Sustainability

2020 Ground Work: Getting Ready for Harvest – and a Wedding – in Indiana

I wish the “dog days” of summer were just that – long, lazy, relaxing days. However, relaxing hasn’t been an option for me as the fall season approaches.

My soybeans look good despite the lack of moisture in late July and early August. They are drying down well. As you can see, some pods had beans that didn’t fill because of the dry weather. But at the same time, it isn’t that hard to find a 4-bean pod.

I am feeling like a marketing genius at the moment. I haven’t sold any of my 2019 soybean crop yet, which I have been storing. And I have yet to price current 2020 crop. Soybean prices are finally increasing – with the current prices, I have a chance of making a small profit instead of just breaking even. I realize that what I call genius may actually be luck, but I’ll take it.

I still have a good portion of the 2019 corn crop to sell, as well. The 2020 corn crop looks just adequate, and I am most concerned about “tip-back” on the ears, or the kernels on a longer portion at the end of the ears not fully forming. My other main concern is deer and racoon damage, which seems to get worse every year, perhaps due in part to less interest in hunting by the younger generation. Both tip-backed ears and animal damage will impact yield this year.

In mid-September, I got a fourth cutting of hay. It’s been years since I’ve been able to get a fourth cutting. The quality is excellent, and the cool, dry season helped the hay do well this year. That said, I still only got 60% of my average hay yield for the year, even with an additional cutting, due to how dry we were all season.

I finished the work I will get done on my feeding pad for the cattle for this year. Putting down geotextile fabric and limestone will wait until next year. The fabric provides a foundation over the land I’ve raised and graded that will keep the crushed limestone in place.

In the meantime, the feeder cattle are putting on weight. I keep the cattle in two pastures, and I’ve replaced rotten fence posts and tightened the barbed wire fences surrounding them. You can see my help is checking the depth of the fencepost hole. It is really hard to keep her happy.

Although it has been dry, the grass has been growing well thanks to rains that came at just the right time. However, that time has come to an end with a light frost on Sept. 17 that means the grass likely won’t keep growing this year.

I have also been busy getting ready for my son Glen’s wedding, which will be on the farm on October 10. Gates are painted. Piles are cleaned up. I’ve hauled nearly 200 metric tons, or 220 tons, of limestone for the driveways. Buildings have been pressure washed. Everything has been trimmed. We just need to clean up in the house and decorate – with a few weeks to spare! But finding more to do has never been an issue for me.

The combines and trucks are being prepped for harvest – which will likely start on October 11, after the wedding. I will focus on whatever crop needs to be taken out of the field first. The corn is drying down well. When soybeans are ready to harvest, they become top priority because unpredictable weather can impact field conditions and quality.

Mid-September also brought a week of Zoom meetings for the United Soybean Board. While I miss seeing other farmers from around my state and the country in person, I do appreciate that Zoom allows me to contribute to the soybean industry without losing valuable time on the farm. I’ve had a lot to do.

But even though the days haven’t been lazy, they have gotten me to fall – my favorite time of the year. Cooler temperatures, different smells and bright colors bombard the senses in the fall. There may be a logical explanation for what makes everything sharper this time of year, but I don’t care what it is. I like it.

Sounds on the farm in fall are different. The rustling of a slight breeze blowing through a dry Indiana cornfield at 9 p.m. is the most relaxing sound in the world. And it sounds better in Indiana than in anywhere else. This sound is better than anything on any “relaxation” recording you will ever find.

Of course, my help loves fall, too. You’d think that at 57 years old, I would finally graduate to driving the tractor, but the help isn’t so sure.

Tom Griffiths
Tom Griffiths

U.S. Soybean Farmer

Indiana

Tom Griffiths raises soybeans, corn, hay and cattle near Kendallville, Indiana. He has built his farm with a focus on sustainability, using 100% no-till, cover crops, best management practices to protect soil and water quality, and grazing cattle on marginal land. Tom’s wife Kim is a middle school language arts teacher, and their son Glen works for an area agricultural retailer. He has served as a director for the Indiana Soybean Alliance, and he was appointed to the United Soybean Board in 2018.