Belinda Burrier – Union Bridge, Maryland
December 7, 2015
I have been busy traveling the last couple of weeks. Last week, I was at the Executive Women in Agriculture Conference in Chicago. My husband and I attended the Maryland Farm Bureau meeting this week, and I also had a meeting for the United Soybean Board this week in St. Louis. Many agriculture organizations meet at this time of year since most farmers in the United States are finished or close to being finished with harvest.
Back home, we are on our last 40 acres (about 16 hectares) of corn left to combine, and then we have another 90 acres (about 36 hectares) of our high oleic soybeans to finish up. At this point, the high oleic soybeans look good, but we can’t be sure until they’re actually harvested. We are hoping for a very good yield and figure that the moisture should be fine as long as the humidity levels stay down. It seems like we are getting into a higher humidity because the temperature isn’t cold. The higher humidity holds the moisture up in the soybeans, making them a little tougher to combine, but I think we’ll still be fine.
I talked about the downed corn we are harvesting a couple of weeks ago, and we are still working on getting it all out of the field. Our neighbors have finished harvesting their crops, so last week, my husband borrowed their reel that you put on the front of your corn head on the combine so that we can pick up the downed corn. Hopefully this will speed things along since we don’t have to have people walking alongside the combine making sure the corn goes into the combine. It’s very labor-intensive and exhausting to do that manually.
At this point, it looks like our soybean yield is a little below average, but not too bad. Our international customers can still expect a high quality product.
October 30, 2015
We are still very busy with harvest. We just switched back to harvesting corn, and I have been driving the grain cart beside the combine so the combine can unload at the same time it’s harvesting. That way it will maximize our efficiency.
In my last update, I mentioned that a challenge we might encounter was wind with the storms that were passing through last month. Well, we got the wind and it blew down about 35 acres (about 86 hectares) of corn, which has held us up. When the winds come, the corn falls all over the place, making it difficult to harvest with the combine. We ended up running the combine at about 1 mile per hour (about 1.6 kilometers per hour) and had to have two people walk on either side of the combine head to keep it clear. It was very tedious and, needless to say, everyone was very tired at the end of the day.
We also received another inch (about 2.5 centimeters) of rain last week. We are expecting another storm system to come with more wind and rain, so we are working into the night to get as much corn harvested as we can. We’re not complaining about the rain since the winter wheat needs it, but the pressure of trying to finish up harvest is starting to wear on us.
I also volunteer with CommonGround, which is an organization that allows farmers and consumers the opportunity to have conversations about how farmers produce food and to address any concerns the consumer has. As a volunteer, I attend different events throughout the year that allow consumers to learn more about agriculture. I recently attended the opening of a new interactive agriculture exhibit at the Port Discovery Children’s Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. The museum worked with the commodity organizations in Maryland to design the exhibit and they have quite the display!
October 30, 2015
We have been busy with harvest this week. We’ve actually been away from our farm to combine about 500 acres (about 200 hectares) of corn and soybeans on another farm we do custom work for. We got back home the other night right before all of this rain came—we ended up with another 4.25 inches (10.8 centimeters)! There was a lot of localized flooding and now everybody is waiting for the ground to dry out so that we can get back in the fields again.
We planted wheat a few weeks ago and recently top-dressed it with nitrogen. It’s looking really good so far. We haven’t really scouted our fields much recently, but it looks like the soybeans seem to have held up through the localized flooding. The corn might be down a little bit from the wind, but we’re hoping to get back at it and finish up this harvest. I think we have about 600 acres (about 240 hectares) to go.
I’ll be busy next week getting ready for a family member’s wedding on our farm. The wedding will be in the barn, so my goal is to get the barn ready, all of the decorations staged and everything set up and ready to go. They’re calling for another half-inch (1.3 centimeters) of rain on Sunday, so hopefully it will dry out enough for us to get back in the field on Tuesday or Wednesday. That’s our goal for the week– just keep plugging along at harvest.
