View From the Cab 07/03 05:00
Fireworks on the Farm: Celebrating Crops and Community
Crops continue to cook along for DTN's View From the Cab farmers in Colorado
and Ohio. This week they talk about crop progress, freedom and community values.
Crops Technology Editor
DECATUR, Ill. (DTN) -- Luke Garrabrant's holiday started early this year
when wheat ripened enough to begin harvest before the calendar rolled to July.
Wheat yields were also high enough to give him another reason to celebrate.
Picnics and parades sound nice, but they are not his focus in the coming
days. "I associate July 4 with wheat harvest and straw baling and that's
exactly what we'll be doing this year. We've been so busy playing catch up with
planting and other operations that it feels good to have something happen on or
ahead of schedule," said Garrabrant, who farms near Johnstown.
On the other hand, Marc Arnusch's cereal crop is a little delayed this year
in eastern Colorado. However, there's no shortage of other seasonal
commitments. The farmer and his crews will be sidedressing and tending to crop
irrigation chores this holiday weekend. However, the nearby town of Keenesburg
will explode in a giant display of fireworks on July 3.
"For some, this is a holiday where they slow down, but this is the time of
the year when we tend to accelerate," Arnusch said.
Arnusch and Garrabrant report in each week as part of DTN's View From the
Cab project. This week they give an update on crop conditions and talk about
how community factors into their lives and patriotic values.
MARC ARNUSCH: KEENESBURG, COLORADO
This week Marc Arnusch was putting in some sweat equity trying to get ahead
of the heat. As silage corn was sidedressed with nitrogen, another tractor
followed closely behind putting down gated irrigation pipe.
"Heat in July isn't anything new. It's just that the crop is starting to
show it, so we've been laying pipe in corn and milo," he said. The hard plastic
pipe is split every 30 inches. Gates are opened and closed by hand every 8 to
12 hours, to surge water along the pipe to thirsty crops.
It's a type of irrigation that is both time-intensive and physically
demanding. "It will put on some calluses and build some fortitude," Arnusch
said. "We have a landlord that still prefers this irrigation system. For the
most part, this area of the country has moved to sprinkler or drop nozzle
irrigation systems," he said.
Irrigation is needed since Keenesburg has been hard-pressed to gin up a
shower of late. DTN ag meteorologist John Baranick said the showers popping up
off the Rockies have mostly been landing just to the west.
"That is a typical feature of thunderstorms in the summertime. Sometimes
they stay parked over the Foothills, sometimes they drift eastward. Keenesburg
should have chances all next week, but that doesn't mean they'll get hit by any
of them. Temperatures at least do not look like they will get too crazy, but
will still be in the lower 90s," Baranick said.
Arnusch said those temps are driving wheat and barley toward the finish
line. "I figure we're about two weeks away from barley harvest and maybe 10
days away from wheat harvest," he said on July 1. "There are times we are
sitting in the seat of a combine on the fourth, but not this year.
"We're scouting fields and not seeing anything too problematic in milo or
corn. We've seen a few Russian wheat aphids in one barley field, but are below
threshold so far," he said. Wheat yields are expected to be below normal due to
early drought conditions, but Arnusch remains optimistic for yields on his
Communicating what the farm is about to the community around him is
important to Arnusch. "We live in a place that rallies around our youth. Our
community holds the only non-taxpayer funded fair and rodeo in Colorado," he
The farm is a frequent sponsor in some of those fair events. As a seed
business, they also promote community through knowledge day tours of the farm
plots. At age 26, Arnusch became president of the Colorado Corn Growers
Association -- an affiliation that gave him a taste of leadership in a variety
of capacities with Farm Bureau and other boards as his career has progressed.
Having the freedom to speak out on behalf of his industry and his family
farm is something he holds dear. "Perhaps because I'm first-generation American
and know my grandfather and father immigrated here to have those freedoms," he
For example, he's currently part of a lawsuit with four other farms that is
suing the Colorado governor over a bill that passed the state legislature
allowing labor unions permission to come onto farms to talk to employees. "In
our view, this allows for legal trespass," Arnusch said. "It is unfortunate we
have to take the lawsuit route, but at least there's a system in place to
disagree and let the court of law decide."
The important point here, Arnusch said, is that he has the freedom and
independence to challenge something he believes is unfair in a civil way. "In
farming, we have the freedom to succeed. We have the freedom to fail. We have
the freedom to make the decisions on our farm that influences those outcomes.
"Sometimes we think there's too much government involved in those decisions,
but we have the freedom to say so. My Dad and his family didn't have that in
Europe," he noted.
"I do occasionally kid my Dad by asking if the train he boarded in New York
harbor when entering the country stopped in Iowa? There are other farming areas
that fascinate me. But then I look around and think about the life and great
business we've carved out here.
"That's worth remembering occasionally," he said.
LUKE GARRABRANT: JOHNSTOWN, OHIO
When Luke Garrabrant's low-management wheat field averaged 80 bushels per
acre this week, he could hardly wait to turn the header into his intensively
managed fields. This is soft red winter wheat country and after a soggy spring
and delayed planting, the yield was like an elixir for the young farmer's
The field he harvested did not have fungicides applied and was running
around 13.5% moisture. "If you'd asked me earlier this spring, I would have
said this was going to be a late harvest because everything seemed delayed," he
said. "But we've had quite a bit of heat early this spring and this wheat
really came on."
Disease pressure has been light to non-existent, Garrabrant said. He
expected wheat he'd yet to harvest, which had a fungicide application, to be
With no on-farm storage, Garrabrant has an hour's drive to the nearest sales
outlet for wheat. This year he has an interesting basis market scenario to
consider. "I have one outlet that has drying capacity that has been 40 under
and in another direction I have a milling company paying 40 over.
"I'm hoping these next fields will be the quality to make grade and that I
can capture that basis at the miller," he said. However, experience has told
him that grading is tough and it's a long haul to the other facility should a
load be rejected for a whiff of garlic or another quality factor.
For corn, the old measuring stick of "knee-high by the fourth of July" won't
be hard to muster this year, despite late plantings.
"We are seeing some corn curl up during the heat of the day. If we don't get
any of these pop-up showers that they are talking about this weekend, I feel
like we are flirting with a drought," he said.
Ag meteorologist John Baranick said Johnstown could be on the cusp of the
dreaded "flash drought" that is showing up in other parts of the Corn Belt.
"A front will be near the area all week long and some showers will be hit or
miss here as well. I have higher confidence that at least one day next week
will see some rain, but they could get a shower every day or get completely
missed," Baranick said.
"Drought has been popping up around the eastern Corn Belt over the last
couple of weeks and soil moisture in Ohio has been declining. The region could
be headed toward drought if they can't pick up any showers out of these chances
and temperatures remain as forecast. Those effects could pop up quickly,"
What's also changing quickly in Garrabrant's area is the structure of the
local community. Large industry has moved in and grown what was once a smallish
town into a city. "I've found myself wondering how to get more involved and how
involved I can afford or not afford to be," he said.
"I guess it's best to say that I'm feeling my way and know I'd like more of
that when the time is right," he said. The local high school FFA chapter has a
five-to-six-acre plot that he plants, sprays and tends each season. He supports
youth through the local livestock auctions.
This holiday, he simply hopes the day affords him a moment to sit on the
farmhouse porch surrounded by family to watch fireflies light up the night sky.
Freedom doesn't get much sweeter than that.
Pamela Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow her on Twitter @PamSmithDTN
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