(Posted Sat. Apr 5th, 2014)

The National Corn Growers Association now offers its fourth season of Field Notes, a series that takes readers behind the farm gate to follow the year in the life of American farm families. While these growers come from diverse geographic areas and run unique operations, they share a common love for U.S. agriculture and the basic values that underpin life in farming communities.


Today, Field Notes met Mark Oestman, a farmer from Eckley, Colorado. His all-irrigated farm, which sits in the northeastern portion of the state, produces corn, soybeans and wheat. In addition to raising crops, he also tends yearling cattle.


“I am a fourth-generation farmer and rancher,” said Oestman. “So, I guess you could say it runs in my blood.”


Stopping his tractor for the interview, he explained how he is currently preparing for planting by closing pivot tracks.


To learn more about his and listen to the full interview, click here.


Next, Field Notes met another new farmer, April Hemmes, from just outside of Hampton, Iowa. On her farm, Hemmes farms corn and soybean in rotation in addition to a small amount of pasture, on which she used to have 40 to 60 head of cattle. While she sold them in order to free up time for travel, she still tends the fields and visits the animals through a “custody agreement” she worked out with the neighbor who purchased her herd.


Describing her operation, Hemmes explains how a purchase generations ago evolved into the farm she runs today.


“My great grandfather purchased the original 40 acres where my house is today,” she explained. “Since then, we have added onto the original farm with my grandfather, then my father, and now my husband and I purchasing more ground. It is a lot to farm, but I love doing it.”


While her farm is typical to Iowa in many ways, Hemmes stands out in that she runs the farm while her husband has a job in town.


“I have two sisters and a brother. Growing up, all of us kids did everything on the farm,” she explained. “I didn’t know anything else. When my father said ‘someday, son’ this will all be yours, I thought ‘well wait a minute.’ So, I participated in FFA, and I went to Iowa State University to earn an animal science degree. I have done jobs off the farm, in banks and working for a Congressman in Washington. In 1985 though, I came home to the farm. This is my 29th year farming.”


To listen to the full interview including her take on when planting will come to Iowa, click here.


Another farmer new to Field Notes, Adam Bell, a member of the inaugural class of the NCGA DuPont New Leaders Program, then took the time to introduce his farm in western Kentucky. In the Mississippi River Basin, Bell farms about 2,000 acres primarily using no till methods because he desires to do his part in implementing conservation practices in his work.


“We’re a small family farm, and I farm with my father,” he said. “Together, we grow corn, wheat, soybeans and some dark-fired tobacco, which is a regional crop. We are really just a small, traditional farm.”


To find out more about Bell and listen to the full interview, click here.


Stay tuned over the coming weeks as Field Notes follows the growers who have opened their farms, families and communities up this year and meet the true faces of modern American agriculture.