As far as challenges, rain has been our biggest challenge. Hopefully we won’t get any strong winds for the rest of the week to make things worse. What happens is that the rain degrades and softens the corn stalks and the wind could take it down, making it harder to combine. Another challenge has been delivering corn. We had been shipping it out to a huge turkey farm, but they have shut down for this week, which wasn’t very timely, but we’ll deal with it. We haven’t had any surprises though; like I say, we just roll with it and take things as they come.
I’d like our international customers to know that U.S. farmers are continuing to be sustainable and are meeting the needs of our customers overseas.
October 2, 2015
We started harvesting some corn and full-season soybeans last week. The soybeans were 11-percent moisture, so it was really dusty, but they were doing exceptionally well with yield. Rain stopped us, so we’re in the shop taking care of some work we needed to do on the combine corn head. Farmers save some jobs for rainy days, so that’s what we’re working on. We’re expecting another six or seven inches of rain in the next few days, so there’s not a lot going on right now. So far, we have 40 acres (about 16 hectares) of soybeans and 60 acres (about 24 hectares) of corn harvested, but it will be three to four days before we can get back in the fields after all of this rain.
Before the rain started, we were planting a rye cover crop as a conservation measure. It’s always nice to have a cover crop on through the winter because it helps build organic matter and to build the worm population while preventing soil erosion. We’ve been planting cover crops for seven or eight years now, and each year we plant more. Nutrient management is a requirement here, but using cover crops has just started to become popular. We planted the cover crop with a helicopter since we can’t get a tractor in the field with a crop already growing.
A couple challenges we’re facing is the weather and me being gone. If we get high winds with this rain it could hurt our yields. I just heard from another farmer nearby that they had 70 miles-per-hour horizontal winds. It knocked a bunch of corn down, which makes it harder to get with the combine. Soybeans would get matted down and make for slower combining. If the soybeans are too mature, the beans will pop out of the seed pods with strong winds. Time is of the essence anytime we start harvesting. We’ve got to keep going because if winds, rain, or even early snow comes, it will negatively affect our yields.
With me being away from the farm on marketing missions, it’s a challenge to make sure everything’s done at home before I go away. It’s been quite interesting, I just got back from South Korea a few weeks ago, and I’m leaving for London for a mission and going on to Barcelona, Spain after that. That’s all I’ll do this year internationally and then I’m supposed to speak at the Women in Ag Conference in Chicago in December. It’s definitely a growing group, and I’m proud to be a part of that.
We were surprised that the corn that we just finished combining yielded higher than we expected. We attribute that to putting fungicide on it to prevent an anthracnose infestation. Looking back, we should have put fungicide on all of our corn, but the negative to that is that it would have cost us $20,000 more to do that on all of our corn. We didn’t end up putting fungicide on all of our corn this year because of the cost of applying the fungicide and because of corn prices being down this year.
For my message to international customers this week, I’ll reinforce what I said during my report in South Korea: the crops aren’t as good as last year, but we have more acres planted, so the volume should still be the same.
September 14, 2015
I just got back from an open house at our local dealer’s new store. We used to have to drive two hours away to the nearest store to pick up parts for our equipment, so I’m excited about the new store being only a few minutes away from our farm.
A few weeks ago, we made the trip to the state fair and watched our grandson show his heifer. He won second place in his breed division! I’ve also been working on getting my barn ready for a wedding. One of my husband’s relatives is getting married, so our wedding gift to them is to allow them to use the barn for the ceremony and reception. The wedding is in November, and it should be pretty neat.
We are caught up on our grass and timothy hay. Next week, we are planning to cut more alfalfa. Our sheds are filling up nicely, and we’re right on schedule now. It’s amazing how you can catch up after such a wet start to the season!
It looks like we’re going to start harvesting the first of our full season soybeans next week. I was out looking at them a couple of days ago and they’re drying down nicely. Actually, I found some plants that have four soybeans to a pod, which is a really good thing around here. Our high oleic soybeans aren’t quite ready yet, but the rain we got at the end of last week will really help them put on some additional yield.
