What is this time of the year all about? It is called HARVEST! This is the time of the year when area farmers hope to get those fields of soybeans and corn out of the fields and into their bins or off to the local elevator. In turn these crops will be turned into food for our dinner tables.
Once again it is a tough harvest for area growers. Too much rain and cool weather has made it difficult to get into the fields. And the moisture content of the corn is too high for storage and needs to be dried, another expense.
When farmers carefully put those tiny seeds of corn, soybeans or maybe oats in the ground in the spring, they do so expecting to have a good growing season. They watchfully tend their fields making sure some insect, disease or other problem is not affecting the plants. And they can tell by the color and growth of the plants if they have applied the right amount of fertilizer.
At harvest time, farmers hope those tiny seeds have developed in to ears of golden corn or 60 or 70 pods of soybeans on a plant. Harvesting those ears of corn and pods of soybeans is where their income comes from.
So again this year wet weather is causing serious harvest problems. Farmers went through the same experience last year. There are no quick ready solutions to the problem.
A limited number of area farmers who plant many acres have bought combines with tracks rather than wheels. This allows them to harvest when they might not be able to otherwise. Problem is those track combines are expensive and smaller farmers can’t afford them.
Many combines today do have four wheel drives that is a big help in wet fields. Two wheel drive machines need much dryer conditions.
Today’s combines pick and shell the corn or beans. Corn cobs, leaves and stalks all go back on the fields. Back 70 or 80 years ago corn was husked by hand with the whole ear harvested. Some would be handpicked right in the field while other farmers cut and shocked their corn.
Most ear corn, including the cob, was fed to dairy cow or beef cattle. Cobs had limited feeding value. Once the corn was husked, those farmers that had cut and shocked their fields might feed the fodder to livestock. Again feed value was limited.
Ear corn was stored in narrow four or five feet wide corn cribs with slatted wooden sides. This allowed the wind to blow through the bins and help dry the corn. You might still spot a few old corn cribs around the area if you look closely. Then corn was shoveled into bags or wagons and taken to the mill to be ground and mixed with a protein supplement, minerals and vitamin to feed livestock. A few farmers had hammer mills to grind and mix their own feeds.
Wet fields were not as serious a problem as years ago. Any equipment that was used was smaller and lighter than the big combines of today. Ear corn had more time to dry in the field or in the cribs.
Today’s modern farming methods are highly efficient and put food on our table at reasonable costs. When it comes to harvest in this part of the country with our weather and climate, there are some disadvantages. Area farmers learn to work around them one way or another. We need to appreciate the time, effort and expense area farmers put into putting food on our dinner tables. — John Parmer is a Farm Bureau member and an independent agriculture writer liiving in Ashtabula County.