MOLT, Mont. – It’s time for the changing of the seasons in Montana. The grass is starting to turn and the wind now carries the first hints of fall. For Montana farmers, the start of fall means so much more. It is a time of transition from harvest to fall seeding.
“Fall is my favorite time of year,” Will Downs explained.
Fall for the Down’s family is going to look a little different than normal because their harvest season was cut short due to a massive hailstorm that ripped through the area. But the Down’s pea crop was successfully harvested, the seed wheat is off to Northern Seed LLC, and the rest of the winter wheat crop that wasn’t hailed out is tucked safely in the grain bins on the Downs family farm.
The next big task that must be accomplished is storing all the harvest equipment. It is not a particularly hard job, but it is time consuming and Will admits it is really dirty as well. All the equipment must be blown out and any hydraulic leaks must be addressed. The Downs gang will go through the equipment and take note of anything that may need repaired before next harvest season.
Once all the harvest machinery is properly stored, it will be time to pull out the tractors and get them geared up for planting. The Downs family will start seeding winter wheat about the middle of September, but there are a few logistics yet to be worked out, they must decide which acres to plant into what crops and which acres to leave in fallow.
“We already have all of our winter wheat acres figured out and we are in the process of figuring out our seed wheat acres,” Will said. The family is trying to decide what portions of their barley to leave in fallow.
The Downs family will raise seed wheat for Northern Seed LLC, again this year and they are pretty sure they will also plant the winter wheat variety, Brawl, again because it continues to perform well for them under dryland conditions.
Seeding is a crucial time for the Downs farm and Will explained it can be stressful because there are so many components that need to be addressed. And then there is the issue of timing because the ground can’t be too wet or too dry or the winter wheat seeds might not germinate properly.
“We like to seed into moisture, but if it’s too wet the furrow doesn’t close right,” stated Will.
Farming really is a game of give and take with Mother Nature
As if the upcoming fall seeding isn’t daunting enough, Will and his brother Weston are also chemical reps for Wilbur-Ellis, serving the Molt and Rapelje areas. The brothers took over the chemical rep business from their aunt and uncle about four or five years ago, and even though the duo is super busy during certain times of the year, like fall seeding, they have found a way to balance it all.
“My brother and I have a pretty good system figured out,” Will said.
With a busy fall already scheduled, it is no wonder Will and the rest of the Downs family enjoyed the long Labor Day weekend at the farm, soaking up the last few days of summer. Fall can somewhat be thought of as the beginning of the farming cycle. Harvest is complete and now the Downs family looks ahead to the seeding of winter wheat and the chance for another eventful growing season.