We’re hoping to get the combine heads ready to go and all of the little jobs all caught up before we get in the fields. That’s so that, once we get started, we won’t have to think about anything but harvest. We just replaced all of the cutter blades on the combine head we use for soybeans, so that one should be good to go, but we have a lot to do on the corn head. There are chains that need to be replaced and we need to make adjustments so that everything runs smoothly. We’re hoping to start with the full season soybeans first so that we can get wheat planted in those fields as soon as possible. Once those are done, we’ll switch over to corn and get our cover crop planted in those fields. Last week, we had a trailer load of rye come in to plant as our cover crop, so we’re pretty much ready to go.
Soybean buyers I’ve talked to on my international trips have told me that their beans have more dirt and foreign matter in them than previous years. I took it as my personal challenge to inform our local farmers to send cleaner high-quality beans. For instance, today when we were at the dealer’s open house, I suggested that they have a combine clinic to remind local farmers how to set their combines to eliminate a lot of the foreign matter (leaves and stalks) that gets into the soybeans and to let them know that dirt is unacceptable in there. It’s important to know how to set your combine properly. Now, the first day of harvest when my husband’s out in the combine, he’s probably going to be in and out of his combine 20 or 30 times to make sure that his soybeans are going in well and he’s not throwing any out the back onto the ground or getting too much of the plant in the hopper. He wants the cleanest beans that he can get. It’s a lot of work and young farmers need to understand that they can’t just get in the combine and go; they need to be sure to set their screens and their fans to a certain speed to harvest the best quality soybeans that they can get. It sounds like something the dealer wants to help out with, so I’m planning to work with them to make sure that the combine clinic gets scheduled.
August 28, 2015
Things are moving along on the farm this week. I was away for meetings with the Maryland Soybean Board, where I serve as a director, during the first part of the week. In the meantime, we’re trying to get all of our hay caught up since the weather is cooperating, and we want to make sure we get it all done. Normally we usually have about 40 stacks at that time. Fortunately the hay shed is starting to fill up now!
The goal for next week is to wrap up with the rest of the hay. When we’re finished, we will have put up around 43,000 square bales. We do this to diversify our farm income. We work on it all summer, and then in the winter we sell it to our customers so we have a steady income during the off-season.
Our biggest challenge right now is rain. It put us behind with the hay, but our double-cropped soybeans really need some rain now. In our area, recent rains have all gone around us. Our neighbors had anywhere between one-half-inch and two-inches of rain. Other than that, the double-cropped soybeans are coming along pretty well. The plants have a lot of blooms on them and any rain we get now would help the plants put on more bean pods.
Our full-season high oleic soybeans are starting to defoliate. They’ve finished growing, so now they’re heading into dry down. A couple of the fields have turned yellow and soon the leaves will fall off and the pods will start to dry. My husband says that so far everything looks really good.
I’ve been busy traveling this month and am preparing for another trip in September. You might remember that I was away at the county fair when I gave the last update- our grandson ended up with first place showing his pig in his showmanship contest! He’s already talking about showing his livestock again next year and is looking forward to showing his heifer at the state fair next week. My husband and I will be going to see him show and will also be attending the governor’s luncheon at the fair. Our governor’s wife is from South Korea, and they’re excited that I’m going to be there because I’m getting ready to go to South Korea in September. I’ll be going with USSEC to give a market report and update on how our soybeans are doing. I met a few people the last time I was there in April, so I’m looking forward to seeing some of those people again and catching up.
When I was in Mexico last week, one of the things I learned was that the Mexican refineries are looking to buy more soybeans from the U.S. I’d like our international customers to know that we are optimistic that we will end up with a good crop this year and can be the supplier they need us to be.
August 3, 2015
Everyone here has been really busy recently preparing for and hosting a big tractor show on our farm. We had about 300 to 400 people come out this year to see more than 100 tractors and watch the threshing machine demonstrations, which show how wheat was harvested before we had combines. This is something we do the first weekend in August every year to reach out to the public and teach them about agriculture and farming.
