XtremeAg farmers reflect on their practices for keeping their crops and mental health strong in the 2023 growing season.
Matt Miles – McGehee, Arkansas
Matt Miles is a fourth-generation farmer in southeast Arkansas. Miles farms 3,500 acres of corn, 3,500 acres of soybeans, 1,500 acres of cotton, and 1,500 acres of rice.
One of the most important subjects among farmers — but definitely one of the most avoided — is mental health. I think because I’m a farmer, I do manual labor, and feel I am responsible to keep this country and many others, fed and clothed, so I can’t be bothered with mental health issues. When I am, I sure can’t tell anyone about it — remember, I’m a farmer.
I lost my mom when I was 18, dad in my 30’s, and in my 50’s, I lost my best friend to an ATV accident we were both in. When they say three strikes and you are out, that third strike just about took me out. If it wasn’t for God, friends, and family, I wouldn’t be writing this today. It has taken me several years to even talk about it. My biggest mistake was that I didn’t do what I needed to do: seek professional help.
When I have a problem that I can’t fix on my farm, I never hesitate to call an XtremeAg guy and seek advice. Why can’t I do that when my mental health becomes a problem? It’s just pure pride and thinking I’m supposed to be tough. I shouldn’t need that help, remember I’m a farmer. I can tell you, that’s definitely not the right answer. Sure, those I mentioned can help and help tremendously, but I dropped the ball by not getting professional help. It caused the people that I love and love me years of pain having to tolerate me and my terrible attitude. There are many types of mental stress, and we all go through stages in life, there is no reason why we shouldn’t ask for help. Remember we are farmers and we too may need help. Drop the tough guy image and seek advice when you need to. We are all here to support each other.
The crops are in and the land is prepared for the 2024 crop. Now, I’m in Kansas setting in a bow stand and writing the blog. I thought of different subjects I could write about, but this one kept coming to the front. These are the only few days I get away from the farm, and I never feel guilty for going. We all have to commit to some time away from the farm, even if it’s for just a few days. It will all be there when you get back. We all deserve a break.
Lee Lubbers – Gregory, South Dakota
Lee Lubbers is a fourth-generation farmer in Gregory, South Dakota. Lubbers Farms includes more than 17,000 acres of dryland soybeans, corn, and wheat. Lubbers says he is always trying to learn and challenge himself.
We’re flying through fall! Before we know it, winter will be here and the push is on with corn harvest. Right at the end of soybean harvest we got 5 to 7 inches of rain in one big storm. It covered multiple states. Some areas I heard got 1 or 2 inches, a few places to our south and east received 8 to 10 inches. We’ve had more rain since our crop matured than we’ve had our entire growing season. The first 3 to 4.5 inches didn’t make a puddle, mostly filled in the cracks. That rain didn’t hurt anything, but the second one left standing water in some places.
Our custom cutter finished the last day of soybeans and then we switched to corn. We set up for corn harvest while it was wet and went straight into it once it dried up. We began on Oct. 21. Being no tillers, we didn’t want to tear up our ground, so we waited a few extra days to get started. Compaction is a yield killer and sets back our strides, affecting our soil health.
Since it was a dry growing season, we are really pleased with our corn yields. Even in the third week of October we still had green stalks and a few green leaves. We didn’t see that on anyone else’s corn in the area. Soil and plant health paid big dividends on our corn crop this year. We’ve been cutting dry corn that weighs about 60 pounds for test weights. That makes us feel good in a drought year. I know there were places worse off than us, but we struggled for moisture throughout the growing season.
We sprayed our wheat with CoAXium herbicide. We have been doing this on our wheat-on-wheat acres since the trait came out and we’ve been very happy with it. The herbicide takes out all the volunteer wheat post application, and leaves the CoAXium trained wheat alone. Being deadly dry, we couldn’t get all our volunteer wheat to sprout, but now with the two big rain storms we had, everything came up. We sprayed right before the second big rain, and it currently looks very nice. The bulk of our wheat acres were planted into our soybean stubble, no-till right behind the combines. This year it is further behind, with late planting and the recent cooler temperatures. The no-till saved the day with the 5 to 7 inches of precipitation. All of the residues kept the soil where it needed to be and helped get the wheat up without silting. If the same wheat would have been conventional-till, the erosion would have been terrible.
Chad Henderson – Madison, Alabama
Chad Henderson is a fifth-generation farmer in Madison, Alabama. Henderson Farms includes over 8,000 acres of dryland and irrigated corn, dryland soybeans, wheat, and dryland and irrigated double-crop soybeans. When not farming, Chad can be found carrying on another proud family tradition as a drag racer for Henderson Racing.
We are completely done with soybean harvest. The soybean crop looked very good. We know there are a lot of things that affect them. We found early planting is definitely a factor that affects soybeans. Even in late-planted or double-crop soybeans, timing still matters. We made a lot more bushels on the crop we planted at the beginning of June than we did on the ones we planted the third week of June. We need to keep that in mind when we are harvesting wheat. The planters need to stay behind the combines because every day matters.
We began planting wheat last week. Most of our wheat is planted in corn stubble and a few fields planted in soybean stubble, which makes for a great soil bed. We are getting the wheat drill set! Just remember to do the seed counts. There are different seed sizes, so you need to make sure you have the correct one before you begin your bushel calculations. It is crucial to keep track of seed counts to better ensure you are getting what you are trying to obtain.
XtremeAg.farm is a team of the nation’s top producers who have come together to share their experience, expertise, knowledge, and farming practices with other farmers. Members get access to exclusive content from the team as well as one-on-one support for their own farming operation. Visit XtremeAg.farm for more information.