Left to right: alfalfa, mature wheat ready to be harvested, soybeans ready to be harvested

Drive by Farming

Some time ago, Ohio Farm Bureau received a call from an individual concerned that Ohio was facing a massive crop failure. Corn everywhere was brown and withering. “Don’t worry” the caller was assured, that’s what happens to corn in October.

Rather than chuckling at a misunderstanding about farm life, farmers are growing more appreciative when the public approaches them with a genuine curiosity about how food gets to their plates.

After all, a lot of people only get to experience the farm through their car window. So here are the very basics – Our Ohio’s guide to the things you see from the road as you drive the countryside.

Ohio’s top crops are soybeans and corn. Other major crops include wheat and hay, such as alfalfa. Grain crops are left in the field to dry before they are harvested so they can be stored without spoiling.

Crop Calendar
Wondering what they’re doing in the field? Here are some guideposts to help you follow Ohio’s major crops.

Earth Day (April)
In April, you’ll see farmers out tilling their fields. Corn planting can begin as early as mid-April. Soybean planting immediately follows.

Memorial Day (May)
If the sun is shining, you’ll start to see farmers making their first cutting of grasses, alfalfa or other crops to make hay. Depending on the weather, several more cuttings will be made throughout the season.

Independence Day (July)
Wheat harvest should be under way. If conditions are favorable, farmers may be able to replant the wheat fields with a late crop of soybeans, a practice called double cropping.

Labor Day (September)
Soybean harvest is just around the corner, with corn harvest to follow. Wheat will be planted in the fall and will be ready for harvest the following summer.

Farm Equipment
This grain harvesting machine combines cutting, threshing, separation and cleaning of grain, and also disperses the stems, stalks or other crop residue back on the field. Combines use different attachments on the front end depending on the crop. This combine is set up to harvest soybeans or wheat.

This piece of equipment is used to turn and fluff hay so it can dry. It also piles it in rows so it will be easier to bale. If hay is baled when it is too wet, it can spoil or spontaneously combust.

These are used for to different operations that break up the soil for planting. No-till is a method of planting crops in which the soil is left undisturbed from harvest to planting except for strips within the rows where seeds are placed in holes or slits.

The boxes along the back of this piece of equipment hold the seeds that are dropped
into the ground.

In Ohio, these irrigation systems are often used for vegetable crops or sod but may be used for other crops if a water source is available.

Advertisements like these are similar to those that may be placed in your front yard by a roofing or remodeling company. The idea is to show other farmers how well a company’s brand of seed is performing.

This orange triangle is used to convey that tractors or other vehicles are only capable of speeds less than 25 mph. An additional circular emblem may indicate that vehicles are capable of higher speeds, but still may be slower than the speed limit. For example, this piece of equipment is able to travel 30 mph.

What’s the Difference?
These are corrugated metal bins that are used to store and dry corn, soybeans and wheat until they can be sold.

Traditionally, these are the tall cylindrical structures used to store feed for dairy and beef cattle. The feed product, called silage, is commonly made from a corn plant that is chopped up – leaves, stalks and all, while it is still green. Inside the silo, it undergoes an anaerobic fermentation process that preserves the crop for later use. Silage can also be stored in long plastic bags or in concrete bunkers that are covered with a sheet of plastic that is weighted down with reclaimed tires.

Hay is used for animal feed and is typically made from grasses or legumes that are cut when still green. Dried hay will have a grayish/greenish color and sweet smell.  It is often stored and used to feed animals during the winter when pastures are unavailable.

The dried, yellow stems of wheat, rye or barley plants are often used for straw. Straw has little nutritional value and is typically used for animal bedding. If you’ve been on a “hay” ride, more than likely it was straw.

Drainage pipes that are used to prevent fields from flooding.

43,560 square feet (about the size of a football field)

This generally refers to a grain storage facility. It gets its name from the elevators or conveyors that carry the grain into the storage bins.

This type of corn is left to dry in the fields and is used for livestock feed and other products.  It accounts for the vast majority of corn grown in Ohio.


Farm animals generally fall into one of four categories: 1) a breeding male 2) a young and/or neutered male 3) a breeding female 4) a young female

So following that pattern, here are some common terms you may hear:

Calf Hutch Found on dairy farms, these shelters allow young calves to be cared for individually until they are old enough to join the herd.


1) boar
2) barrow
3) sow
4) gilt


1) bull
2) steer
3) cow
4) heifer


1) ram
2) wether
3) ewe
4) ewe lamb


1) rooster
2) cockerel
3) hen
4) pullet


1) stallion
2) colt/gelding
3) mare
4) filly