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 the soil levels, the drainage, and what variety of seed fits that specific field. He spends hours upon hours tediously studying, consulting with this expert, all while continuously working. He loves and takes pride in his land, but secretly, I know he 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 wise old tales told by the generations before them. But most importantly, as my farm kids will say to you when the weather comes on the television or radio, you better be quiet and have an ear tuned to the station. It 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, seed choice, fertilizer and chemical plan, and expenses invested in their crop. The weather can make or break them that year. It can take years to recover from a weather disaster or a crashing market. Whether it is a wet spring or a drought in the summer, farmers depend on the weather to grow a crop. And prayer, lots of prayers.
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 floods. 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. He cannot control many obstacles, and the weather and the grain market are at the top of the list.
Depending on the Grain Market
Farmers not only depend on the weather conditions, but they also 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 all cost the farmer money. 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. Our farmers feed the world but are not rewarded a healthy grain market for paying for their inputs. If they hit a good market, they use 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 most of it in our grain bins. Storing our grain gives us the option to sell or contract our soybeans and wheat when the market floods at harvest time 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 like costly repairs, maintenance, and the cost of transferring grain in and out of the bin. Is it worth it to store the grain in your bins, haul it and spot price it to the terminal, 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 mountain 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 its final destination...your farm.
God bless the American Farmer because farming is not for the faint of heart.