of fall.

Week 39…it rained…a lot…and we wondered if it would ever stop?  Other parts of Iowa received a more generous portion of the wet stuff so we considered ourselves lucky.  We welcomed more calves to the family and sat waiting for the soils to dry.

Week 40…I think it rained again.  It’s all a blur at this point but I do remember one unique phenomenon.  Some of the organic ears of corn hadn’t dropped from an upright position to where they hang downward.  I’m guessing there is a technical term for this but in general, 95% or more of the corn, tips downward and that allows for better drying.  When it rains that much, the water sits in the bottom of the ear husk and can’t drain. If you remember back to your elementary school lessons, what happens when you keep constant moisture on a seed? If sprouted corn was your answer you earned yourself a sticker for your desk.  I was asking some of the “old timers” if they had ever seen this happen. A few of them could maybe recall it happening once but not to this extent. In our field, we found a few ears that had almost 10 kernels that had started to sprout and the new green shoot was over an inch long.  Just when you think you’ve seen it all…keep farming.

Week 41…the rain stopped but the soil was not draining as fast as we had hoped.  It was a cooler week, not a lot of sun, and the wind was quiet. Add those together and you get ground that holds water, tight as a drum.  We did finish construction of our new grain bin. It will hold over 10,000 bushels and has stir augers for drying corn slowly over a few weeks.  This is a much-needed tool in our operation that will allow us to sleep better at night. When expensive crops sit in the field and you have to wait for the perfect moisture to harvest or you have to wait for trucks to take it to the mill out of the field, you box yourself into a corner.  Luckily it was going on Dad’s part of the farm so he gets to pay for it…thanks, Dad!

Week 42…corn, all day, every day…until it was all picked and sitting in the new bin.  This is always an accomplishment in farming life that leaves your glass full. In this case and with this year, the glass was overflowing, both with relief and pride.  Relief because we harvested it without too much loss to sprouting and pride because it was the largest yield we have ever produced. The top portion of the field was 192 bushels per acre with a very heavy test weight.  The bottom portion of the filed was even better so I’m calling this an unofficial 200 bushel per acre year. For comparison, the commodity guys are pulling out 250-300 bushel corn at a price of $3/bushel. We are selling our organic variety for $9.30/bushel.  We didn’t pay for pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, expensive GMO genetics or chemical fertilizers. We simply planted a legume hay crop for 2 years, fed that to our grass-fed ruminant friends, and let mother nature supply the nitrogen and micro-nutrients needed for a healthy and abundant crop.  There is only one problem with my operation of organic grain rotation…I only had 65 acres of corn this year. We’ll keep working on that. Maybe the rumor mill will work in our favor and we’ll see more absentee landowners in Benton County catch wind of our vision that has become a reality and want to turn their land back to “old school organic”.  If you are reading this, live in Benton County, and know of someone with land and a desire to make the land better and make more money, shoot me the lead.

Not to be overlooked, one of the reasons I was absent from the writing chair was because of our Farmacy Dinners.  I am guessing most of you read about them in Facebook posts and various email invitations. We did back to back Thursday nights a few weeks back…and it almost killed me.  I realized two things…I’m not young anymore and people are waking up! I hustled more in those 2-3 weeks than I have in over a decade. It took its toll, both on me and my business partner, Kate.  Many times we looked at each other with distraught faces and wondered what the hell we were doing. Well, now I can confidently report back that what we were doing is starting a movement. We had about 50 for the first evening and about 70 for the second evening.  All of those people now “get it” and they “get us” and what we are trying to accomplish. We are trying to keep small farms producing real food, alive and growing! I will write more about this in the future but I was overwhelmed at the positive feedback…both for the delicious meal and the conversation we started.

Now I feel better that I caught you up and that I’m back in the writing saddle.  I feel like a lot of good seeds have been planted as of late. Generally, winter is not the time to grow seeds but I’m throwing caution to the wind and will use these late fall and winter months to grow and nurture the best path forward for Wallace Farms, Rolling Prairie, Stone Soup, and Farmacy…I hope you join us and help grow those seeds too!

If you want to support us and our vision for agriculture, there is only one way.  Place an order and plan a meal…you won’t regret it and everyone at your dinner table will thank you!  www.wallacefarms.com

Your Farmer,

Nick