July 25, 2018
Notes from the field: Three farmers share advice for their younger selves
Do you remember your first harvest? For third-generation farmer Michael Sieck, it’s a memory he recalls with a laugh. “I was probably 5 or 6 years old at that time. You just get in and ride the combine and probably fall asleep,” he said. “As a little kid it’s like playing with toys in your sandbox. When you get the chance to be with the big toys in the big sandbox it’s just what you live for.”
Now, after 30 years of farming, harvest isn’t met with quite the same fresh-eyed excitement, but the lessons learned along the way have helped the sleepy boy in the combine grow his operation and extend his passion for wheat to another generation.
In an industry where so much knowledge is passed down through the generations, it’s no surprise that growers have learned lessons along the way that they’d share with their past selves — both agronomic and otherwise.
Kansas grower Nic Schroeder’s advice for youngsters highlights the agronomic lessons he’s learned over his years of farming: Always do your research and don’t skimp on the inputs.
“[The] advice I would give my younger self would be to not short the nutrients your wheat needs. It didn’t take long to start seeing the benefits after I started doing that,” said Nic. Nic also advised of the importance that seed treatment can play in better yields. Before the purchase of a seed treater several years back, much of the seed on Nic’s operation was left untreated. Now, with an advantage of several additional bushels an acre, Nic is seeing the benefit of this investment.
As the youngest member in a family wheat operation Melissa Pachta, who grows WestBred® wheat in north central Kansas, says the advice she’d give to her younger self is to listen and observe — and to develop a thick skin.
Observing her family has helped Melissa after she purchased her own land and started out several years ago. She describes her family as “progressive farmers” and explains that listening to the old-school advice from her dad coupled with the contemporary ag knowledge her brothers provide has helped on her own operation. She stresses her advice that you can learn something new every year — if you’re willing to listen.
And that’s where that thick skin comes in. With a family that’s full of opinions and a challenging industry that keeps her on her toes, Melissa advises to always stay humble.
“We’re in an industry where we don’t have control over a lot of things, specifically the weather, and that’s a huge factor in your end results,” said Melissa. “You’ve got to be able to take the good with the bad, and the bad with the good.”
This humble attitude drives Michael as well, who says he doesn’t have just one simple piece of advice he’d share with his younger self. Rather than one magic bullet answer, Michael says he’s learned and grown his operation through experience and observation. His best advice? Learn to be flexible.
“It’s always an adjustment. Weather patterns are going to be different. You’re going to have to farm it a different way or spray it a different way, but being able to make that adjustment is the difference I see between success and not,” said Michael.
While the agronomic advice may differ, the advice our growers can agree on is a willingness to learn, ask questions and evolve will always serve you and your wheat operation. “The biggest thing I’ve probably learned is that humility factor,” said Melissa. “Farming’s going to keep you humble. That’s also why I think the best people in the world are in the ag industry because of the factor that brings you back down to your knees sometimes.”