Now that the tractor show is over, we have been busy trying to catch up on making hay. Unfortunately, with all of the rain we’ve been getting, it’s been really hard to keep that going. But the weather has finally started to settle down a little bit. We’ve had three days of dry weather in a row this week, so we’ve been trying to cut as much hay as we possibly can and get it all put up. We have about 100 acres left for our first cutting and we are just way behind.
Our high oleic soybeans have been looking good. We ended up getting 90 acres of them planted and have been scouting them for insects and weeds. We are going to apply some herbicide soon to kill the chokeweed, foxtail and lambsquarters that we have in the field. We will also be top-dressing with a little shot of nitrogen. This is pretty common to do in our area. As my husband says, we’re “spoon feeding” the plants, meaning that we give them just enough nitrogen at planting and again around this time in the growth cycle to promote the growth of pods and hopefully produce more beans.
We’ve also been spending some time at the county fair this week. Our grandson is in his first year of 4-H and has already won a blue ribbon showing his heifer! He will be showing his two pigs later this week. Even though we’re busy making hay, we will be sure to squeeze in time to make it to his show to support him.
The biggest challenge we’ve had is getting the hay put up. We usually have 30,000 bales of hay stored in our shed by now, but we only have about 15,000 bales right now. The rain has made it really difficult to get quality hay. People buy our hay to feed to horses, so it’s important that we have good quality hay for them.
We are looking forward to seeing how the high oleic soybeans perform. All of our soybeans are looking good so far, and it looks like we are going to have a really good year because of how timely the rain has hit during the soybean growth stages. The full season soybeans have filled out nicely and there are pods all the way up the stem. Even though it’s still a few months away, we are anticipating a good harvest.
July 17, 2015
We’ve been busy the last couple of weeks cutting and baling alfalfa hay. In order to work, we need three good, sunny days, but we have only been getting two in a row before more rain comes through. Normally when we cut hay, we cut enough so that we can make about 2,000 to 3,000 bales. Since there’s been less sun, we have to be more intense on getting it dry. Usually, the sun dries the hay for you, and you don’t have to fool with it so much. Since it’s been so cloudy, we have to get in the hay to fluff and stir it up so that the air can get in there to dry it.
Besides making hay, we have also been busy harvesting our wheat and planting high oleic soybeans right behind it. It’s been a mad rush trying to get it all done, but we are making progress. This is our first year planting high oleic soybeans and we’re feeling it out to see how it goes. We were trying to get in 100 acres, but we only have about 30 acres done so far. I think that we should be able to get in 90 acres before it gets to be too late.
My goal for this week is to make a lot of hay and get our wheat harvested. We are down to about 35 acres of our own wheat left to harvest and will then get those soybeans planted behind it. When we finish our wheat, we will move on to some custom harvest wheat fields we do for two other people, which adds up to about 400 acres of wheat that we harvest.
We haven’t really had any major challenges. Everyone around us has been busy baling wheat straw and somebody accidentally raked in a few posts and got it stuck in their baler. Thank goodness it wasn’t mine! Invariably, you’re going to have breakdowns, so everybody is constantly troubleshooting to try to stay running at 100 percent during the busy season. It’s hard to surprise a farmer because you’re always on plan “C” or “D”. You don’t talk about it, you just go with it. As my husband says, “You put out the fires and move on to the next thing.”
I’d like our international customers to know that we have been having great weather, even with all of the rain. Additionally, with the latest market report that came out, it looks like we have some ideal prices on corn, so we’ve been trying to contract all we can to keep ahead of the market.
June 24, 2015
This week has been a little bit on the rainy side, so we’ve actually been re-spraying some of our soybeans for weed control. We have problems with Johnson grass, foxtail and we had a little bit of velvetleaf, so mostly assorted weeds. We’re trying to wipe them out so that we have nice, clean fields.
We also started top-dressing corn this week. When we top-dress corn, we put down drop nozzles so that the nitrogen fertilizer goes directly onto the corn and we have very little waste. We’re hoping to finish up top-dressing the corn by the end of the week, but we’re having trouble with our sprayer. It’s slowed us down because we have to “baby” it along instead of going at it like we normally do every time the sun shines.
