Why Do Farmers Depend on the Soil, Weather and Grain Markets?

My Farmer Loves Soil because The Soil Gives Him A Crop

I swear my farmer took a vow (yes, like a marriage vow) to love, honor and maintain his land to the best of his ability. He takes pride in feeding the world. It's like the unspoken oath of every grain farmer. He examines the dirt (he would not appreciate me calling his soil, dirt, but I am anyway) of each of his fields and yes, I mean that literally...the soil levels, the drainage and what variety of seed fits that specific field. He spends hours upon hours tediously studying, consulting with this or that expert all while continuously working. He loves and takes pride in his land but secretly, I know he really likes to smell and see the dirt flying around him when he is cultivating, planting or harvesting his crop. I used to be concerned about this but quickly discovered myself researching and working alongside him. And I enjoyed it! He doesn't care about the long hours, he cares about preserving his beloved land and teaching the next generation to respect and study the land.

As pictured below, our son Andrew was finally allowed at the wheel after years of riding in the buddy seat alongside his dad. And of course, I had to take pictures and embarrass him but that's what proud moms are for, right?

Depending on the Weather and their Love/Hate Relationship

My farmer also spends a lot of time studying the weather, just like his dirt (okay, okay, it's soil). He reads the Farmer's Almanac, the DTN (a computer news source for agriculture) and chats with other farmers about old wise tales told by the generations before them. But most importantly, as my farm kids will tell you, when the weather comes on the television or radio, you better be quiet and have an ear tuned to the station. It kind of became a joke with my kids and their friends but they all eventually started paying attention and giving the weather report to Farmer Tim before he even had a chance to listen to the weatherman. But it also taught the friends the importance of weather and farming. Of course now, there are many other resources to utilize. But my farmer is not very tech savvy so he still relies on the television or a phone call from one of our kid's friends to keep Farmer Tim up-to-date on whatever weather system is rolling across the field headed our way.

Not only my farmer, but other farmers too, depend on several factors to produce a crop. Their field's soil tolerance, their seed choice, their fertilizer and chemical plan, and their expenses invested in their crop. But the weather can make or break them that year. It can take years to recover from a weather disaster or a crashing market. There is no such thing as a perfect farming season without some sort of weather incident. Whether it is a wet spring or a drought in the summer, farmer's depend on the weather to grow a crop. And prayer, lots of prayer.

So he either loves the weather or hates it because there is not always a happy medium. The rain is his best friend when his crop needs a drink during a drought and his worst enemy when the crop is flooded. The sun can make the plant grow but can also burn it up in the heat of summer with no rain. He has just learned to adjust to the conditions thrown at him and his crop. He is along for the roller coaster ride of farming. There are many obstacles he cannot control and the weather and the grain market are at the top of the list.

Unloading Corn during Harvest Season

Depending on the Grain Market

Farmers not only depend on the weather conditions, they depend on a fluctuating grain market. It cost a lot of money to produce a crop. The equipment and fuel, the seed, the fertilizer, the chemical, the rent or payments on the ground and the employees. They will study and watch the markets daily and listen to what is going on across the world. Other foreign countries can affect our markets in the United States. In the crop year 2019-2020, the U.S. exported approximately 3.97 billion bushels of grain to other countries. So our farmers are literally feeding the world but are not always rewarded with a healthy grain market to pay for their inputs, as listed above. If they hit a good market, they are using that money to prepare for the next year or pay for a previous disastrous year. So whether you want to debate imports and exports, agree or disagree, farmers and starving people will always be intertwined in the middle. But I can guarantee you, farmers will not stop growing, producing and contributing to our food chain. It is part of their farmer's oath.

We produce wheat, corn and soybeans on our farm and store majority of it in our grain bins. Storing our grain gives us the option to sell or contract our soybeans and wheat when the market is not flooded at harvest time and /or prices are down. We feed the corn to our cattle so having grain bins is a must for our operation. There can also be downfalls to grain bins too like the added cost of a bin and repairs, the maintenance of the grain (drying and storing it correctly) and the cost of transferring grain in and out of the bin. Is it worth it to store the grain in your own bins or haul and spot price it to the terminal or put it on deferred pricing or haul it directly from the field to the terminal at harvest time? Farmers take a risk with all of these options because of the fluctuating price of the grain market. Again, the grain market and weather can make or break your crop year.

The Roller Coaster Ride with the Weather and Markets

The best way to describe grain farming is like riding a roller coaster. You have prepared your land, planted your crop and continue the steep ride to the top of the hill hoping for a good year only to await what the weather or market will do to send you spiraling down the hill at rates so fast you can only hold on for dear life. You might get tossed around a bit but you never, ever give up. You ride on the roller coaster up and down the hills and around the sharp corners every year and pray for a good outcome when your car finally comes to a complete stop at it's final destination...your farm.

God bless the American Farmer because farming is not for the faint of heart.