There Isn’t an Off-season in Farming

February 8, 2010

Leland Uden poses with his daughter on his farm.

After washing his combine after harvest, Nebraska farmer Leland Uden takes time to pose for a picture with his daughter. Cleaning the combine is just one of the many chores Uden and many other farmers have to knock out during the fall and winter months.

During the cold days of February, Nebraska farmer Leland Uden sometimes recalls a joke he’s heard from his non-farming friends:

“I wish I could be a school teacher in the summer and a farmer in the winter.”

Uden’s winter to-do list proves at least the farmer part of that joke isn’t true. A farmer’s job doesn’t stop at harvest. Here’s what Uden has been up to since his crop was harvested in November:

  • Check, clean and store harvest equipment
  • Till fields until the ground freezes
  • Fence fields
  • Meet seed sales representatives
  • Order seed
  • Attend meetings (cattle, marketing and agronomy)
  • Attend farm show to see new equipment and products
  • Meet with accountants
  • Visit with landlords and discuss rents
  • Shop for a semi-tractor and trailer
  • Visit with equipment dealers about trading equipment
  • Trade tractors
  • Attend auctions
  • Get soil samples and discuss fertilizer needs
  • Order and book fertilizer and fuel
  • Set marketing plans for 2010
  • Check planting equipment
  • Handle daily chores
  • Take care of livestock
  • Prepare for calving season

He probably missed a thing or two, too. Most of his chores prepare him for the 2010 planting and crop year.

“I’d rather have the work done now and then be able to take a day or two off, compared to playing catch up later,” Uden said.

Uden farms 1,250 acres and has 125 head of cattle in south central Nebraska. He began farming in 1990. He’s taken over the fourth generation family farm from his dad, who is now semi-retired.

It’s hard to believe, but planting season will get under way soon. Uden hopes to apply fertilizer in mid-March and get the planter rolling in mid-April. That’s why it’s necessary to work on the planter and make sure the rest of the farm is ready to go for one of the busiest times of the year.

“Once the ground thaws, you can do tillage work,” he said. “Usually, fertilizer work begins in March, around the 15th or 20th. If there’s still snow on the ground, it might be the first of April. We’ll run from 8 in the morning to 10 at night.”

If the weather cooperates, planting begins in his area around April 20. A few days before, he and his dad will get the planter set for a trial run.

“You want the planter in tip-top shape,” Uden said. “Anything that creates delays, that costs money. You want to get the crop planted as timely as possible.”

Though 2009 was a challenging year, Uden is ready for 2010. Like most farmers, he loves what he does and has the optimism that this year will be better than the last.

“It takes a lot of investment, both financially and emotionally, because it’s your livelihood,” he said. “We had some corn last year that was hailed on three times. One day you have a beautiful crop and the next day you don’t have one. It takes the wind out of your sails a bit when that happens; just one of the challenges of farming.”

“I do this for love of the job. I like to look out at the beautiful crop . . . and I have a lot of pride in that. And in my cattle too. God has blessed me with a wonderful career.”

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