Path Home Shows 2011 Show Archive August 2011 Show 1134 Down on the Farm

Down on the Farm

This past wheat harvest, one of the Oklahoma Agricultural Leadership Program members invited us to join her to see what life was like to be a farmer these days.
Down on the Farm

Wheat harvest

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Oklahoma Agricultural Leadership Program

Show Dates

Show 1134: Down on the Farm

Air date: August 21, 2011

 

Transcript

ROB MCCLENDON:  WELL, THIS PAST WHEAT HARVEST, ONE OF THE MEMBERS OF THE OKLAHOMA AGRICULTURAL LEADERSHIP PROGRAM INVITED US TO JOIN THEM AS THEY HARVESTED THEIR WHEAT.

ALISA HINES:  BEING AN OKLAHOMA WHEAT FARMER IS NEVER EASY, BUT FOR FAIRVIEW’S CLINTON AND JESSICA WILCOX, THEY WOULDN’T HAVE IT ANY OTHER WAY.

CLINTON WILCOX:  IT’S JUST AN AMAZING FEELING TO PLANT IT, TAKE CARE OF IT, PUT IT BACK IN THE BIN, HELP FEED PEOPLE, TAKE CARE OF THE WORLD.

JESSICA WILCOX:  I LOVE IT!  I ABSOLUTELY LOVE THE CHALLENGE OF GROWING A GOOD CROP, AND BEING THE BEST I CAN BE AND DOING THE MOST I CAN DO WITH WHAT GOD’S GIVEN US.

ALISA:  AND SOME YEARS ARE MORE CHALLENGING THAN MOST.

JESSICA:  IF WE HAD JUST HAD, YOU KNOW, THREE MORE INCHES OF RAIN, WHICH ISN’T A LOT AT ALL, YOU KNOW, NORMALLY WE’D HAVE WAY MORE THAN THAT; WE WOULD HAVE SUCH A BETTER CROP.  THAT’S JUST PART OF FARMING IN WESTERN OKLAHOMA FROM EVERYTHING I’VE GATHERED.  YOU’RE GONNA HAVE GOOD YEARS AND YOU’RE GONNA HAVE BAD YEARS; AND YOU KNOW, WHERE I GREW UP WE FIGHT FLOODS AND THE RIVER ALL THE TIME AND OUT HERE, WE FIGHT LACK OF WATER.

ALISA:  THIS YEAR DROUGHT, NEXT YEAR, WHO KNOWS; BUT GOOD YEAR OR BAD, THEY HAVE EACH OTHER.

CLINTON:  THAT’S A VERY ENJOYABLE PART OF MY JOB; WE GET TO WORK TOGETHER.  IT’S A GIVE AND TAKE DEAL, THERE’S ALL THE TIME; SHE’S ON THE COMBINE HALF WAY ACROSS THE FIELD RIGHT NOW, AND WE’RE BOTH IN THE OFFICE THIS MORNING TAKING CARE OF CROP INSURANCE.  AND, WE’VE BOTH GOT OUR PHONES ON US, BUT WE’RE BOTH OUT HERE TAKING CARE OF GETTING THE WHEAT OUT OF THE FIELDS.

JESSICA:  WE MAKE A REALLY GOOD TEAM BOTH IN THE INSURANCE BUSINESS AND IN LIFE AND THEN IN OUR FARM.  IT’S KIND OF DIFFICULT HAVING TWO AGRONOMISTS UNDER THE SAME HOUSEHOLD EVERY NOW AND THEN, BUT IT MAKES FOR INTERESTING CONVERSATIONS.  I WAS ALWAYS ON A TRACTOR GROWING UP, SO CLINT, I THINK HE MARRIED ME JUST BECAUSE I WAS CHEAP LABOR AND ALREADY TRAINED.

[GIGGLE]

ROB:  SO JESSICA, WAS THERE EVER A TIME THAT YOU EVER CONSIDERED NOT BEING A FARMER?

