Monday, November 25, 2013

Day 25: Harvest is Over - What do Farmers do all Winter?

Well, the first response to this question is, what kind of farmer are we talking about?  They all do different things!  Just like no two snowflakes are the same, neither are two farmers and their farms. 

With the crops in (or finishing coming in), many farmers have finished planting cover crop and winter wheat for this year.  Many are in the process of cleaning up and repairing harvest equipment, preparing it for storage through the winter (and the summer for many farmers).  With the wrapping up of harvest, there is grain to be hauled, bins to be built, land to be auctioned and sold or rented, equipment to trade, and tax paperwork to start.  The winter is not the total shutdown many people envision.  This is especially true for livestock farmers!  Just because there aren't crops in the field, doesn't phase those pigs/turkeys/chickens/cattle/sheep/goats/etc.  These animals still need someone to sit on a feed grinder in the snow to make sure they have a healthy food supply every day.  They need someone to fix those water lines that freeze and break on Christmas morning.  They need someone to make sure that they get their vaccinations to prevent sickness, to pull calves, to milk cows, to collect eggs, and to care for those piglets.  This is a never ending cycle, and these people knew it from day one. 

At work, I know that the last couple acres of corn were shelled and put in the bin this evening, and now it's time to clean the combine up, run it through the shop, and then get manure hauled.  Oh and don't forget that it's time to sell pigs again.  Farmers probably do this more today than ever, but they've been watching markets.  Corn just seems to keep falling, soybeans are down, and farmers have crops in their bins that need to be sold.  Truth be told, you will generally market a good percent of your crops out on the futures market before harvest to try and get the often-better, pre-harvest market prices.  They're hedging, handling puts and options, and things that my ag economics classes have not yet discussed enough for me to explain, but let me tell you, these folks have to really know what they're doing.  It's also about time to start pre-ordering seed for next year (if you haven't already), as well as locking in prices for fertilizer.  As my semester here at school is coming to a close (and with a couple classes, the end couldn't come quick enough), things are winding down.  This is definitely not the case for the folks in the fields and on the farms across the country. 

Here's my Monday salute to all of the hardworking people out there in America (not just in agriculture).  You're part of something greater than you realize, and your labor helps make this country the great place it is!

Have a great Monday night!

Linking up with Holly and the other "30 Days" bloggers here.

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