Bob and Gail Worth, Lake Benton, Minn.

LAKE BENTON, Minn. – Bob Worth glanced at a cracked line in the black soil, then quickly bent down. He flicked the dirt away to expose a tiny soybean seedling with arched hypocotyl pulling the leafed cotyledon up.

The 2020 soybean crop was on its way on May 20.

“That’s the part of farming that I love,” Bob said. “You put the seed in the ground, and it just starts growing. You sit there and wait for it to grow and be a mature crop.”

Rows of two-leaf (VE) corn were easy to see in nearby fields.

According to Bob’s previous report, corn planting was completed on April 27, and soybean planting on May 3. Corn needs about 120 GDUs (growing degree units above 50 degrees); soybeans need about 90 GDUs.

Emergence was adequate, but temperatures had been on the cool side and the skies cloudy. It had also been dry, but a soaking 1.5-inch rain and temps in the 60s and 70s (after freezing temps mid-May) helped the crops start to grow. The water table was also refilled.

The fields were mostly weed-free with the exception of last year’s prevented planting acres. Bo and his son, Jon, were getting ready for 2020 spraying.

The Worths completed some rock picking, but the main item on the farm was installment of a new 33,000-bushel Sukup soybean air bin. The concrete floor cured the first week of May. By May 20, the bin was already up, and the electricians were finishing up their work, too. With the quick construction, the Worths can work out any bugs long before harvest in September.

Celebrating his 50th year of farming, Bob remembered when Worth Farms built their first dryer bin back in 1977. Before then, they picked corn on the ear and stored it in corncribs.

“If my dad were here, he’d just shake his head,” Bob said. “He and I put up the first corn dryer.”

Wind whistled through the Worth grain bin setup located high on the Coteau des Prairies. The constant wind on the 100-foot hills of Lake Benton was once a tolerated nuisance for many. Today, Lincoln County has about 700 wind turbines that are farmed around and appreciated. Lake Benton’s economy is helped with three wind energy companies that each locally employ 10-15 people.

Power companies have built up the power grid to move that wind-derived energy from southwest Minnesota to Sioux Falls or the Twin Cities.

“I’m a believer in wind turbines,” Bob said. “People say you can’t farm around them, but we’ve been farming around them beautifully. They don’t bother you. You don’t see dead birds. I’ve had wind turbines around our property since 1996, and I’ve never seen a dead bird.”

Driving out on a gravel field road built by a wind energy company, Bob noted that six early turbines had been taken down. There was little sign that the windmills had ever been installed there. Built in 1996, those original turbines each harnessed 0.35 megawatts (MW) of wind-generated electricity. Today’s turbines are much larger and built to generate 3 MW of electricity each. Bob marveled that all six of the original turbines put out less electricity than one of the new models.

Lincoln County has worked hard to successfully use its other natural resources, too – in part for tourism. Lake Benton Lake is 2,875 acres, the sixth largest lake in southwest Minnesota. It’s a popular fishing destination.

Lake Benton/Lincoln County is also home to The Nature Conservancy’s Hole-in-the-Mountain, a 1,157-acre prairie remnant, and there is also the Hole-in-the-Mountain 800-acre county park. Lincoln County’s topography is another natural resource that draws tourists to the area. With elevation from 1,027-1,703 feet, the beauty near Lake Benton is widely appreciated by people who live on the plains.

To farm successfully, Bob and Jon use conservation diversions on their owned and rented farmland. The Lincoln Soil and Water Conservation District supports grassed waterways, dikes, terraces and diversions. Bob likes grassy diversions with underlying tile that carry water safely off the land. He’s installed several diversions to catch, hold and move runoff water.

“It makes it fantastic to farm, otherwise you’d have gullies, topsoil washing out,” he said. “Diversions stop all the water erosion.”