Ranching come snow or shine – The Mitchell Family

River Mitchell on the family ranch in southwest Oklahoma.

River Mitchell on the family ranch in southwest Oklahoma.

Hello, My name is River Mitchell and I am a fifth generation Rancher from Southwest Oklahoma. (That’s me in the picture with green grass wearing the green shirt)  I’m your “at large” State Young Farmers & Ranchers representative for district 8.

I have grown up and still live on my parents’ ranch about 25 miles northeast of Lawton, Oklahoma. I am a full-time college student at Cameron University working on my senior year, and I commute daily in order to continue helping on the ranch. The ranch is operated by my dad and brothers. I am the oldest of four boys (one of which is my twin, but I was born first, as I have been know to remind people).

Our operation consist of a starter/grow yard along with summer and winter grazing for yearlings and a commercial cow herd. Right now our biggest project is growing replacement heifers for a 2000-cow dairy farm at Fredrick, Oklahoma. So we have about 700 holstein heifers around at a time. It takes about a year for the heifers to grow from 325lbs, when we receive them, to the size for re-breeding at about 800 pounds when they leave.

As the pictures show, we use everything from dogs and horses to fourwheelers when moving cattle around. We don’t complain much about the snow or bad weather because we need the moisture. The saying goes, “There are only two things for sure in life, death and taxes,” but I would like to add “cows are always hungry”. It doesn’t matter the weather or the holiday or if you’re under the weather yourself, somebody has to feed, and most of the time, if you’re like me, that’s you. God Bless.

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Down to southeast Oklahoma – The Bain family

The Bain Family

The Bain Family

Hello fellow bloggers! We are the Bain family, your district 5 representatives. JT and Sara, along with three growing girls Mattie, Mollie,and Maccie. Here are some things we would like you to know about us. We live in Southeast Oklahoma where JT is a Farm Loan Manager for the Farm Service Agency in McAlester. He services 4 counties, and loves his youth programs! Sara is employed by Stuart Public Schools where she works as a tutor and bus driver. We are very active with our local 4-H and FFA chapters, along with our Church and community.

Feeding cattle with a tub feeder.

Feeding cattle with a tub feeder.

We run a 250-head cow/calf operation and 300 stockers. We also bale hay, wheat, and silage.  JT owns a semi tuck and cattle trailer that he rents to a friend when we are not using it. Our ranch keeps us plenty busy. We are either planting a crop, spraying weeds, harvesting a crop, calving out our mamma cows, hauling cattle or straightening out our stockers.

On the other side of our family, the girls keep us very busy as well! Mattie is a 5th grader, and is very involved with 4-H, for which she has a heifer named “The Funk,” in addition to enjoying basketball and softball. She loves messing with her calf and enjoys helping move and stack hay.

The Bain girls: Mattie, Mollie and Macie.

The Bain girls: Mattie, Mollie and Macie.

Mollie is a 2nd grader and loves her sports. She plays basketball and softball. She also enjoys taking care of our orphaned calves and helping feed with Dad.

Maccie is a kindergartner. She is full of questions about everything her Daddy is doing. She loves going in the semi to haul a load, feed with Dad, or mix feed! She is also involved in basketball and softball.

We look forward to showing you a little bit each month of what our daily operation consists of! Thanks for taking time to learn about our family!!

Kicking off a cold year – The Kinder Family

Kody & Ashley Kinder

Kody & Ashley Kinder

Hey everyone!  We are Kody and Ashley Kinder, your Oklahoma Farm Bureau Young Farmers & Ranchers District 4 representatives.  It is cold and dry in our part of Oklahoma.  We live out on Kody’s family’s land about a mile from his family farm headquarters.  Both of our families are farm families and we love getting the opportunity to help on the farm operations when possible.  Kody’s family has wheat, canola, sesame, and stocker cattle.  My families operation consists of wheat and cattle.  Kody currently works for the Cotton County Sheriff’s Department and I currently work for the Cotton County Farm Service Agency.

Winter morning sky over Ahpeatone Elevator in Cotton County, Oklahoma.

