Throughout the 2020 growing season, USSOY.org will provide regular Ground Work updates from several U.S. soybean farmers around the country. Learn about their farms and commitment to producing high-quality soy.
Elliott Uphoff farms with his dad, Doug, and retired grandpa, Duane. Elliott is the fifth generation of his family to farm near Shelbyville, Illinois, in the heart of the U.S. Midwest. He married his high school sweetheart, Hailey, and they welcomed their first daughter, Madeline, in early November 2019.
“As a little kid, I was a ‘carpet farmer’ with my farm toys, using a section of the floor as the field for my toy tractors and combine,” Elliott says. “And I always wanted to be in the field with my dad and grandpa. Farming is in my blood.”
After earning his degree in plant and soil science with a minor in agribusiness from Southern Illinois University, Elliott worked for a local ag retailer for a year before he had the opportunity to join the farm full-time in 2013.
“My great-uncle retired, which opened the door for me to come back to the farm, where I always wanted to be,” he says. “It’s as rewarding as I expected, though it’s challenging because there is much we can’t control.”
The Uphoffs raise soybeans and corn on about 850 hectares, or 2,100 acres, in fields within a 32-km, or 20-mile, radius from the home farm. Their town, Shelbyville, is nearly 380 km, or 210 miles, south of Chicago, and 185 km, or 115 miles, northeast of St. Louis, Missouri.
“Our farm is pretty conventional,” he says. “We use biotechnology and rotate our fields between soybeans and corn each year. We usually do some tillage, because our ground is very flat, and erosion isn’t a significant issue. However, this year we will no-till our soybeans because the wet weather and late harvest last fall didn’t allow us to do our usual field preparation.”
Most of the Uphoffs’ soybeans go to ADM facilities in nearby Decatur, Illinois, less than 65 km, or 40 miles, from their farm. The soybeans are crushed and meal and other ingredients go to customers throughout the U.S. and around the world.
The need to haul their grain prompted Elliott to buy a semitruck. That grew into a trucking business that has become an extension of the farm. When not in use on their farm, he hauls grain for local elevator storage facilities, lime and fertilizer for local ag suppliers, and other products for local businesses throughout the year.
“I’m a millennial farmer, which means a couple of things. First, I think outside the box. And second, I’m concerned about sustainability,” he says.
With that mindset, he explores new options that could work on the farm to continuously improve sustainable production. And he’s committed to using biodiesel in his semi and encouraging others to consider renewable fuels.
“Our fields are literally full of energy,” he says. “We grow soybeans and corn very efficiently. Using them for renewable fuel makes sense for farmers, consumers and the environment. All fuels have a carbon footprint, but with biodiesel, farmers are part of a full cycle. We use biofuels to create more energy when growing soybeans.”
His desire to learn from and share ideas with other young farmers led him to get involved in a local agriculture young leaders’ group. There, a fellow farmer encouraged him to participate in the soybean industry through a Soy Ambassador program that eventually led to his election as a board member for the Illinois Soybean Association.
“I get to be a part of bringing value to farmers,” he says. “For example, we work to open and maintain markets for our soybeans.”
Like all U.S. farmers, Elliott takes pride in his work.
“We work hard trying to raise the best soybeans we can,” he says. “We are proud to efficiently raise sustainable, high-quality soybeans for our customers around the world.”
Elliott will share regular updates on USSOY.org throughout the 2020 growing season. Follow him even more closely on Twitter, @elliottuphoff, or on his Facebook page, @euphoff.