HUNTLEY, Mont. – The trees that stand guard over the houses on the Huntley Project are starting to lose their leaves. Frost covers the windshields of farm pickups in the morning and deer are starting to creep out into the open farm fields to graze on the beet tops left behind after harvest – all sure signs that fall is quickly giving way to winter along the Yellowstone River.
After what at times felt like an arduous battle, Greg Gabel was proud to report he had successfully wrapped up his first-ever sugarbeet harvest. There were challenges a plenty, but there were also triumphs and moments of pride this growing year, and as Greg has remained busy the last week of October, servicing equipment and readying it all for the long winter storage, he couldn’t help but feel thankful.
During a phone update on Oct. 26, Greg was happy to say his entire sugarbeet crop met his production goal of 30 tons per acre. Favorable growing weather after early harvest Sept. 8-9 really helped the beets pop during their final weeks in the ground. Furthermore, the nice Indian summer weather made harvest nearly a breeze.
“The beets dug really well this year,” Greg said.
The Huntley Project received a nice dose of rain on Oct. 23 and really the timing couldn’t have been better for Greg as he had wrapped up beet harvest just two days before. With harvest done, field work mostly wrapped up, and a blanket of wet topsoil, Greg has delegated his time to the shop where he has been tinkering on last-minute pre-winter projects. The digger has been hosed off and put away, tractors have been serviced, so now it is time to winterize the irrigation pumps.
Life is still busy on the Gabel farm, albeit it is a different kind of busy.
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“There is always something to do. It is just the pace is more relaxed now,” Greg said.
With the 2022 season wrapped up, Greg is now starting to look ahead to next year. There will be a couple of big changes coming in 2023. Chiefly, Greg will be in charge of the whole family farm next year, which means he is adding Coors malting barley and some corn this his crop responsibilities. While the operational growth is exciting, Greg admits it is also a bit intimidating.
“A degree in political science and 20 years in the Army really doesn’t prepare you to make agribusiness decisions,” he said with a chuckle.
Greg has a lot of decisions to juggle before next year, and while he may think he is lacking in agribusiness experience, the past few months of drinking though a fire hose have certainly helped him make up for lost time.
There is some equipment that could stand being upgraded, but Greg just isn’t quite sure that big of a capital improvement is in the cards for this year. Like so many producers, exponentially high fuel and fertilizer costs cut deep into Greg’s bottom line this year, so he is being a cautious at the moment as he prioritizes his operation’s needs going forward.
Greg spent 20 years serving his country from the cockpit of a Black Hawk helicopter. Selflessly giving to his nation must just be Greg’s calling because he has now dedicated the rest of his life to serving his country from the cockpit of a tractor. The next time you have sugar in your coffee or enjoy a dessert with family – remember to thank the soldiers that helped provide for your freedom and the farmers that painstakingly raised your sugar. They just might be one in the same person.
The Prairie Star would like to thank Greg Gabel for allowing our readers to following along with him during the 2022 growing season. We wish him the best in his future endeavors.