Guest posting today is my husband Jay! Jay is a 4th generation grain farmer with his Bachelor of Agriculture in Crop Science Degree from the University of Alberta. He farms with his dad and brother-in-law on their land in the Strathmore area where they plant wheat and canola. Jay is also an Alberta Wheat Commission representative and you can follow him on Twitter.
Any grain farmer would joke we would like to be “Triple A Farmers”: April, August, and Arizona. A parody that our work is done in one month of spring for seeding, one month for harvest, and the rest of the time we spend on vacation. While the spring and fall months are extremely important, you may be surprised to learn that winter is a crucial time for us as well.
After harvest is done, I’m exhausted and dread the thought of getting into another combine, so our farm usually takes a bit of break. We don’t have much time to relax though, because snow can be right around the corner in October and November and we still need to get all of our fall field prep work done.
Once that is completed we move on to planning our crop rotations and start organizing our inputs for the next year which includes soil sampling and analysis to tell us what kind of nutrition program to aim for. Based off these results, we then order and haul all of our fertilizer to store on the farm for the next year. In turn we make contracts with seed companies to lock in specific varieties that we want to grow. If you wait too long there is a good chance that the seed you want will not be available. We also haul all the seed that we’ve grown to the cleaning plants.
You may also be surprised to learn that farmers do a lot of reading. During the winter, on average, I probably read an hour or two a day of all the current things that are going on in agriculture. This can be old fashion newspapers like the Western Producer, daily emails and texts, or following links and conversations on Twitter. Farming is such a dynamic industry and nothing stays the same for long. For example, if there is political unrest in countries such as Ukraine or Egypt, how will it affect world markets? How will infrastructure issues affect shipping in Brazil during harvest? To maintain a competitive edge you need as much information as you can to make the most informed decisions in our global economy.
The majority of conferences and seminars are held in winter to review the previous year’s issues and results.We also look ahead to what kind of conditions the next year will hold for markets, technology, agronomy, and environment. This winter I’ve attended a couple of large farm shows, various producer commission meetings, and some excellent conferences.
The majority of our labor time in the winter is spent hauling grain. It can be a long, tedious process but offers grain farmers steady work to do in the winter months. It’s rewarding to fill grain contracts and finally see return on money invested months earlier. I would by lying if I didn’t fully disclose that winter for our family always sees my dad and mom heading to Maui for a about a month, and my family is lucky enough to be invited to go with them next year!