Northwest Minnesota crops looking up after late start

This wasn't an easy spring for farmers in northwestern Minnesota. Wet conditions complicated planting, and many fields were seeded later than normal.

This wasn't an easy spring for farmers in northwestern Minnesota. Wet conditions complicated planting, and many fields were seeded later than normal.

But farmers and others involved in agriculture in the area aren't complaining. Crops, though less advanced then normal, are progressing nicely, and there's optimism about the coming harvest.

The plentiful moisture, coupled with a stretch of dry, warm weather, already is producing good hay crops.

Agweek talked with several farmers, as well as an elevator manager, in a recent swing through northwestern Minnesota.

Fine haying weather


CROOKSTON, Minn. -- The sun is shining, the thermometer is pushing 80 degrees, the field of cut grass and alfalfa is dried nicely.

This July day has brought ideal haying weather, and the Hoppe family isn't wasting a moment.

Dave Hoppe is running one big bailer. His son, Steve, operates another. Every few minutes, one machine or the other burps out another bail.

A little later, Ida -- Dave's wife and Steve's mom -- joins them in the field. She runs the skid-steer loader and collects the bails. She also raked the hay before it was bailed.

She says, when contacted the next day, that the field produced 313 bales.

"It went pretty well," she says.

That also seems to describe how things in general are going on the Hoppe farm this summer.

The family has a cow-calf operation, feeds hogs on contract and raises corn, wheat, barley and soybeans.


Despite the wet spring, the Hoppes were able to plant all their crop acres. Though many of the fields aren't as advanced as they normally would be, crops on balance are promising, Ida says.

"It's in pretty good shape," she says, noting that a string of warm days in July helped their crops, particularly their corn.

Ida, raised on a Minnesota dairy farm, has been married to Dave for 37 years and plays an integral role in the operation.

Dave, a second-generation farmer, didn't have any cows when they married, she says.

Today, they have about 250 head of beef cattle and feed out 1,000 to 1,100 hogs on contact.

Steve isn't the only child of Dave and Ida involved in the family farm.

Daughter Crystal, who served in the military and later as a game warden in Texas, has returned to join the operation, which is south of Crookston.

Another son is a professor of biophysics at South Dakota State University.


With one hay field finished, the Hoppes turned their attention the next day to another field ready for baling.

The dew was light, so they were expecting to start by 9 a.m.

"We're hoping for another good day," she says early that morning.

Building on in Beltrami

BELTRAMI, Minn. -- It's a month, at least, until harvest in Beltrami area will begin in earnest.

But there's plenty going on at Beltrami Farmers Elevator, a farmer-owned elevator in this town of about 100.

The elevator is adding 350,000 bushels of storage capacity to the 1.4 million bushels of capacity it has now.

Farmers in the elevator's trade area are growing more corn, which has higher yields and requires more storage space.


Polk County, in which Beltrami is located, produced 6 million bushels of corn in 2010, compared with 2.6 million in 2000.

About 99 percent of the cropland was planted in the Beltrami area this spring, elevator manager Tom Nelson estimates.

He's seen good crops and poor crops in the 36 years he's been at the elevator.

This year's crop generally was planted late and has some catching up to do. But despite being less advanced than normal, fields are promising.

"We could have a good harvest. We need more days just like this," he says, referring to weather with highs in the low and mid 80s.

A few early wheat fields could be harvested as soon as the first week of August, he and other elevator employees estimate.

But they doubt wheat harvest will kick into high gear until the middle of August.

Weather is helping


GARY, Minn. -- Vernon Hovelson, 66, has been farming for half a century.

The Gary, Minn, farmer is hard at it again on this morning in early July. But he's willing to spend a few minutes -- although only a few -- to talk about his crops.

"I got it all in. Some of got in late, but this weather we've been having has helped," he says.

A string of sunny days with temperatures in the low and middle 80s has been practically ideal.

Hovelson raises wheat and soybeans. He doesn't have any corn; "too much trouble," he says.

The temperatures have been warm enough to help the soybeans, but not so hot that the wheat suffers.

Gary is a farm town in Norman County, which typically is among Minnesota's top producers of spring wheat. Norman ranked fourth in 2009, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The county also is a top producer of barley and sunflowers, ranking fourth in the production of both crops in 2009, according to statistics from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.


Soybeans and corn are common in the county, too, although they don't dominate crop production in Norman County as they do in many counties in the state.

Hovelson says he doesn't know if this year's crop will measure up to the 2010 crop, which was a good one.

But after a half century of farming, he knows better than to expect a bumper crop year after year.

"You can't have a full, big crop every year," he says pragmatically.

Statewide progress

Warm temperatures and adequate soil moisture boosted crops across Minnesota in early July, according to USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service.

Ninety-eight percent of the state had adequate or surplus moisture as of July 10, NASS says.

Soybeans, wheat and corn, on balance, were doing well in the state, although wheat and soybeans aren't as advanced as normal.

Ninety-four percent of soybeans in the state was ranked fair to excellent. However, only 16 percent of soybeans had bloomed, compared with the 2006 to '10 average of 31 percent.

Ninety-six percent of spring wheat in the state rated fair to excellent. But only 69 percent had headed, compared with the 2006 to '10 average of 82 percent.

Ninety-four percent of corn in the state rated fair to excellent. Twelve percent of corn was silking, the same rate as the 2006 to '10 average.

What To Read Next
Get Local