JESSICA:  NOT REALLY, NO; I WAS ALWAYS WANTED TO BE A FARMER FROM THE DAY I WAS BORN.  I LEARNED TO WALK IN A CORN FIELD AND NOW I’M WALKING IN WHEAT FIELDS.

ROB:  YEAH; NOW WE, WE GOT A GLIMPSE INTO YOUR LIFE, WE WERE THERE OVER A DAY, AND THEN OVER AN EVENING PERIOD, WHAT’S LIFE LIKE DOWN ON THE FARM?

JESSICA:  WELL, THIS YEAR IT’S A LITTLE TIGHT, YOU KNOW, OUR YIELDS WERE A LITTLE LOW AND UH, PRICES ARE GOOD THANKFULLY, BUT YOU KNOW, IT, IT’S STILL A LIFE THAT WE LOVE TO LIVE AND HAVE EMBASED OUR BUSINESS.  SOME OF OUR BUSINESSES WE OPERATE SO WE’LL HOPE FOR BETTER LUCK NEXT YEAR AND PREPARE FOR, YOU KNOW, HOPEFULLY, HOPEFULLY NOT THE WORST; BUT, YOU KNOW, IT’S LIKE THEY MENTIONED EARLIER, DIVERSIFICATION.  WE KEEP GOING, KEEP DOING IT!

ROB:  AND LOOK FOR BETTER TIMES NEXT YEAR.

JESSICA:  ABSOLUTELY!  ALWAYS MAYBE NEXT YEAR, RIGHT?

ROB:  NOW I WANT TO GET THE PERSPECTIVE OF A COUPLE WHEAT GUYS, WE HAVE TWO DIFFERENT PEOPLE THAT ARE WHEAT SPECIALISTS, ONE FROM A UNIVERSITY PERSPECTIVE AND ANOTHER FROM COMMERCIALLY.  WE ARE SEEING JUST LARGER AND LARGER WHEAT ACREAGES, IS THAT A TREND WE CAN EXPECT TO CONTINUE?

BRIAN:  I’D SAY ABSOLUTELY.  WHAT WE’RE DOING IS, AS A SOCIETY AS A WHOLE, WE’RE ALWAYS PUSHING EFFICIENCIES.  WE’RE PUSHING ENVIRONMENTAL AND ECONOMIC EFFICIENCIES AND YOU CAN’T DO THAT ON SMALL SCALE.  I MEAN, YOU CAN’T HAVE EFFICIENT NEW EQUIPMENT THAT HAS THAT BETTER FUEL ECONOMY, THAT HAS THAT NEW CARBON SAFE FOOTPRINT, YOU CAN’T DO THAT ON 150 ACRES.  SO WE LOOK AT THE WILCOX FAMILY; THEY CAN FARM THREE TIMES AS MUCH AS CLINT’S UH, GRANDFATHER COULD WHEN HE STARTED FARMING BECAUSE OF EFFICIENCY.  WE CHANGE FROM CONVENTIONAL TILLAGE; YOU CAN MOVE A LOT MORE ACRES, COVER A LOT MORE ACRES WITH A SPRAYER THAN YOU COULD AN EIGHT-ROW, EIGHT-BOTTOM PLOW.  AND THAT MEANS YOU CAN COVER MORE, YOU CAN BUY BETTER EQUIPMENT, SO YOU’RE MORE EFFICIENT IN BOTH FUEL, YOUR INPUTS AS FAR AS NUTRIENTS, AND YOUR OUTPUTS.  AND, IF YOU WANT TO MAKE IT, UNLESS YOU STICK IN A NICHE MARKET WHERE YOU HAVE SOMETHING, YOU’RE DOING SOMETHING SPECIAL, YOU NEED TO GET LARGER.  SO ALL THE YOUNG PRODUCERS, IF THEY’RE IN THEIR 20’S OR 30’S RIGHT NOW, THEY’RE FARMING THREE TIMES AS MUCH AS THEIR GRANDFATHERS BECAUSE THAT’S HOW YOU HAVE TO.

