EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the eighth in a series of articles profiling an Ohio farm family through a “typical” year. This month – December on the farm is a time for decisions, decisions, decisions.
RADNOR — Even with the harvest season over, farmers keep swiftly moving, much like the cold winter wind blowing through Ohio. The last two or three weeks of December kept farmer Zach Taylor and his family busy: holidays, his great grandmother’s 104th birthday and fulfilling customer seed orders.
Taylor is in the business of selling seeds and most of his customers are local and easy to work with, he says. With harvest finished, some farmers need to complete seed purchases before the end of the year for their 2017 taxes.
“So, that’s been a rush because we all got done with harvest and we just wanted to walk away from it,” said Taylor. “Didn’t want to think about it. Didn’t want to have to make a decision and then boom! It’s December. We’ve got to start making decisions.”
He says that farmers have a variety of decisions to make dealing with hybrid, technology, chemicals, and so on. Some farmers wait until they are finished with the current year before making decisions, putting just a little extra stress on Taylor, which he says is no big deal.
“That’s been huge at least the last two and half weeks,” Taylor said. “Running around chasing customers and trying to get things taken care of.”
Harvest behind us
Harvesting on the Taylor farm started Oct. 15 and finished on Nov. 27 — and for the first three weeks of harvest, Taylor did all the work himself.
“I did it all. I ran the cart, I ran the combine, I ran the trucks. And that got to be a pretty heavy burden,” explained Taylor. His farmhand, Colton Garrison, arrived at the beginning of November to help complete harvest, and Taylor’s father pitched in where he could.
“The last week of harvest for us was some of the best weather all fall. It was 50, 60, 70 degrees and it was dry,” said Taylor. “Shoot, it was awesome harvesting weather. I guess we went out with a bang, you could say.”
Taylor said that they had to stop and haul corn twice to finish getting all the corn dried and put away because they kept running out of space. This normally doesn’t happen, but Taylor says he won’t complain; he guesses it means they had a lot of extra crop.
They dried more corn this year than they ever had dried before because of yields and they planted late. “The rain didn’t help, but basically the corn just didn’t mature out a hundred percent,” Taylor said. “It was just the year to dry corn, I guess.”
Winter work and new equipment
Work on the farm doesn’t stop for the snow. Taylor has plenty to do this winter.
“We got our manure hold out of the hog barns, so we’re going into the winter with empty pits, which is a great thing,” said Taylor.
However they haven’t been able to do much tillage work because every time it’s been fit to run they’ve had other things to do, like hauling manure or grain.
“We spend a lot of our winter hauling grain,” said Taylor. “Toward the end of January we’ll start bringing seed in to fill the warehouse.” They have 110,000 bushels worth of grain ready to be hauled.
For the future, Taylor would like to update the grain dryer with one that he can monitor from another site. However, farm equipment is expensive.
He got a good deal on a disk ripper (digger) in December from an online auction, which he says was an impulse buy. The cost was half the price for what the model was being sold on dealer lots. His current digger was not doing what he wanted it to do and it was hard to buy parts for.
Taylor has some other maintenance work to complete, such as replacing steel on the hay building and reworking two semi-trucks. He is also installing a new heating system in his barn and is still looking for a four-wheel drive tractor to replace his current two.
“Keep making tracks is the way I always explained it,” said Taylor.
After an unusual year regarding late planting and harvesting, Taylor is looking forward to 2018. However, he doesn’t foresee a real healthy agriculture economy.
“We’ve outproduced ourselves. We’ve had really good years, granted there’s always that spot that doesn’t do well,” Taylor explained. “But, overall, across the nation, we’ve outproduced the demand. The demand hasn’t risen at the same rate that the production has risen.”
He doesn’t know what the first year will bring, but he says that any farmer out there right now would “like to see a corn rally at $4 and a bean rally to a flat $10 cash price.”
“As we’re going into it, we’re getting more chemical prices, more fertilizer prices, and stuff really hasn’t come down much,” Taylor added.
As far as his land, Taylor left the ground in pretty good condition, and will dig more during the winter if weather permits. “We were pretty conscious about how badly we tore everything up,” Taylor said. “It’s harder to repair it and fix it than it is to just stay off of it and let it get right before you decide to do anything.”
Next year, Taylor would like to be more specific with his soil sampling. He would like to transition from grid sampling to a zone-based sampling.
Taylor does not foresee making any significant changes in regard to technology, with the exception of upgrading the grain dryer.
“Technology doesn’t always pay the bills. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t,” said Taylor. “What little bit we’ve done has definitely improved our efficiencies and cut some costs.”
Next month: Family lineage and how the Taylor farm came to be.