‘I’ve never seen anything like this’
By JOE SUTTER
To put it mildly, the weather has not been so cooperative for the farmers of northwest Iowa this year.
“It’s been unbelievable,” said Doug Stanek .
A few days of sun, and farmers all over the region are scrambling like mad to bring the corn and beans in before more rain can fall.
“We should have been done by now, and we’re just getting started,” said Stanek as his combine steered itself into the next row of beans in his field north of Gowrie.
Farmers all over have been hitting beans hard after getting started in the corn fields, since it’s finally dry enough to harvest beans, said Kevin Fitzpatrick, regional sales manager for Landus Co-op’s northwest region.
“I would say we’re about 35-40 percent done with beans. We’re probably at 15 percent of corn,” Fitzpatrick said. “It seems low, but we were picking up corn last week, and as it dried out everyone switched to soybeans. You can run on corn stalks a lot sooner than bean stubble.”
Stanek did the same-switching from corn to beans as soon as possible.
“I’ve got two more days of beans, and then I’ll have my beans out,” said Dave Mickelson. ” I have some corn done, but I’m probably only 1/4 done with the corn.”
Mickelson was just happy to be combining again.
“We’re finally getting some drier days, that we’re able to get out into the fields a little better without getting stuck,” Mickelson said.
In fact, he’s already been stuck once this year.
“I have once, and got out, but there have been a lot of near times,” Mickelson said.
Mickelson said he’s pretty happy with the yields he’s been seeing, but of course it varies from farm to farm.
“It all depends on how well the farm is drained, and if you’ve had very many low areas that got drowned out. Overall it’s better than expected for yields,” he said.
Still, it’s an unprecedented year as far as Stanek is concerned.
“This is my 43rd crop I’ve taken out. I’ve never seen anything like this,” Stanek said. “When I was in high school we had a wet fall, but nothing like this. A month ago we opened this field up-and we came back last night. It sat for a month. The beans have been ready for a month. It’s crazy.”
Stanek said some of his neighbors have broken the tires of combines, as mud gets squeezed between them.
“The mud is hard on equipment,” he said.
And preparing for the year has been expensive.
“I had to put rear wheel assist on the combine. There’s $40,000. Widen the duals – I spent a ton of money on it,” Stanek said. “That tractor next to us, that’s new, we had to get something with more horsepower. Nothing $350,000 won’t take care of.
“And if I don’t take it out I’ve got nothing. If it ain’t in the bin it’s worth nothing.”
He also snapped an auger, and had to get a loaner bean head just to get the job done.
“It’s been a rough week,” Stanek said. “What day is this? It feels like a week.”
As Stanek and his son crossed the field, large birds soared overhead-hunting rabbits that the combines scared out, Stanek said.
“There’s a bald eagle and a chicken hawk out there,” Stanek said. “It’s either that or a turkey buzzard waiting for me to croak.”
The farm has been in Stanek’s family for 115 years, he said. He has seven grandchildren now, with the eighth due in April.
The year has been hard on him.
“If I didn’t have faith I would have been in the rubber room a long time ago. This is terrible,” he said. “It gets you down. But I had a buddy my age, (Terry Nerhus), a farmer died a month ago from pancreatic cancer, so he won’t ever farm again. That’s what has really kept me afloat.”
Stanek said he was about 1/3 done with corn, and probably 60 percent done with beans on Monday.
Fitzpatrick said moisture for beans is finally down.
“We’re still around 13 or 14 (percent), but some are getting down to 11 or 12 depending on the area,” he said. “Today’s weather, with the sun and the wind, really dries them out finally.”
Bean yields have decreased with all the rain and snow, he said; they were swelling so much the bean pods break open.
“Some guys were leaving out 10 to 15 percent on the ground, that just broke out of pods,” he said. “We’ve seen some damaged corn from sprouting inside the ear shuck from all the moisture that sat in there for so long.
“This area right here, between Gowrie, Farnhamville, Churdan have kind of taken the brunt of the weather, compared to the western half, the Ida Grove, Odebolt, Early area.”
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