JESSICA:  PUFF MARGINS ARE ABSOLUTELY TIGHT SO, YOU KNOW, YOU HAVE TO HAVE MORE ACRES TO MAKE THAT MARGIN.

ROB:  OKAY; BRIAN I WANT TO ASK YOU, IS TECHNOLOGY OUR FRIEND OR OUR FOE WHEN IT COMES TO…?

BRIAN:  OH, IT’S DEFINITELY OUR FRIEND.  TECHNOLOGY FROM FERTILIZER EFFICIENCY USING GPS SYSTEMS TO APPLY FERTILIZER, TO ACTUALLY TAKING READINGS IN A FIELD AND APPLYING FERTILIZER IN VARIABLE RATE ACROSS A FIELD, AND SMALL SECTIONS INSTEAD OF BROADCASTING THE SAME AMOUNT OVER THE WHOLE ACREAGE.  SO TECHNOLOGY IS DEFINITELY OUR FRIEND FROM EFFICIENCY STANDPOINT BOTH IN DOLLARS AND FOR THE CROP.  UH, A FARMER’S ABLE TO FERTILIZE MORE, UH, NOT UNIFORM, BUT HAVE MORE UNIFORM YIELDS THROUGH VARIABLE FERTILIZATION.  SAME WAY WITH PESTICIDES AND HERBICIDES THROUGH GPS GUIDANCE, AND SO FORTH; AND, USING YIELD MONITORS IN THE COMBINES.  ALL THAT TECHNOLOGY IS SOMEWHAT EXPENSIVE, BUT IF YOU REALLY PUT A PENCIL TO IT, IT PAYS OFF IN JUST VERY SHORT YEARS.

ROB:  NOW BLAYNE, YOU WORK WITH THE OKLAHOMA DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE, FOOD, AND FORESTRY AND WE, WE’VE SEEN BIGGER FARMS, AND THEN A LOT OF SMALLER FARMS THAT KIND OF GO INTO THAT WHAT I CALL A ALMOST A HOBBY CATEGORY, BUT IT’S THAT MID-SIZED FARMER, WHAT’S THE FUTURE THERE?

BLAYNE:  I DON’T KNOW THAT THERE IS A SIGNIFICANT FUTURE FOR OUR MID-SIZE FARMER.   AS WAS MENTIONED EARLIER, UNLESS THEY HAVE A PARTICULAR NICHE THAT THEY CAN REALLY FOCUS ON, IT’S VERY DIFFICULT TO MAKE IT.  WE HAVE SOME PRODUCERS WHO MAYBE ARE FOCUSING ON ORGANIC OR HAVE SOME OTHER AREAS THAT THEY CAN REALLY GENERATE SOME ADDITIONAL INCOME; BUT,  A LOT OF FARMERS HAVE TO MAKE THE DECISION TO EITHER GET BIGGER OR HAVE AN ADDITIONAL SOURCE OF INCOME TO CONTINUE WITH THEIR OPERATIONS.

ROB:  YEAH, AND, AND BRINGING IN THINGS; AND WE’VE DONE STORIES WITH YOU ABOUT AGRI-TAINMENT AND, YOU KNOW, EVERYTHING FROM TOURISM TO LIKE YOU SAID, NICHE MARKETS.

BLAYNE:  MOST DEFINITELY; THE BEST THING ABOUT OUR AG PRODUCERS IS THE MAJORITY OF ‘EM ARE GREAT ENTREPRENEURS.  THEY’RE DEFINITELY OPTIMIST, THEY’LL TRY THINGS, BE IT A NEW TECHNOLOGY, NEW EQUIPMENT.  THEY’LL TRY TO HAVE PEOPLE COME IN AND SEE ‘EM WORKING COWS, SOMETHING LIKE THAT, SO THEY’RE USUALLY UP FOR TRYING SOMETHING MAYBE DIFFERENT THAN THEY HAVE DONE IN THE PAST IF THEY FEEL LIKE THEY CAN JUSTIFY IT AS ADDITIONAL INCOME TO THEIR OPERATION.

