Friday, March 30, 2012

What is an Acre?

Every discipline has its own language. That is true in farming, too.
 
I often mention the word acre. What is that exactly? Let me try to explain.
It is a standard land measurement used in the United States of America.
In the city, a large lot is half an acre. 
 Two lots, an acre.
 
It takes about 2.25 acres for a city block.
City lots and blocks vary in size.

  An acre does not.
If you would stand just past the 90 yard line on a football field and look back to the opposite goal line, 

that piece of field is about an acre.
 
A quarter of land is 160 acres. 
It takes four quarters of land to make a section of land which is one square mile.
 
In the times when America was settled, an ox pulled a plow over about one acre of land per day.
Each ox and plow was driven by a person who walked behind that plow.
 
It is a wonder we ever started farming out here.
 The land is big.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Why Do Good Times Make Old Farmers Nervous?

Farming has taken an upturn in recent years. So why are the old farmers so nervous? There have been boom times before. In the late teens and early 1920's, there were years of prosperity and modernization on farms. 
Again in the 1970's when we were young, goofy and living off the farm, there was a time of high prices, increasing land values, and money to update machinery and buildings on farms.
Yesterday I explained the price we pay to produce a crop. It is termed "the cost of production." As production of bushels increases, so does the cost per acre of production. The good times are important, but old farmers believe things will come back down, as they always have. 
Here are a few additional things to consider:
High farm land values aren't always of benefit to farmers and farms. Increasing values makes it more difficult for farmers to purchase land. The land may not yield a return on investment. Old farmers have lived through it.
 
Cows need acres of land for grazing. Room to graze makes for healthy cows, easier calving, healthier calves. Old ranchers would like to continue.
Historically farmers do not make money every year.
 Grandpa Sonny's rule of thumb is this:
In ten years of farming you will make money twice, you will lose money twice, and you will be up or down a little six times.
Old farmers keep track.
In the dry and dirty 1930's there wasn't a profit to be made in Griggs Dakota. 
When farms make a profit, old farmers average it out.
As Iris has reminded me, "It doesn't matter how high the price is if there are no bushels to sell on the farm." Old farmers remember.
Farmers can provide exactly what land needs to produce an optimum crop, but the weather and the markets cannot be controlled.
Old farmers know they are not completely in charge. 
Everybody still needs to eat every day.
Farmers do their best.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

What is The Cost of Production?

 It's easy to imagine gold in a ripe wheat field. Explaining the cost of turning wheat seed into a crop of ripe wheat is more complicated.
  
 Her adult life has been spent living off the farm and Iris tells me that she has had many conversations trying to explain that it costs money to raise crops on a farm. She has been surprised at how few really understood. 
 It is important to understand that food comes to your plate at a cost.
The Cost of Production is similar to the cost of doing business. Most people understand that there is a cost involved in canning, freezing, packaging and shipping food to your grocery store.
 
 Cost of Production is the farmer's cost of producing the raw materials and getting them to market. It is then sold to processors, distributers or overseas markets.
 It is the price farmers pay for planting a crop,

Maintaining and enhancing plant health during the growing season. 
Through the harvest and sale of the crop. 
Here are the basic cost elements for farm production.

Land:  Owned or Rented
Machinery: Used for seeding, tillage, application of plant health enhancements, harvesting and transporting.

Buildings:  Used for storage and maintenance including bins, sheds, shops.
Inputs: Seed, Plant health enhancements including fertilizer, herbicide and insecticide.
 Fuel: Gasoline and diesel fuel for over the road and in the field use, Propane for grain drying and heat, Electricity for grain drying fans, power tools, and lights.
Labor: Farm labor is job that has includes getting dirty and taking responsibility for expensive equipment. It's a job you will learn to love or leave.

We love it.
Iris and I hope this sheds light on the concept of the Cost of Production on a farm.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Bonus Spring Days

 We believe this is the first time in the history of GriggsDakota that the lawn has been mowed in March.
It was a great excuse to be out on a pleasant evening. 
 Unusual for March,the water was a mirror for the sky.
Until ripples started to move across the glass. 
Muskrats were out for a swim.
As pleasant as this evening was, you would need a to wear a heavy coat to enjoy the water. 
But then, the muskrats have been here all winter. 
There were several in the water, they look graceful. 
 On land muskrats are awkward and confused, probably because they have been cast out from their house and have to strike out on their own.
Daunting, even for muskrats. 
On a perfect, cool, but warm for March evening in GriggsDakota.