The other thing that we’re trying to do this week is make hay. We’ve only done 100 acres and have 200 to go. It’s been challenging to squeeze in three days of sunshine to make hay and it’s been trying, but we work around it. We need the rain as much as we need the sun.
In the alfalfa we are using to make hay, there’s been some insect pressure from the alfalfa weevil and the leaf hopper. We’re hoping to hurry up and get it cut, baled and out of the fields, then we can go ahead and treat with insecticide before the insects become too big of a problem.
We are very grateful that we haven’t had any hail or tornadoes in our area. I know that flooding and tornadoes have really been affecting farmers all over the United States, and our hearts go out to those farmers.
June 4, 2015
It’s been a little over a month since our soybeans have been planted. We’ve scouted all of our soybean fields to check for a good stand and evaluate insect pressure or weed issues. We had to apply herbicide, so we analyzed the weeds and made our mix according to the control we were looking to maintain.
It’s been cloudy all week, and we’re finally catching up on our rain. Since we can’t get in the fields, we’re power-washing all of our equipment and running errands like getting equipment parts we need. We’re getting some of the rainy day activities done.
Since planting, we’ve had about 2.5 inches of rain, and we’ve only had to replant a head row of soybeans. We’ve pressure-washed our sprayer to get out the residue from the herbicide, and we’re going to put a little bit of nitrogen on our soybeans. We have some plants that are big enough now that it’s time to go through and top-dress.
In other areas of the farm, we’re hoping that the sun comes out because we need to start making some hay. We only made 60 acres of alfalfa hay, and we need to make 20 more acres. Then we’re going to switch over to timothy-grass hay.
Our goal this week is to have all the hay equipment ready to go into the field. The weather is always a challenge. The main thing is to not let the weather get you down. Just deal with it, and get other stuff done. The older you get, the more you learn to roll with it.
We were a little surprised while we were checking some of the fields this week. My stepdaughter has been planting some soybeans this year, and we saw a spot where she missed a few rows. It gave us a good chuckle. She had never planted before, but she went back and fixed it. We’re actually ahead this year, because our kids have been planting and helping us out.
I would like our international customers to know that the beans that are up are looking good. We just have about 100 acres of soybeans left to plant.
May 18, 2015
This week, we are actually planting soybeans. We started on May 2, and those first beans planted are now up. We haven’t had any rain since we planted them, and we’re probably a little less than halfway finished planting now. Before we plant the soybean fields, we spray herbicide to get all the weeds and kill the cover crop to prepare the ground for planting. Then, we’ll take the fertilizer spreader and spread fertilizer over top. Our farm is no-till, which is a sustainable farming practice, and the bean planter is the last thing that goes in the field.
Our goal this week would be to complete all the pre-spraying on the soybean fields, so we can finish planting them. We expect to finish planting beans in about a week or so. The wind has been slowing us up on spraying. You like to be very accurate when you spray because you don’t want it going over on your neighbor’s place.
The wind has definitely been a challenge, and we haven’t had any rain since we put the beans in the ground. Mother Nature is our challenge right now. We’ve also had a few wheel issues on our equipment, so we’ve had to have the tire people come in and fix our wheels for us. But other than that, everything’s going along smoothly. And that’s good, but you don’t want to jinx yourself.
This year, we’re planting high oleic beans because they have a slightly higher premium, and we just thought we would take advantage of that. One interesting thing happened recently when we were reviewing our seed stock. For some reason, we received twice the soybean stock as what we wanted, so we’ll have to return some of the beans.
We’re also practicing sustainability through the use of cover crops. All the fields the soybeans are going into had cover crops in them, so that’s why we had to do the herbicide spray down to kill off the cover crop. The cover crops are beneficial because they hold the soil and keep weeds from coming up and crowding out the beans, as well as hold the moisture in the ground. They also pick up any nutrients that may have been leftover.
Farm: Belinda and her husband, Dave, grow soybeans, corn, wheat and hay on their farm in central Maryland. They have two daughters who continue to help out on the farm as they start families of their own.