Heartbreaking harvest for young farmer

Dallas Moneo learned that age-old farming lesson in 2017: a growing season usually begins with optimism but sometimes ends in disappointment.

The 24-year-old is the fourth generation of a farming family near Assiniboia, Sask., but this year was the first that he rented land in his own name.

“You can’t throw in the towel in year one,” he said, reflecting on the year that was. “It’s a wake-up call. It’s not always easy.”

In a Facebook post that was shared worldwide, Moneo explained what happened.

“This is some of our heaviest land,” he wrote. “We planted durum on this 700-acre field.

“We used variable rate technology, which means we had a prescription written based on satellite imagery so our air drill can maximize returns by placing different rates of seed and fertilizer throughout the field.”

“It also helps with even maturity. We used an independent opener air drill, which is meant to precisely place the seed and fertilizer at a consistent depth throughout the field.

“We used seed treatment to protect the seeds from bugs and disease during the germination stages.

“We used very high rates of fertilizer as we were targeting high yields.

“We applied the proper rates of chemical and had our timing right for weed control.”

Dallas Moneo shows the view from his cab as he harvests his durum crop near Assiniboia. | Dallas Moneo photo

As it turned out, “throwing the groceries” to that field was for naught as it received just seven-tenths of rain in mid-June.

“Half of the field didn’t even germinate, as we had heavy winds following the week after planting,” he said. “The wind dried out the furrows and the seed sat in the dirt idle for the duration of the growing season.

“This year is a humble reminder that as a producer, the majority of our livelihood falls in Mother Nature’s hands and unfortunately this year she wasn’t very generous.”

Across the country in Exeter, Ont., another young farmer also experienced her first official growing season with somewhat better results.

“I grew up on a grain farm but this year was the first year I was financially invested in it and could call a piece of the crop my own,” said Lauren Benoit, who obtained an agriculture degree from the University of Guelph last year.

While parts of Ontario experienced weather challenges, Benoit said she can’t complain about that in her area, even though living and working in agriculture has taught her to expect a weather setback.

Her biggest challenge is going to be marketing the corn, winter wheat and soybeans from the farm.

“The corn and soybeans are still on the fields,” she said last week. “Wheat came off lower than we hoped for.”

The planting date was a little bit later than it should have been, she said.

“Last year we had a great year and I know I can’t expect to have record breaking yields every year. It is disappointing but there isn’t much we could have done as farmers to prevent it.”

Both Benoit and Moneo have farming and the lifestyle in their blood. But both also recognize the gamble they will take each spring.

Benoit is working on a master’s degree in weed science. Moneo has electrical engineering technology education and experience that he is using in Houston, Texas, helping with hurricane recovery efforts.

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