Ben and Natalie Storm family

Ben and Natalie Storm and their children, McKenzie, Milo, Erma and Waylon. Submitted photo

DOVER, Minn. – A farm family with a previous Producer Progress connection will share their 2020 growing season experiences!

Ben and Natalie Storm farm about 20 miles east of Natalie’s parents, Cliff and Lori Feltis, of Stewartville. Producer Progress readers may recall that in 2013, Minnesota Farm Guide featured Natalie’s brother, Nick Feltis, who was just 25 at the time. Her brother, Nathan Feltis, also farms with Cliff and Lori, and the whole group raises strong and healthy children on their farms.

Ben and Natalie rented their first fields in 2005-06 and raise mostly corn and soybeans. They have 17-18 sows that produce show pigs, and they’ll also have some market ready hogs available in the fall.

With the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, farm families have put a lot of work into preparations to stay safe.

Ben and Natalie attended Commodity Classic 2020 in San Antonio, Tex., just as the COVID-19 pandemic was announced. Ben serves on the Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council board.

The novel coronavirus began making headlines in the United States in January, and on March 16, Gov. Tim Walz announced a stay-at-home order for Minnesota. Bars and restaurants were closed, along with schools, public gatherings and services that were considered non-essential.

As of March 22, Minnesota had 137 cases of COVID-19, and just one person had died from the respiratory disease. A month later, April 22, Minnesota had 2,721 cases and 179 deaths. One week after that (April 28), Minnesota had 4,181 confirmed cases and 301 deaths.

The state and leadership struggled with decisions on whether or not to reopen Minnesota because the stay-at-home order was set to expire on May 4. Walz announced that schools would remain closed through the rest of the academic year.

Returning from San Antonio back in early-March, the Storms prepared for their own shelter-in-place. Ben and Natalie kept their children, McKenzie, 10, Milo, 6, Erma, 2, and Waylon, 1, busy with home, farm and school life.

Ben planned ahead for the growing season, too.

“I told all of my suppliers that I wanted all of my chemicals and my seed here probably a month ago – which is earlier than normal,” he said in an early-April phone interview. “All of my pre-emergence bean chemical, all of my corn chemical and all of my seed corn is in my shed right now, and I have soybeans coming this week.”

The 2020 growing season began in earnest on April 22 with three days of spraying pre-emerge herbicide ahead of soybean planting.

Corn and soybean planting started on April 25, with Ben planting corn, and his dad, Jacob, planting soybeans. The Storms have two planters. They purchased the second planter in 2019 because there was such a short planting window.

“We strip-till the corn and no-till the beans,” he said. “It makes it pretty easy for the two of us to do it all with two planters – being we don’t have to do any tillage in front of anything. The two of us just go our own ways with the planter and go get it done.”

In addition, the first “wave” of sweet corn was planted on April 26.

On April 28, it was raining.

“We’re a little over one-third done with soybeans and about 40-45 percent done with corn,” Ben said on April 28. “The field conditions are beautiful – it’s dry everywhere and we’re not used to planting in dry conditions like this.”

Rain was expected for April 28-29, and then a good week of planting weather was forecast.

“There are a lot of farmers around here that are done planting corn, and I talked to one farmer who is all done with planting their corn and soybeans.”

With a nice and gentle rain, the crops should germinate and emerge quickly. The herbicides should work well, too. The soil should mellow out with the rain.

The last seed to arrive was three boxes of soybeans that reached the dealer on April 27. For some reason it took longer to get that specific variety. The soybeans were getting treated and brought to Ben and Natalie’s farm.

Ben hoped to complete planting in early-May.

“As a country, we socked so much corn and soybeans into the ground over the last week and a half, that it’s not even funny,” he said. “The amount of seed that went into soil in southern Minnesota is insane.”

Thank you Ben and Natalie for sharing your reports this growing season! We can’t wait to read more about your farming operation.