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Missouri farmers picture past harvest seasons

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Missouri farmer Danny Kuenzel remembers going from four-row corn heads up to eight or 12.

For experienced farmers, fall might bring memories of long-ago harvests and how far equipment and management practices have come.

Robert Alpers, who farms in Cooper County, remembers farming in the 1970s and his goals then when he hoped to be done with harvest.

“Back in the ’70s, quail season started Nov. 10,” he says. “Always wanted to be done harvesting and with fall work by then.”

Alpers also thinks back to how much equipment has changed to allow for more efficiency.

“I also remember a 6-inch auger, four-bottom plow and tractors without cabs,” he says. “Life is much better in that regard. But I still miss the quail hunts.”

Danny Kuenzel, who farms in Franklin and Gasconade counties, remembers a moment during this harvest when he and his family were reflecting on how far equipment has come.

“We were thinking about that, probably about halfway through harvest,” he says.

His father passed away years ago, and Kuenzel was thinking about what his father would think of advances in equipment.

“If he’d see the technology that goes on today, he would be mystified how it transformed,” he says.

Kuenzel remembers going from four-row corn heads up to eight or 12. He says while farmers can cover more acres more quickly now, years ago farm sizes were smaller.

“I think there were a lot more farmers back then,” he says.

While he appreciates how far farming equipment has come, Kuenzel says sometimes when the weather is ideal he enjoys driving a tractor without a cab.

“I still — if it’s about 75 or 80 degrees — prefer driving an open-station tractor,” he says.

Atchison County farmer Cecil DeMott remembers a long-ago conversation at the end of harvest that helped change the course of his farming operation. He started farming full-time with his wife’s family in 1984. Those first few years brought a lot of rain, and with it a lot of erosion in the western Atchison County fields, which feature a lot of wind-blown loess soil.

“It’s like sugar. You pour water on it and it just melts,” DeMott says.

He recalls big ditches forming they could not drive the combine across. That led to a discussion 35 years ago about what to do.

“Sitting around the Thanksgiving table, we decided to implement a terrace system,” DeMott says.

He says the work with terraces has had tremendous benefits, greatly reducing erosion and helping keep inputs such as fertilizer in place where they can provide the intended benefit. They have also begun to use cover crops. DeMott says he is proud of the progress and improvements he and his family have implemented, and he remembers the harvest experiences that set it in motion.

“It’s worked well for us,” he says.

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Ben Herrold is Missouri field editor, writing for Missouri Farmer Today, Iowa Farmer Today and Illinois Farmer Today.

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