Winter morning sky over Ahpeatone Elevator in Cotton County, Oklahoma.

We are blessed to have both our families close to us and that we get to spend lots of time with them!  We have lots of fun when we get together and always love hearing our families talk about what is currently going on in each of their farm operations.  When we get the chance, we enjoy driving around and looking at the cattle.  Just a few weeks ago we caught this picture, which is about 2 miles west of our home.

This is our first time to write something for the blog.  Above is just a little about who we are and where we come from!   In the months to come we look forward to showing and telling you what is happening with us and on the farms!

Talk to you soon!

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

Winter workland: Machinery maintenance (and a little fun) – The Williams Family

Williams1-25-14DiscChanging

Changing discs on an air seeder, part of farm equipment maintenance.

After being gone to San Antonio, we had a busy week ahead of us. The guys have been working diligently on the planter. As you can see in the picture, safety comes first…right after necessity.

There are many seed opener discs to be changed on this drill. The new black disc is 18 inches across. The worn out one is 15.5 inches across. If not replaced, soil will not be opened properly for proper seed placement. New discs cost $30 and it takes approximately 15 minutes to change one. There are 68 discs total on this particular 42 foot drill. Also, many other wear parts are changed while the seed disc is off. Patience and persistence are two qualities farmers have engrained in them…with the occasional hat throw, wrench chunk, or pickup peel out for whatever mechanical mishap. Just keepin’ it real.

A single disc from the drill.

A single disc from the drill.

Along with equipment maintenance, came the need to clean the seed barn for a double birthday party. Our hired hands are amazing sports and always willing to “clean” a barn for whatever reason, which they have done many times. I always say having a barn party is a good excuse to get the place clean. Now if they would only apply those skills to the house…

Harvesting Good Memories On and Off the Field

Every once in a great while (once, maybe twice, a year if we are lucky) we get to go hunting together. Most people would think, “Gosh I bet you get to hunt ALL the time.” Well, no… We don’t. Our operation is year-round. There’s always something to do.

Marty and Crystal enjoy hunting together.

Marty and Crystal enjoy hunting together.

Number one, for us hunting isn’t to have bragging rights. We 100 percent enjoy being out and appreciating the wildlife. It’s not to harvest a lot of birds or a huge buck that seems to elude our stealth-like hunting techniques every year (that’s a joke by the way)…because we don’t! We enjoy the outside, walking together in native prairie grass, joking about our slip of youth, and reminiscing stories of childhood adventures.

Number two, we are both pretty lazy when it comes to cleaning game so we only want enough to eat or share with someone else. Or in other words, our aim isn’t so great. And number three, Marty doesn’t have “vacation” or time off. When we are able to take a rare vacation, he’s on the phone taking care of business most of the time. He could make time, but for a farmer trying to make a living and provide, not only for his family but two hired hands’ families, it’s a responsibility and priority to use time wisely for the business…hunting is not one of them. But it sure is fun when we get to go! These are my favorite “dates” and the only time I complain of Marty walking too fast.

Cousin Paul a flight instructor at OSU, Marty the farmer, and Bro-in-law Kelly an elementary school principal in TN hunting a few hours on Christmas Break. (Photo credit Arlie Mornhinweg, Marty’s cousin)

Cousin Paul a flight instructor at OSU, Marty the farmer, and Bro-in-law Kelly an elementary school principal in TN hunting a few hours on Christmas Break. (Photo credit Arlie Mornhinweg, Marty’s cousin)

He’s a good sport to take me hunting because we both know the experience is just a little different in terms of bonding, humor, and tradition when it comes to hunting with the guys in the family. Usually the only time they all get to go together is Thanksgiving or Christmas.

It has something to do with tradition, relationships, and resourcefulness. Or that’s a woman’s explanation anyways. Marty always reminisces about the older generations taking him on his first hunts, and even the old guys taking him when he was 12 and 13 years old…I’m talking 60-80 year olds that shot from the hip. Great experiences, great memories, great people in our community. Time in the woods is worth more than counseling and sometimes even church. I said sometimes, not always!

