I once heard a farm management expert from Illinois advise farmers not to spend too much on equipment.
Typically, farmers have too much equipment – two planters when one would do, five tractors when you could get by with three, etc, he said. He advised the audience to run longer hours and spread out planting and harvest.
I couldn’t help but think about how wrong that Cornbelt advice might be for parts of the Dakotas. I was in the northern Red River Valley last week before it started raining and farmers were harvesting potatoes, soybeans, dry beans, wheat, and surgarbeets – and they were digging up with the land right behind the combine – all on the same farm.
Each crop required specialized harvesting equipment and a convoy of trucks and semis to haul it to warehouses, pilers, grain bins and grain elevators.
In the northern Dakotas, you don’t have to lose too many fields to the weather before it pays to buy another combine, truck or tractor.
Brian O’Toole, of Crystal, N.D., who I rode with while he and his sons combined navy beans, says that for many farms, labor -- not equipment -- is often the limiting factor on how quickly they can get a crop under cover.