My name is Suzanne. My husband Joe and I farm in Northeast Iowa. We raise corn and soybeans for feed, and fuel. We also have a small cow/calf beef herd, market beef steers, and 25 chickens. The animals are 4H projects of our three sons. In addition to our crop operation we are Pioneer Hi-bred seed dealers. Due to the nature of our enterprises, we stay busy all year round.
The most important crops Joe and I raise on our farm are our three sons. They are twelve, eleven, and six. One unique thing about our boys is that they were all adopted from Russia. We have always told them to remember that they did not come from Mom’s tummy because they came from Mom’s heart and that makes them extra special. And do they ever have Mom and Dad’s hearts for farming. All three love to be outside by Papa and Grandpa’s side learning and helping however they can. I like the fact that my sons know what their parents do for a living. A lot of times our dinner conversations start out about school and extracurricular activities but invariably the conversations will turn to what happened on the farm that day.
Our oldest recently announced that he has narrowed his career path down to being a paleontologist, a fighter pilot, or a dairy farmer. (He shows registered pure bred Holsteins for a neighbor of ours.) Our middle son has eyes for only farming. Some days the only way we can get the piano practiced is by threatening not to allow him to go outside and do his chores. Our six year old informed me that he would like to be a farmer or school principal who reads stories to kids and talks to kids who forget to be quiet and get in trouble for talking out of turn. Hmmm, I wonder where that came from?
Family is very important to us. We farm with my parents. I am the sixth generation of my family to live and work on our farm. The catch phrase “sustainable agriculture” is used often by the media and special interest groups to push certain agendas. My Great, great, great grandfather Matt, purchased our family farm in 1873. One hundred thirty-eight years later it is still in my family and going strong. To me this is sustainable agriculture. Making sound agronomic and economic decisions is what sustains a farm. When we make decisions as to what products we will apply to our land Joe and I make sure the benefits far out way any concerns just like the vast majority of farmers across the United States.
We happen to live in the most beautiful part of Iowa. We are blessed with rolling hills, hardwood forests, and some of the best trout streams in the US. With all the wonderful things we enjoy in northeastern Iowa there comes the responsibility to care for the land. In our crops operation we use no-tillage and conservation tillage practices. In this part of Iowa these practices are used by the majority of farmers because of the rolling hills and slopes of the land. No tillage means just like it sounds – no disturbance of the land. This leaves the plant residue of the previous year’s crop on the soil surface. Leaving extra plant residue on the soil surface helps protect the soil from washing or blowing away all year long.
Using terraces and waterways is another way northeast Iowa farmers preserve their land. A terrace is a structure made of soil and looks like an inverted V. The terraces are laid out across the slopes systematically to slow the movement of water. Soil conservation has always been my dad’s passion. We have over 43 miles of terraces on the farms we operate. In the fall after our crops are harvested Joe and my dad spend weeks adding new terraces or repairing older terraces and tiling. Many people think a tractor and combine are the most important implements on a farm but a tile plow, backhoe and bulldozer are very high on the list of essential equipment.
Because of our conservation practices our soils are colder and wetter in the spring at planting time so planting is often delayed until and soils are warm and dry enough to be planted. But we do this because the benefits to our land out way the reduced yields. I have been blessed to have ancestors who took care of the land and now it is my turn to do the same for the next generation of farmers coming up.
I recently had the opportunity to travel to South Korea and Vietnam on a trade mission to visit with some of our foreign grain customers. Often times the conversations would turn to concerns about a steady supply of quality products and the difficulties these countries have at securing their food needs at a fair price on the world markets. This re-enforced my belief that we are extremely fortunate in the United States to have not only the natural resources but also talented and successful farmers who produce safe, economical, quality food for all of us.