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Gabel sets first head of water for irrigation

Gabel

Greg Gabel’s first head of water is flowing right along.

HUNTLEY, Mont. – Raising sugarbeets, it could be argued, has always been Greg Gabel’s destiny. His great-grandfather did it, followed by his grandfather, and then his father. In short, the Gabels have always raised sugarbeets – it’s just a fact of life. Looking out across his field of beets and watching his young son help set siphon tubes just makes all seem right in the world.

The end of June found Greg winding down his field work for the time being. He finished applying side-dress fertilizer and got all his cultivating done. July started off hot, so Greg made the executive decision to start irrigating.

“I just set my first head of water,” Greg reported during a phone update on July 3.

Sugarbeets are a water-intensive crop. For generations, the Gabels have always had great success flood irrigating their field using siphon tubes to pull water from the ditch and send it down the rows. It is a more labor-intensive approach to irrigating, but it is also more economical. With pivots easily costing six figures or more, investing a few hundred dollars in siphon tubes and labor just make more sense.

From here on out, Greg is going to be pretty married to his irrigating duties. The siphon tubes must be reset every time after the water reaches the opposite end of the row of sugarbeets, and it is ideal to not let much of the water end up rolling into the catch ditch. For that reason, Greg will keep a very watchful eye on his water – changing the heads the minute they need it, no matter the time of day or night.

“Water is a resource and we aren’t the only one using it, so I am trying to be conscience of the resource and the other people that use it,” he explained.

Needless to say, for the next three months, Greg’s soul focus will be chasing water and making sure it is utilized as efficiently as possible.

Greg said the sugarbeets are looking really good and are now completely covering the rows. Even his replanted ones have caught up and are now boosting a full head of leaves. He largely attests the success of this year’s crop to the insight from his father and his trusted agronomist, who comes out and assess fields with Greg once a week.

“We’ve had the same agronomist for 30 years. I remember him coming out when I was kid. He even knows all the nicknames for our fields,” Greg said with a chuckle.

It may take a village to raise a child, but it also takes a pretty massive support system to raise a crop. Luckily, Greg is surrounded by some extremely knowledgeable and insightful experts.

Greg admits, being back on the family farm has been very good for his soul. He is a Gabel after all, so chasing water, playing in the dirt, and raising sugarbeets is just part of his DNA. Getting to share this way of life with his son, Trent, means Greg is watching more than just his sugarbeets grow.

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