FAIRMOUNT, N.D. — Jon Nelk, is “seed sales lead” at Farmers Union Oil of Southern Valley, a cooperative in Fairmount, in southeast North Dakota. It covers portions of Minnesota, South Dakota and North Dakota — about 50-miles in every direction.
Nelk, 53, grew up on a family farm just north of Wheaton, Minn. He graduated high school in 1984. Initially, he worked for a farmer in the Wheaton, Minn., area. After the family rented out the home place, he took agricultural sales at North Dakota State College of Science at Wahpeton, N.D.
He interned as an herbicide applicant at Farmers Co-op Association of Wilmot, S.D.
“I went out and ran the sprayers, learned the whole aspect of what has to be done at a co-op,” he recalls.
He graduated from NDSCS in 1992 and started as an assistant manager at Lake Region Cooperative at Maple Lake, Minn.
“I learned fertilizer sales, bringing it in, purchasing, and I ran the equipment, operated it, did everything the co-op had there,” he said.
In 1995, he was hired by the Fairmount co-op in agronomy sales, specializing in seed, but doing “whatever is needed.” The co-op invested in a new seed plant building this spring, which replaced an outdated 50-year-old fertilizer building that was torn down. “It’s almost twice as big as what I’d had,” he said. It was about a half-million-dollar project. The co-op currently sells NK, Croplan, and Dekalb-Asgrow seeds. They sell corn, soybeans and some wheat.
The facility is provided with a new, automated seed treater, out of the wind and weather. The new system catches errors “before they show up in the truck,” he says. “I went to having a plant where I could stack things neatly and not worry about small bins where you couldn’t maneuver in and out.”
Corn, wheat and sugar beet planting was 100% completed as of May 29, and most soybeans were done by June 1.
“As far as getting the crops in, it’s been a trying year,” Nelk says. “We’re going to have some prevented-plant(ing insurance claims). We’ve got some acre (crop) shifts, because of prices, but overall, everybody’s optimistic that we’re going to have a good crop.”
After the seed sales season, Nelk shifts into the weed control sales.
Corn had progressed to the “two-leaf” stage.
Much of the wheat and sugar beets were getting to spray stage and the beans were emerging.
“They seem to be coming through the weather quite well, and in three or four days (of planting) you see some emergence on some of these fields,” he said.
Nelk does some scouting, but most often the grower will advise Nelk about what weeds they are contending with and the co-op makes the recommendation. “Right now we’ve got a lot of lambsquarter (weeds) coming up,” he said. “We’ve got more grass than I’ve seen — foxtail — than I’ve seen in quite a few years. We’ve got some pigweed and the waterhemp is starting to come up early — just different than usual.”
Nelk thinks that may be the result of not getting some of the seeds buried deeply last fall with tillage that didn’t get done. “They (weed seeds) got left on top and they’re just emerging early,” he said.
The area has some herbicide resistance in waterhemp and some “tougher-to-kill weeds.” Farmers are doing much more “pre-emerge” herbicide treatments, or “lay-by” treatments, he said. "Just being real aggressive, out early to get ahead of them.”