ELBOW LAKE, Minn. - Brad Larson was 12 years old when the first National Ag Day came around in 1973. He's lived through 45 of them but the March 20 observance at the Larson Farm and Feedlot will be like the ones before - a work day.
National Ag Day is primarily focused on the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C., with lunches, speeches, and dinners, and an event led by the Agriculture Council of America. The National Ag Day Program and ACA program were both started in 1973 as a way to increase public awareness of agriculture's role in society.
Larson, 57, of course supports National Ag Day, and thinks it's probably a good thing for educating the public about agriculture. But the event barely registers here at home.
His farm is about 880 acres. He's typically heavy into corn and also grows soybeans, wheat and alfalfa. Larson feeds about 300 head of Holstein cattle and markets that many every year.
"I buy year-round and sell year-round," he says. He brings them in at about 600 to 800 pounds and sells at about 1,600 pounds. He buys cattle at sale barns and sells at the Fergus Falls Livestock Auction in Fergus Falls, Minn. He sells some privately through local lockers.
Snow depth was pretty low when Agweek passed through on March 8. Larson thinks he's "OK" for soil moisture at this point.
"We had plenty of moisture last fall but very little snow cover for winter. Conditions vary significantly within a few miles.
Last year, planting started in April.
"It seemed like it went fast and relatively easy," he says.
Soy and corn harvest was challenging.
"It dragged out into November and December. We did a little tillage in December," he says.
Larson's corn yielded in the 160- to 170-bushel-per-acre range. Soybeans were in the 40-plus bushel range. He says there were some good marketing opportunities during the year, but capitalizing on them is always a challenge.
Larson hires custom planting, spraying and combining. There are occasional technique adjustments.
Larson has experimented with 22-inch rows for corn but "keeps going back to 30-inch" he says. He's shifted toward no-till farming and says he plans to plant a cover crop for the first time ever in 2018.
Larson didn't produce any wheat last year but thinks he might grow some this year. He's studying the potential price of wheat. Input costs are lower than for corn.
"There's a potential drought, so wheat prices go higher," he says. "I've gotta make up my mind pretty darned quick. I haven't done it yet, but we'll see how it goes."
He says the winter has been chilly, but generally good for running a feedlot. The cattle compensate for the cold by eating more.
Dairy Holsteins bring less than beef-type cattle, but the discount changes from time to time. He feeds corn (earlage, shell corn), hay and some silage.
"I've tried ethanol byproducts, and that doesn't seem to work so good," he says. "It's not a big part of my ration."
Larson keeps mostly to his own business but says he is generally aware and concerned about the worldwide uncertainties in trade policies, especially potential changes in the North American Free Trade Agreement. Larson says he's concerned about U.S. cattle and beef meat exports. He thinks there's potential peril in grain sales.
"I don't know if it'll change the prices a lot, but it seems like we've got too darned much grain now, and cattle too, I suppose," he says.
But he has to keep his eye on things at home.
"When it does warm up, we'll be ready to go," he says.
And on March 20?
"I gotta check my calendar, but I think I will get my chores done early and get down to Freeport, Minn., for an alfalfa grass and management day," he says. "Maybe tip my hat to the farmers for Ag Day, too."
For more on National Ag Day, go to " target="_blank">www.agday.org.