Farmer descriptions: if the shoe fits, wear it

In farming communities, your tendencies, successes and shortcomings are on display for all to see. The neighbours know your equipment and they regularly drive by at least some of the land you farm. See if anyone comes to mind in your community based on the following descriptions.

Early seeders

These folks are renowned for being the first out of the gate when seeders start rolling in the spring and they’re generally the first to finish seeding and the first to start harvesting. Maybe they farm on land that dries out earlier, but often they just like getting their crops in early.

Seeding strugglers

Everyone has a field or two from time to time that they aren’t happy with. Maybe it’s seeding misses or seeding too deep or herbicide residue issues. Some folks struggle with a seeding problem that haunts them for a number of years and the evidence all too often ends up along a well-travelled road.

Cowboys

Farms with a significant cattle component have different considerations than straight grain farms. If growing a crop for green feed, they may be less interested in early seeding or perfect weed control. And they may be using older equipment because they aren’t seeding as many acres as most of their neighbours.

Part-timers

During the growing season, some people come back to the farming community where they grew up so they can continue to farm. Typically, they farm a relatively modest acreage using older equipment. Some have good attention to detail and come up with impressive results. Others have their struggles.

Rotating employees

While some farms rely entirely or almost entirely on family labour, it has become common for big operators to have a significant number of employees. Sometimes they’re locals and sometimes not. You might know who is farming a piece of land, but you might not recognize who is running the equipment.

Long in the tooth

It’s common to see a farmer still active well into his or her 70s and sometimes even beyond, but no one farms forever. Is a family member waiting in the wings to take over or will the farm eventually transition outside the family?

Price shoppers / loyal customers

Some producers are price shoppers. If they can save a dollar or two an acre, that’s where they will buy. After all, a couple dollars on thousands of acres adds up. Others are reasonably content to deal with the same supplier most of the time as long as the price is reasonably competitive.

Spray drifters

In a spring like this one where the wind blows with a gale force on a lot of days, it can be tough to get herbicides applied in a timely manner. If you push too hard, you can end up drifting onto a neighbour’s crop causing damage to both the crop and the relationship. If this happens more than once, word gets around.

Yield braggers

Whatever yield you generated, their yield was always better and they’re eager to tell you about it. Of course, quite a difference exists between the top yield monitor reading, the top yielding field, and the average yield across a farm.

Steady as she goes

Consistently good crops, relatively free of weeds, seeded and harvested in a timely manner. Nothing negative for the neighbours to talk about. Of course, it’s probably best not to care what the neighbours think anyway.

Kevin Hursh is an agricultural journalist, consultant and farmer. He can be reached by e-mail at kevin@hursh.ca.

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