Here's to All Those Who Farm Little Patches

Hoosier Perspectives

It takes special patience to maneuver big equipment in small patches.

Published on: June 13, 2011

The goal here is not to chastise those who farm mile-long fields of level, black, well-tiled ground. If that's what you've achieved, more power to you. Your challenge is producing as much as that field can possibly produce, and maintaining the soil fertility and productivity levels in the field.

Instead it's to say here's a toast to all those who struggle planting and harvesting small patches, often irregular shaped fields, many times with nooks and offsets and trees all around the edge. Sometimes you could plant 30 acres while you're planting one 15 or 20 acre irregular field surrounded by trees on all sides.

The soils often aren't well drained. Sometimes that's why part of the land around it was left in woods while a plan table spot was carved out of the open part of the clearing. The trees don't help the soils dry up, as some learned this spring. Then when it quits raining the shaded areas with tree roots underneath them often suffer from a lack of moisture.

One field I planted for a friend last week had 11 sides. Another 7- acre patch was so out of the way I had to go up a 30% grade, with the planter folded, and follow a winding path just wide enough for the folded planter, to get to the field, if you could call it that. There were no straight sides, a couple of plantable nooks, and the field actually came to a triangular point at the entrance to the field, which was through two trees spaced just far enough apart to let the planter through in road position.

Why mess with this kind of stuff? People who have put together their farming operation farming whatever land they can get hold of- that's who. People who are willing to build their acreage to a large enough volume to continue farming by renting patches if that's what's available- that's who puts up with it. I know one farmer who folds up a 16-row corn planter just to drive 100 feet to another one-half acre patch.

Why? "I'm paying rent on it- I'm going to get all return I can," the farmer says.

All farmers are special. There's got to be a special reward, however, for those who want to farm so bad they put up with land that makes farming a real challenge.