Source: Gary Brock videoYear in the Life of an Ohio Farm Family - Month 2: May
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second in a 12-part series following a year in the live of a typical Ohio farm family. Each month we will visit and report on the progress of the Delaware County farm family Stephanie and Zachary Taylor as they go through spring planting, the growing season, harvest and planning for the next year. This month: May’s frustrations.
RADNOR — It was a rare stretch of dry weather at the very end of May and the first of June that may have made all the difference for the Taylor family of Delaware County.
Standing at the edge of a field he was preparing to plant with corn on June 1, Zachary Taylor took bags of Beck’s seeds from his truck and handed them up to his field-hand, who poured them into the 16-row planter.
Taylor fired up the planting tractor and he began planting corn. For just the last few days, Taylor and farmers like him across Ohio were finally able to get corn and soybeans in the grown.
If the Taylors thought April was a challenge, they had no idea what May had in store for them.
The Taylors invited Rural Life Today to follow them through the course of a single year to see how a typical Ohio farm family lives and works in 21st century America.
Two words for May
“May has been frustrating and discouraging. Those are the two words to describe it. The weather has been something to talk about around here this year. It has been hard to get out in the fields, and we we have, there have been equipment malfunctions,” Taylor said after planting part of the field June 1.
“I think we have gotten all of that squared away. We are a little on the tail end of everything,” he pointed out.
In summing up May, he said he hopes to have the corn planted by the end of the week, with the soybeans to follow.
“Anything that could have gone wrong did. Things we could not prepare for. It hurt us pretty bad,” he added. But the good news? “So far, what we have in the ground is looking good, coming up nice.”
Many Ohio farmers found after heavy rains in May, they have been forced to replant.
“We are fortunate in that aspect – no replanting – hopefully if we don’t get pummeled with rain again we should have a good crop. We have fought hard enough for it.”
This last month anything that could have happened, it happened to the Taylors. “This tractor, it was delivered to us, we set it up and the next day only got 43 acres of corn planted and ended up having a driveshaft problem. So we had to unhook the planter, the tractor had to be taken off, the only place where the part was was in California, so there would be a two day wait,” he said.
“So I got the other planting tractor hooked up, and found it had a bad hydraulic system on it. One of the hoses had a major leak. Thing was, we had been running the tractor on the cultivator two weeks before with no problems,” he said in the cab of the combine guiding it through the field.
He said that by the time they got all the tractors back and ready to go — it was raining. It rained all that day, Saturday, Sunday and then Tuesday they were back to planting. “I worked until 2:30 or 3 in the morning to get done before the next rain. Then it rained. We’ve been doing a lot of sitting and waiting,” Taylor said.
He said that one day in mid-May, they had one heavy rain where four and half inches fell. “That was the rain that cause a lot of farmers to replant. It came down hard and sucked a lot of the temperature out of the ground. Corn needs 55 degrees to germinate, 50 degrees to take in water. Soybeans are pretty similar. Then you take a hard crust on top and no good temperature – a lot of it just rotted or died under the soil.
“It was not a pretty sight for a lot of guys around here,” Taylor said.
On the upside
Although the month was rough in the fields, the Taylor family did just fine.
“Things were good with the family,” he said. He said his daughter graduated from pre-school and is playing T-ball. The bright spot with all the rain is that it allowed him to attend more of her games.
Wife Stephanie, who works at the hospital in Delaware, was able to get their garden planted.
“Things have been good. With the rain, it hasn’t been as hectic at planting time than it usually is. Normally we are running 24-7 for weeks on end,” he said.
The Taylors farm 2,100 acres, some rented, some custom and some they own. It is a partnership with his wife and father and step-mother Tom and Joanne Taylor. “We all have our individual operations, of course,” Taylor said.
Riding in his planting tractor, Taylor, who also serves as president of the Delaware County farm Bureau, was asked about the wet fields. Is the ground dry enough now? “It is getting better, slowly,” he said.
It took him about two hours to plant the corn field. Another nearby field would take a few hours more. They were going to switch over to beans the next day, and “knock it out.”
“We are at the tail end of everything. Most are just now finishing up or replanting. A lot of soybeans are being replanted as well.”
Taylor said most of the things that happened in May are things that you just couldn’t prepare for. All the preventative maintenance in the world wouldn’t have prepared you for these things, he pointed out. “I think we got treated a little harsh this year. It all came at once.”
They have about 550 acres of corn planted. Soybeans? “My plan is to get quite a bit done before the next rain shows up,” he said.
Changes in farming
As he planted, Taylor talked about the changes in agriculture technology over the years.
Taylor said that as a kid, they planted 27,000 seeds per acre. “Now we are averaging with this particular hybrid, 33,000 seeds per acre.” He pointed out that his field across the road he planted the previous evening was 35,000 seeds an acre, but it is a different hybrid. And the dirt is a little more fertile. This was non-GMO across the road, and he was planting GMO corn, both Beck’s Seeds.
“I plant the GMO as a little bit like life insurance. We are managing risk. It is that little bit of protection. If you do happen to get an outbreak of corn borer or rootworm, the chances of them doing something major in terms of damage is minimum to the GMO side. Now the non-GMO corn was cheaper to plant. There’s about an $80 a bag difference between the GMO and non-GMO seeds.”
He said he will not, unfortunately, get a premium for his non-GMO corn. “Not around here. We are not close to any premium markets.”
What is Taylor looking for in June? “Better weather and better luck. The conditions we are planting in today are about the best we’ve had in a while. I checked and the corn we planted yesterday is already starting to germinate.”
He said that as long as “we get a few little rains here and there, I think we will be all right.”
Next month: A closer look at life on the farm.
Gary Brock can be reached at 937-556-5759 or on Twitter at GBrock4.