At the Farm Gate Planting presses through another unprecedented season
When the wall calendar changed in January, we looked to the 2020 planting season with anxious optimism. Our family, farm friends, and even fields needed a fresh start after 2019. Last year’s growing season was brutal, from its unprecedented widespread planting delays and trade wars to a muddy harvest that crept into the month of December.
Then entered the novel coronavirus, a biological threat sweeping the globe and turning lifestyles and economies on their heads. We now begin another historic planting season with challenges beyond our control. As a business deemed essential, farm operations continue, and we stand determined to plant corn and soybeans in a timely manner while mindful of social distancing guidelines.
Hours in the tractor cab naturally isolate farm families like ours this time of year. We take comfort in this seasonal confinement and the priority task of planting, a welcome distraction from the troubling news of the world. I most enjoy the swift precision of the season. The planting process takes a fraction of the time of harvest and resembles an incredible work of technological art. The tractor drives itself straight and hands-free. The high-tech planter places seed at precise spacing. Automatic sensors adjust ground pressure per planter row to sow seed at uniform depths. Software prescriptions vary the seeding rate with the guidance of global-positioning satellites. That guidance controls automatic row shut-offs on the planter to prevent overlapped planting of seed.
A machinery breakdown and overdue haircuts (even worse than in a normal spring season) will promptly remind us of the world’s issues. With non-essential businesses shut down and essential agribusinesses closed to walk-in traffic, farmers forgo haircuts and order parts by phone to pick up in parking lots. Stresses will elevate if the pandemic infects any of us or the supply chain of parts, fuel, fertilizer, pesticides and other supplies or services necessary to plant crops.
That includes grocery pickups to feed the planting crew.
At our farm’s grain storage facility, a lit heart in the scale house window shares the universal message of togetherness and encouragement. It seems we have entered another year when we again hope that changing the calendar brings a better start.
About the author: Joanie Stiers’ family grows corn, soybeans and hay and raises beef cattle and backyard chickens in West-Central Illinois.