At the Farm Gate: Farms Prep for Next Busy Season

At the Farm Gate - Joanie Stiers.2

By Joanie Stiers

We hadn’t started changing oil in the tractors, backhoe nor skid steer yet, and our 15-year-old expressed concern. I explained that his favorite, after-school activity in the farm shop was on hold until after the two weekends of extended-family Christmas parties that cleared the space and prompted a deep clean for a holiday potluck, gift opening and gymnasium-style fun on the farm.

Soon enough, maintenance work will dirty the shop floor and oil absorbency granules will be our son’s best friend. Most of our farm’s equipment will rotate through the shop this winter for oil changes, inspections and replacement of high-wear parts. Planters will unfold for row-by-row examination, part replacements and technology upgrades. The hay baler, mowers and even the small things like Mom’s garden tiller make their shop presence before field work resumes in April. The goal: everything works at go time.

Our farm team appreciates the pattern of normal, eight-hour workdays with a designated lunch break between harvesting and planting crops. We take this time to regroup, recharge, market grain and move forward. In this winter season of self-evaluation, my parents, brother and I will meet to discuss farm improvements and transition plans. Bookkeeping, balance sheets, tax planning, land leases and employee meetings quickly fill the days between conferences and meetings about farm policy, grain marketing, agronomic research and other ways to better the farm.

Dad tends to our small herd of beef cows, a daily chore most pleasant in mild winters. Otherwise, heavy snow and sub-zero winds add shoveling, scooping and thawing to the routine. Our employees haul corn from our grain bins to facilities that produce biofuel and feed co-products. They deliver soybeans, depending on the type, to various places for export, seed or use in high-protein foods.

This year will bring a combination of sticking with what works and trying something new in search of the next tried-and-true. The knowledge passed down from previous generations tells us our farm was shaped on both failures and successes, but we’re always aiming for the latter. Here’s hoping for a safe and successful 2024 in farm country.

About the author: Joanie Stiers farms with her family in West-Central Illinois, where they grow corn, soybeans, hay and cover crops and raise beef cattle, backyard chickens and farmkids.

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