I joined Chad Brown of Brown Farms, Center Point, on his combine and watched as we cut rows and rows of soybeans. Chad and his father, David, farm 2,500 acres of wheat, corn, soybeans and hay, with the help of only a few extra people. Brown Farms also has 187 head of cattle.
Farming is more than a two-season job, as I learned the father-son duo work in off seasons by preparing for the upcoming planting or harvesting season. In the winter, they work on equipment, prepare for planting and plan for their next crops. Chad showed me a binder he uses to stay organized. He keeps track of what spots need lime or other things and what seeds and fertilizer he wants for the next year, which he will often buy during harvest or wintertime to get a better price. During the summer, Chad said they spray many of their fields, bail a lot of hay and mow their properties. They also work on tiling, which helps water drainage for fields.
Farming is also more than a full-time job as Chad said he works at least 16 hours a day in the spring and fall. Wake up is at 7 a.m., something I know I wouldn't like as I enjoy my sleep. Chad said during planting and harvesting he doesn't get home until well after midnight every night. I don't know about you, but that is not the type of job I'd like. I'm usually exhausted after a 10-hour day, so I can't imagine 16 hours of non-stop work.
With 16-hour days, it's obvious farming is a demanding job that takes a lot of sacrifice, and not just for the farmer, but their entire family.
"It's not just a job -- it's a way of life," Chad said. "If everybody's not all in, it won't work."
Chad said he doesn't get to spend as much time as he'd like with his wife and two children, but he tries to spend quality time with them on Sundays if possible. Otherwise, Chad is committed to his job in order to support his family. However, certain aspects of farming are out of Chad's control.
Weather is the main thing farmers check every day, Chad said. He told me he can do absolutely everything right, but if there is too much or not enough rain, it won't matter -- no matter how much money he put in during the spring. He called it "stressful" and "frustrating" to rely on the weather so much.
"At the time, (unexpected or bad weather) bothers you," Chad said. "But there's nothing you can do about it, so you don't dwell on it."
According to Chad, the drought this year has greatly affected his crops. As far as yields go, Chad said corn is producing 30-40 percent of what he normally yields and soybeans are probably going to be 50-60 percent of what he can yield in a normal year.
"It's the worst I've ever seen," he said. "I think it's a lot worse than 1988 was for our crops, but I don't know what the national numbers will be. For the corn, the heat did just as much damage as the dry weather did."
He told me a lot of farmers would be glad when harvest is over so they can put this year behind them.
Knowing myself, I'm not sure I could handle relying so heavily on something I have no control over. At the same time, sitting in a tractor or combine most of the day all by myself doesn't sound fun either. I think I would get lonely. I guess farming is not the job for me. But it seems to be the perfect job for Chad, who thrives off the alone time.
He said he enjoys being outside everyday, being his own boss and being able to take pride in his work. He said you have to be self-motivated to push yourself to do the best you can.
"When you work really hard at anything, and you step back and see what you did looks good, you can take pride in it," Chad said. "I think all farmers could say that."
Chad has a passion for doing everything to the best of his ability and he feels others should do the same. What a great life motto. I wonder how the world would change if everyone believed and followed Chad's goal for life.
Chad has been farming for the past 21 years and grew up on the farm.
"There's nothing I wanted to do more than this," he said. "It makes me appreciate what I have, because I've had to work for it. But it's not the life for everyone."
However, I could tell it is the life for Chad and his father -- both dedicated to the farm as a way to support their families.
I learned a ton from Chad during my time spent in the combine. I've grown up with a lot of farmers in my family, and I used to ride on tractors and combines when I was little, but spending time with Chad helped me understand farmers and their jobs more than I ever have.
It's a lot more than riding a tractor or shoveling dirt -- it's hard work that takes patience, intelligence and determination -- not to mention it's what feeds America. And for that, I tip my (cowboy) hat to all farmers.
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