Every year is different, but some things stay the same. We try new things, and maintain things that work well. New employees are hired, and we rely more on seasoned veteran employees whether it is on the farm, elevator, warehouse, or crop consulting.
Spring has begun, although it seems covered by a COVID-19 cloud. Farmers still have kids at home, and while some have help with a spouse or grandparent, others are full-time caretakers so they will have to balance school for their kids along with spring planting.
This is the first time I have been requested by my college summer employees to start early. These students also had their education change. It will benefit my business by allowing more time for training and let the students get familiar with the area, as a couple of them come from outside our work region. 2011 was the first year on my own, and I was thankful to have one summer intern from North Dakota State University who was willing to try an experience with a new company. In 2020, along with three full-time scouts, we have college students from NDSU, the University of North Dakota, University of Minnesota-Crookston and Lake Region State College in Devils Lake, N.D. HusoCrop also has been fortunate to keep scouts that are now back on the farm full time, but willing to help with field scouting once planting is over.
While the scouts are doing their training and becoming familiar with farms and fields, the full-time staff is still in the office wrapping up fertilizer, seed and chemical plans. We were fortunate enough to have some decent days soil sampling the past couple weeks while ground was still frozen on the remaining fields that were not able to be sampled.
New to our business over the past few months has been the addition of the SWATBOX. SWAT stands for soil, water, and topography. The SWATBOX is an electrical conductivity sensor that we will run across a field using 50-foot swaths and GPS guidance. That will provide a soil layer to be merged with topography and water maps creating a final product called the SWATMAP. This new method of zone creation still needs ground truthing and possible editing done on software to make the zone a perfect match for the field. In some cases, we have found that our current zones created by Ag Forward and Scott Bylin, of Adams, N.D., are still a good fit and do not need to change. We are excited to begin utilizing some of the SWATMAPs we have created and looking forward to how they compare to our traditional method.
Farm plans are in place for the farmers, but some of the employees are not. Many of the farms I work for utilize foreign labor. Some of those laborers were able to get here before travel was shut down. They have performed the two weeks of quarantine and are now helping in the shop and prepared to hit the field. But the majority of those laborers did not make it over or will not make it over until planting is likely done. That has left these farms to track down different people to “fill a spot” for the time being. Utilizing neighbors and custom applicators is the best plan B and C for farms that will be short an operator heading into the upcoming weeks.
Take care of your family, stay healthy, and keep safe as begin the 2020 crop year.
Mark Huso of Huso Crop Consulting from Lakota, N.D., works with farmers in six North Dakota counties in the production of cereals, canola, corn, edible bean, soybean and sunflowers. He can be reached on Twitter @husocrop or by email: email@example.com.