ROB:  AND, AND, BLAYNE SAID A VERY IMPORTANT WORD THAT I WANT TO THROW OUT AND I WANT TO GET YOUR OPINION.  ENTREPRENEURSHIP; I SEE THAT EVERY TIME WHEN I GO OUTSIDE THE CITY LIGHTS. HOW IMPORTANT IS ENTREPRENEURSHIP IN BEING SUCCESSFUL IN RURAL OKLAHOMA.

RHONDA REGIER:  I THINK IT’S CRITICAL.  MY HUSBAND AND I, UH WE FARM; WE HAVE A SMALL COW/CALF OPERATION.  AND, HE ACTUALLY CAME, HE WAS A CROP DUSTER AND SOLD OUT OF THAT BUSINESS AND WE WERE LOOKING AT HOW TO DIVERSIFY OUR INCOME, AND INCREASE OUR INCOME.  AND SO, WE ACTUALLY HAVE STARTED SEVERAL BUSINESSES, AND ONE OF ‘EM WAS A LAWN SPRAYING BUSINESS.  YOU KNOW, HE ALREADY HAD HIS COMMERCIAL LICENSE SO WE WENT INTO THAT AND WAS ABLE TO GET INTO A, AN AREA WHERE WE WEREN’T NECESSARILY A 100% DETERMINED WITH THE WEATHER; BECAUSE IN AGRICULTURE, WE’RE SO DEPENDENT ON MOISTURE.  I MEAN, I’LL SAY WEATHER, BUT IT’S A LOT OF IT IS MOSITURE AND RIGHT NOW WE’RE SEEING A BIG DEFICIENCY IN THAT AREA.  BUT, UH, BEING ABLE TO LOOK AND SEE WHAT’S NEEDED, I MEAN, I THINK WE’RE, WE’RE PROBLEM SOLVERS AND THAT’S WHAT WE LOOK IN OUR SMALL COMMUNITIES AND LOOK FOR OPPORTUNITIES WHERE WE CAN, UH, PROVIDE A SERVICE THAT’S MAYBE NOT ALREADY THERE AND ALSO INCREASE OUR INCOME THAT WAY AS WELL.

BRIAN:  I’D ADD, ALSO, IT’S BEEN A REALLY NEAT CHANGE IN THE LAST DECADE TO WATCH THE PRODUCERS WHETHER IT’S ANIMAL OR CROP PRODUCERS, THEY’VE GONE FROM JUST GROWING SOMETHING TO ACTUALLY MARKETING NOW.  MARKETING IS SUCH A LARGE PART OF WHAT THE AVERAGE PRODUCER DOES AND THAT’S CHANGED IN THE LAST, PROBABLY FIVE, THREE OR FOUR YEARS.  IT’S REALLY BIG NOW AND THAT’S THE GOOD ONES, THE GOOD ENTREPRENEURS, ARE MARKETING THEIR CROPS.  THEY GO OUT AND FIND A PLACE TO MARKET THEIR LIVESTOCK, THEY MARKET THEIR ANIMALS TO MAKE IT; BUT IF THEY DON’T THAT, THEY AREN’T MAKING IT ANYMORE.

KURTIS:  AND THE SAME THING WITH THE INPUTS, ROB, THE FARMERS ARE LARGER NOW AND THEY’RE ABLE TO TAKE ON INPUTS IN LARGER QUANTITIES; AND THEREFORE, THEY DEMAND A LOWER PRICE.  AND SERVICE, IT’S, IT’S TAKING A DIFFERENT PHASE IN AGRICULTURE IN HOW THE FARMERS ARE OPERATING AND HOW THEY PURCHASE GOODS THAT THEY’RE GOING TO CONSUME, WHETHER IT’S FUEL, FERTILIZER, PESTICIDES, OR MACHINERY.

ROB:  WHEN WE RETURN, WE TAKE A LOOK AT THE ECONOMICS DOWN ON THE FARM.