Ryan Peterson

Ryan Peterson

We’re halfway through March and winter continues to hold on with all its might. As the calendar continues to turn and the weather warms – sort of – farmers are getting closer and closer to planting season.

The time is almost here for farmers to start putting seed in the ground, but preparation for spring planting is something that started way back in the fall once harvest was completed.

“We do a lot of fall work,” said Ryan Peterson of Washburn, N.D., a summer producer for Farm & Ranch Guide last year. “Since we have more time in the fall, I’ll put down a lot of the fertility at that time – especially the anhydrous. This year will be a little different, because we had a bit of an early winter, so not all that stuff got done.”

Peterson says he spends a lot of time on his budget during tax season. Getting that done as early as possible gives him a better idea of his breakeven point. When it comes to fertility, he never holds back.

“If you need the fertility, you need it,” he said. “We don’t skimp on it at all, which is why we do it in the fall and not plan our budget beforehand.”

North-central North Dakota was hit hard by drought for the second consecutive growing season last year, which has led Peterson to tighten up the budget this year in other areas. That said, he’s trying to remain flexible.

“These droughts have really hit us hard, so this year we’re not shooting for the moon,” he said. “In past years we’ve had enough leeway to put in what I like to call the ‘2-5-bushel-products’ (biologicals, extra seed treatments, etc.).” This year we’re going to a balanced fertility program and we’re only going to put out what we need. If Mother Nature plays ball with us, we might look at putting more out there knowing we’re going to get a better crop.”

Once harvest is complete, it’s time for farmers to reset and take inventory as they begin prep for the coming spring. This is also when the majority of machinery servicing takes place.

“All of our combines get serviced during the winter time. Once we’re done harvesting, they get sent out. As for our tractors, they get their oil changes and cabs cleaned as part of our fall program. Once spring rolls around we just have to pull them out, make sure the GPS systems are working, hook them up and go.”

While the summer and fall months are action-packed with crop farming, the winter months are often used for planning and preparing.

“During the winter months I focus on putting together chemical lists, getting prices and comparing,” he said. “I pre-buy all my fertilizers we’re going to need, as well as any inoculants for the peas and soybeans. It’s too cold to go outside, so all my preparing is done during the winter. Once the weather hits to where we can do field work, we go.”

For now, Peterson’s acres are set, though he feels like he’s constantly adjusting his rotations before he sets his final numbers.

“I think I got my rotations switched about 15 times,” he laughed. “We were going to dump peas this year, thinking they weren’t worth it, but every year we’ve done well with them, even with the drought. We decided to forward market with them, so we have contracts in place already. We’ve got everything planned out, it’s just a matter of getting into the field.”

Last year was a tough year for Peterson, but he’s hoping for better things to come in 2019.

“I’m hoping we get more moisture this year. Last year, people in our area did way better than us. We were kind of on the edge to where we didn’t get any moisture. Going forward, I think we’re going to have a late spring, so there’s going to be a mad rush to get into the fields. When we do finally get in, I think there will be a lot of mud planting. Guys will be going into the fields and they’re going to be kind of wet, but I’m tired of the dry, so hopefully we can have a nice cool, wet year and go from there,” Peterson concluded.