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CLAYTON RYE

By Staff | Apr 24, 2009

On of the most anticipated weeks in farming has arrived. This is the week that my neighbors and I will start corn planting. A few got off to a start last week and this week the rest of us will join them in the race to the finish line to get every acre planted.

Every year I am amazed at what appears to be such an almost effortless task that getting our corn and soybeans planted seems to be. Certainly, there is much preparation leading up to the moment when the corn planter crosses the field. Equipment size has reduced jobs that once took hours down to mere minutes.

My earliest memory of a corn planter was my dad’s four-row that he pulled with a John Deere A in the 1950s. That was traded in for a six-row planter, which also had the new development of something called “narrow rows,” that he pulled with a John Deere 3010 in the 1960s.

When I moved here in 1975, my uncle had bought an eight-row planter that he pulled with a John Deere 4020. That was traded in for a 12-row planter powered by a John Deere 4430 in 1985.

It seems that every decade we scale up our planters. That would make today’s 24- and 36-row planters on schedule and a logical question to ask is “What next? Can planters get bigger?”

Of course, they can and they will. Planters will get bigger because farms will get bigger. This has been going on for my entire life of almost 62 years. When my dad was using his four-row planter, there were farms using a two-row model to get their crop in the ground.

There may be an upward limit in planter size due to size of fields. Today’s huge planters work best when a field is as close to a large rectangle as possible with the emphasis on large. There may be a limit in size but we are not there yet.

For all this talk about planting and large equipment accomplishing great things quickly and easily, I can contrast that with our first crop of this year that has been in the ground 10 days. On Good Friday, my wife and I planted the potatoes for this year. Before they were covered, I counted 229 potatoes that I hope will become around 200 potato plants in a few weeks.

This was not done in any hundred-acre field, but a piece of ground the size of a single stall garage. There was no 300 horsepower diesel engine to prepare the ground, just my neighbor Dave with his Cub Cadet and a tiller. Dave and “Cubby” crossed the ground in each direction and when he left, the soil was pulverized and ready.

My garden hoe was not GPS equipped, although if it was it could have helped me keep my line straighter in making the trenches for where we dropped the potatoes. Was the work effortless? At my age and physical condition, it was not effortless. Twenty-five years ago, I would have described it as effortless, but that was then.

However, the satisfaction and enjoyment from this little piece of ground that is only a small part of an acre is as much as many acres of corn and soybeans. Whether it is a meal during the week or a weekend family gathering, a potato, a pepper, or a tomato that is part of the meal and only minutes ago was still drawing nourishment from the soil is a treat to be relished. (Yeah, I know, I am verging on a pun).

Farming, whether it is on a large scale or a small scale, has its rewards. Some of those rewards are measured in dollars while other rewards will always remain priceless.

Rye is a Farm News staff writer and farmer from Hanlontown. Reach him by e-mail at crye@wctatel.net

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