(Posted Fri. Oct 14th, 2011)
Field Notes opened the farm gate this spring and provided followers with an inside look at the activities of several farmers from a variety of geographical areas. With harvest well underway this week, we caught up with Minnesota grower DeVonna Zeug to review this year’s growing season on her farm and to take a look at pictures she took this harvest.
For Zeug, an uncharacteristically wet spring delayed planting. She did manage to get the crop into the ground, albeit behind schedule, but the wet weather persisted.
“After such a wet spring and a late planting, it would have really helped the crop if conditions improved,” she said. “But the spring storms seemed to stretch into summer. Then, the rain wasn’t our only issue as these stronger bouts brought hail, straight-line winds and a few green snaps.
Finally, during the pollination phase, the rains stopped. Yet, hopes for more ideal conditions were soon dashed as a regional drought felt across many parts of the United States settled into Minnesota as well. These dry conditions, ranging from severe to moderate at differing times across the area, persisted through harvest.
Additionally, Zeug’s growing season was cut short by an unseasonably early frost in September, further affecting both her corn and soybean crop. Near the end of that month, she began to harvest soybeans. Finally, on October 3, she began to harvest corn.
The corn crop this year did have one high spot on her farm with moisture levels averaging about 15 percent by harvest. Already ideal in this area, she was able to put it directly into her grain storage bins thus avoiding the added cost of drying.
“Harvest was quite interesting this year,” Zeug said politely. “During that first week, the corn stalks were quite brittle. So, when you bumped the stalk the ears would come flying off. This made combining incredibly challenging.”
Specifically, the ears of corn that flew from the stalk when bumped escaped the header and fell to the ground further decreasing the size of a crop that already yielded less than she would have expected in a more normal year.
“Luckily, our farm got about two-tenths of an inch of rain last weekend,” said Zeug. “This returned the stalks to a more workable state, allowing us to finish out harvest more easily.”
Despite the strain of moving through the season with one set of poor weather conditions giving way only for another to set in, she remains positive. She even uses the most recent brittle stalk related setback to help teach her children about resilience.
“We like to make the best of it when things don’t turn out as expected,” said Zeug. “So, we are letting the kids run around the fields and pick up any of the corn that fell to the ground when the stalks were still brittle. Then, we let them sell their harvest for spending money so that they learn the value of hard work and dedication.”