Lifecycle of a Family Farm: Spring Planting

Till, no-till. Organic and conventional. Throw in some unique poultry and a goat fittingly named Jack “Free-Range” Willis and you have a sense of the “everything but the kitchen sink” nature of the land Union County Farm Bureau member Ron Burns farms.

This year in Our Ohio magazine, we’re going to take a pictorial look at a “year in the life” of Ron Burns and his fiancée, Melissa Downerd, from planting to harvesting crops and everything in between.

Spring, of course, brings much activity to the 250 acres Burns manages on the 1,500-acre family farm operation. It’s nearly time to get the soil ready for planting season and get those seeds into the ground.

Farmers across Ohio will soon be gearing up for spring planting, with most of the work coming in April and May (unless the weather fails to cooperate).

Burns tills and fertilizes his fields in preparation for the planting of his diverse crop plan. He grows both organic and GMO crops using no-till practices for his corn, wheat, soybean and hay rotation.

His wheat cover crop planted in the fall, goes dormant in the winter and will start growing again this spring. It will be harvested in July.

We’ll have more on that and other practices on the farm throughout the year. You can also follow Burns on social media. Search the hashtags #RBEQUIP and #245Organic on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. He is “GraysonGrains” on Snapchat.


Read the next installment: Lifecycle of a family farm: Summer labor

Farmer Ron Burns drives the tractor that pulls the planter that perfectly spaces out the seeds on his Union County farm.
Burns inspects and cleans the planter between cornfields. Since he raises both conventional and organic crops, keeping seed separated is an important step.
Finishing up custom planting on a neighbor’s land. In agriculture, “custom” means planting crops for others. Custom planters normally own their own equipment and work for the same farms each year. The same is true in harvesting. Custom work is one of several ways Burns has diversified his business.
This is a row unit on the corn planter that Burns uses on his no-till production land. No-till is a method of growing crops from year to year without disturbing the soil through tillage, therefore protecting soil from erosion.
Setting up a monitor for 12-row planter to have accurate, real-time data will ensure seed spacing and population. Technology like this can help farmers understand soil nutrient needs and crop productivity down to the square-foot basis.
Final, up-close inspection of soil conditions prior to planting his organic crop. This field is used for organic production so Burns must manage it to organic specifications.
Burns prepares the spring fertilizer application.
Corn seeds are inspected prior to filling the planter. The seed is green to indicate it has a treatment to protect the seed from soil born pathogens and insect damage. In Burns’ organic production, seeds are not treated.


Photos by Dave Gore