When the weather breaks, the snow melts and the temperatures start to rise, farmers get the itch to get out and “play”. Whether it’s hooking the tractor up to the plows or harrows, seeing the stacks of seed waiting to be planted or the greening of the grass – it’s tough to hold a farmer back from getting out in the field.
But before we do, there’s a little work that needs to happen in order to make sure the fields are in tip top shape for the season. In addition to applying manure to the fields to enhance its organic matter and nutrient, which we’ve talked about here, farmers also make improvements to their fields to enable them to be more productive.
One thing they do is “pick rock”. This is probably every farm kids’ most despised job on the farm as it entails walking every inch of the field to find rocks that are obtrusive and could do harm to the equipment. The task is exactly as it sounds, when you find a large rock, you bend over and pick it up, then toss into a bucket loader or wagon that hauls it away. The rocks are heavy and the acres are long, but they need to be removed from the field, and you’d be surprised how many “rocks” grow in a field over the course of a year!
Another thing farmers do is clean up the hedgerows, or the trees that line a field. We will trim limbs or remove entire trees that may be encroaching a field taking up valuable real estate that could otherwise be growing valuable crops. By thinning out the hedgerows, farmers are allowing adequate sunlight to enter the field, which increases our crop yields, and it helps prevent large limbs from falling into the field as well, which could wreak havoc on equipment.The last improvement done to fields is a little more intensive. Every farmer has a field (or five or ten) that has “low areas” that retain water. You can see the “low areas” from the side of the road. (Envision a nice wide open field with a couple large puddles.) The issue is that too much standing water can kill the seeds we plant. To correct this issue, farmers dig ditches in the wet areas and bury “tile” or plastic tubing under the ground, which guides the excess water to the edge of the field. This practice of “installing tile lines” is not new. Farmers have been doing this for over 100 years now. They used to use clay tiles back in the day, while today we use plastic tubing. So if you see a field that looks like a giant woodchuck or gopher has been through it, it is more than likely us trying to help our fields drain excess water, making them more productive and profitable. After all of these tasks are accomplished, it’s time to head to the field to prepare the soil and plant our seeds. While planting season requires long hours and lots of hard work, it can also be referred to as a time to “play with big equipment” – every farm boy’s (or girl’s) dream job!