This crop report is brought to you by one of the most important convenience advancements in farming – the text message.
It was a beautiful November day in north-central Wisconsin. I had just passed the sign for historic Glandon at County Road G and Pit Road in the town of Hewitt in Marathon County. I activated the microphone on my cell phone to create a text message to Jordan Weden, who crops 5,500 acres of ground in the region.
“You finished with corn yet?” I texted. “If not I’m right by Smith’s place; where might you be combining?”
Weden replied, “County Line Road – 4 miles west of you.”
He included a map.
I pulled into the field and waited for the dust cloud of chaff to come closer as his two combines rolled through the corn crop. Soon I could hear the rattle of dry stalks succumbing to the combine header and the clatter of busted cobs bang off the rear shield where they were spread back on the ground along with the processed stalks.
I spent a half-hour walking back and forth photographing the harvest process. If Weden read my previous crop report two weeks ago he likely had a good laugh. In that report I reported a 2-inch rainfall event that, as I stated, “would likely keep combines off the field until freeze-up.” I wasn’t considering the advances in tire size and technology that make the harvest go on despite occasional less-than-ideal conditions.
“Any info about the tires on that tractor hauling corn would be great,” I texted him. “Height, width, etc., and how much one of those puppies cost.”
He texted me back from his combine, “38-inch-wide rims, 66 inches tall. Cost is $2,500 each. Multiply that by eight and it runs $20,000 to $25,000 to replace them. That corn hauler fully loaded has 70,000 pounds of corn in it.”
There were two semi-tractor trailers waiting in the road to take the crop to Weden’s dryer bins in Aniwa, Wisconsin.
As I pulled away I noticed one of the drivers looked familiar. I drove for a few minutes and then texted Weden.
“Was that Mike M. in one of those trucks?” I asked.
Weden replied that it was indeed.
“Well I’ll be,” I answered him.
I turned my truck around and re-connected with someone from my farming past I hadn’t talked to in 15 years. It was all under a crisp blue November sky with the rattle of corn falling to the thresher’s knives in the background. Our brief conversation ended when I noticed the front end of the 425-horsepower tractor in my rear-view mirror – about 3 inches from my truck bumper. He was full and ready to unload so I said goodbye and headed back to the woodlot.
“If this isn’t a good day I don’t know what is,” I said to myself as I rolled along a country road in the north country.
Until the next crop report, safe harvest …
Greg Galbraith, a former dairy farmer who owns woodlot property in eastern Marathon County, writes about the rapidly changing nature of the agricultural landscape. He has built a lifetime connection to the land and those who farm it.