Monday, November 20, 2023

Agriculture round-up: A demolition derby with combines; financial challenges for young farmers; cranberry sauce

Clashing combines are a yearly event. (Photo by S. Arnoff Yeoman, Ambrook Research)
Farmers found a way to super-size the crash-bashing power of demolition derbies by pitting one combine against another. An annual event in rural Banks, Oregon, pop. 1,800, hosts a "traditional demo derby with farming flair, pitting harvester against harvester in a lumbering clash of the titans," reports Sarah Arnoff Yeoman of Ambrook Research. Mechanic turned rig-buster Jared Rigert told Yeoman: "As a young country boy, you're always interested in destroying stuff you don't have to fix after. . . . Everyone has barbecues, but not everyone has combines crashing."

Young farmers who dream of owning their own land, animals and equipment are up against financial challenges that can make farm ownership seem unattainable. Myron Friesen, co-owner of Farm Financial Strategies in Osage, Iowa, who works exclusively with farm families across the Midwest "to develop farm transition strategies," gives some sage advice and encouragement here.

Meet first-generation farmer Kevin Engel, who "faced the odds stacked against him" and became a successful farmer. But farming isn't Engel's only interest. The Virginia farmer has a "special affinity for a champion colt, nicknamed Big Red, aka Secretariat," reports Rhonda Brooks of Farm Journal. Engel told Brooks: "Meadow Stables, the farm where Secretariat was born and raised, is the first land I ever farmed." Brooks reports, "Engel and his family were able to purchase some of the fabled farm just this year, including a picturesque pasture, called Meadow Cove, where Secretariat grazed and played as a youngster."

Ocean Spray photo
Turkey farmers aren't the only stars of the Thanksgiving table. How about those cranberry farmers who are responsible for the controversial blob of gelatin on this Thursday's menu? "It’s the most polarizing dish at Thanksgiving," writes Ben Cohen of The Wall Street Journal. "You know it and love it, unless you hate it, in which case you might use homemade sauce cooked with some of the trillion cranberries that the company’s owners grew. Either way, Ocean Spray wins. But winning has an entirely different meaning at Ocean Spray, whose farmers are responsible for 65% of the world’s cranberries."

Farmers can be described by their multiple roles as botanists, mechanics, gardeners, quasi-veterinarians and tractor warriors. Given the physical work and mentally taxing skills farming requires, it's not surprising that farmers have stress. To help farmers find outlets and coping strategies, the Avera Farm and Rural Stress Hotline was developed, reports Ariana Schumacher of AgWeek. "This hotline meets agricultural producers where they are. With just one simple phone call, callers are connected with resources to help with mental health or other needs that they are facing."

Skip-row corn can fair better in windstorms.
(Photo by James Hitchcock via Farm Journal)
How do crops from cluster, skip-row or triple crop corn fare compare to each other for the 2023 growing season? John Smith from central Kansas, "grows grain sorghum, soybeans and wheat on predominantly sandy ground," reports Chris Bennett of Farm Journal. Smith planted cluster corn. . . . James Hitchcock from east-central Georgia aimed to discover "if skip-row corn adds bushels to the bin. . . . And Bill Jones from east-central Illinois, who grows dryland corn for tortilla chips, tried another round of triple-cropping. Read about their successes and learning curve mistakes here.

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