Depending on which news source you listen to, it seems we Americans waste very nearly half of our food. As parents, my wife and I bemoan this fact constantly, encouraging, and often demanding, that our children take only what they can eat on their plates. We do the best we can, but for starving folks in lands where they spend more than 90% of their income on food, the waste of food here is a true tragedy.
On the farm, wasting food dishonors our profession. We pride ourselves at feeding the world, so we should take this kind of waste personally. That said, I can recall many times when I was wasteful, not of food, but of grain. And when you waste grain, you deprive yourself of profits that you need to feed your family and keep your farm operating.
I hope I’m not the only farmer to experience this kind of stuff. I remember a day when a thunderstorm was headed our way, so I was hurrying to finish harvesting a corn field along our creek bottom. As I turned around on the end near the highway, a pickup load of hunters drove into my field, waving their arms wildly. I thought they were trying to get my attention, so I would stop and they could ask to hunt our land. Instead, they were trying to get my attention to let me know that my unloading auger was still running, pouring corn onto the ground.
Over the years, I have dumped grain in gravity wagons with the gate still open, or in old truck boxes that suddenly sprung a leak. When I hurriedly started combining one year, I forgot to close the cleanout door on the unloading auger, dripping grain on the ground for several yards before realizing my oversight. If I was in such a hurry to get started with harvest, that I didn’t take the proper time to set the combine correctly, I drained grain on the ground or I had too much chaff rolling into the grain sample in the tank. Holes in grain augers, loss of grain through rusted handling systems all cost us money.
Wow! As I think back, I was truly wasteful. Although I cleaned up any piles of grain that I left to feed to the hogs, I still left money in the field, on the floor or on the ground by hurrying too much and not paying attention to the details of my operation.
Haste makes waste, as they say. It seems that the more we hurry through a meal, through a farming operation, through anything we are trying to accomplish, it ends badly. We waste important resources and time, and I’m as guilty as anyone. I suppose the “tortoise strategy” of slow and steady is best as we head to the fields this harvest season. Take your time. Do it right. Protect your profits, and be careful out there.
Here is this week’s discussion question. What strategies do you use on your farm to prevent grain loss during harvest and handling? You can share your experiences and thoughts right here.
Be sure to check out Nebraska Farmer online for the latest news on the growing and grazing season. You can read my new print column – Bow Creek Chronicles – in Nebraska Farmer magazine, or follow Husker Home Place on Twitter. And watch this blog the last Friday of every month for my “Field Editor’s Report” featuring the positive stories about the families who raise our food. Pass it on!