A family that hunts together, stays together. (photo credit Arlie Mornhinweg, Marty’s cousin)

A family that hunts together, stays together. (photo credit Arlie Mornhinweg, Marty’s cousin)

Kicking off 2014 – The Williams Family

Editor’s Note: This year’s Harvest Watch blog will feature posts from Oklahoma Farm Buraeu’s Young Farmers and Ranchers Committee members. These young agriculturalists live across our state and will share their views on agriculture as they tell their personal stories.

For more information about the Williams family, visit the Meet the Families page. Information about this year’s participants will be added with their first blog post.

The Williams Family

The Williams Family

The fire is lit, the cattle are fed, the wheat is fertilized, and the holiday season has come to a close. Here on the Williams’ Farm it is time to prepare and plan for the year ahead. This year our family has been elected to serve the state YF&R in the position as Chairman.  For the New Year, our committee of young agriculturists wanted to allow readers the opportunity to experience our daily lives…basically giving agriculture a face and a story. Each member of our committee has different interests and operations that contribute to the 2nd largest economy in Oklahoma.

Morgan and Ava.

Morgan and Ava.

Our farming operation is located near Red Rock, Oklahoma, established in 2004.  In ten years we have gone through many changes and growing pains, and feel very blessed to be the operation we are today. I, Martin Williams, and my wife, Crystal, daughter Ava, and son Morgan are an integral part of this farm.   For this month’s blog, Crystal and I will each contribute so you will see through the lens of a 6th + generation farmer and a young farm wife who grew up in town with no ag background. We currently raise winter wheat, winter canola, corn, soybeans, barley, grain sorghum, alfalfa, pecans, cattle, and a little hay.  We also sell commercial soybean, corn, and sorghum seed, and have a small business of controlling algae in lagoons at the Phillips 66 oil refinery in Ponca City, OK.  Sounds like a lot, and it is, but with three exceptional employees and other part-time help, it is a very enjoyable way of life.

In the ten years we have farmed, every year has brought significant changes, which we hope to share in a later post. Generally at this time, all of the crops have typically been harvested and the winter crops planted. This year we harvest various crops from May-November. January is typically a slower time for us. Last year at this time we were harvesting pecans…this year we haven’t started yet.

Spring seed orders slowly trickle in, but for the most part we are maintaining equipment and feeding cattle.

Feeding in the snow presents many challenges.

Feeding in the snow presents many challenges.

This past weekend we had record-low temps. Monday morning the outside temperature as many of you know, was -7 degrees. Feeding cows was a challenge, as Marty’s pickup had trouble starting due to the temperature causing the diesel to turn to gel. Therefore, plans changed as far as getting different vehicles out to feed and break ice.

The guys are also hard at work in the shop finishing up re-building portions of a worn-out no-till drill (John Deere 1850, 30ft with 48 rows). It’s taken about 2 weeks, about 40 man hours to complete this particular job.

There are mechanic jobs that the guys can do themselves, depending on the time of year, and other jobs that we depend on other mechanics to complete. For instance our John Deere 4020 sat outside for 23 years and needed the motor rebuilt. We just picked it up today from a John Deere dealership in Blackwell. They rebuilt the engine, hydraulic pump, and injection pump along with the new injectors. Previous to that we had stripped the tractor down to engine and frame, and converted the starting system from the old 24-volt system to a new 12-volt system. As you can see there is still work to be done. The plans are to repaint the tractor along with a new instrument cluster in the dash, new seat, tires, and rims, and don’t forget of course a new diesel tank, lights, and new decals.  

Wintertime brings with it opportunities for maintenance.

Wintertime brings with it opportunities for maintenance.

It all makes sense if you know Marty, who happens to love antique tractors and basically enjoys taking tractors out of the graveyard to the shop to resurrect in a sense. It’s not just a tractor to him, but instead the consideration of the history and life of each tractor, instilling a high sentiment. Usually he can re-tell the full history of each tractor (who owned it, how many acres it plowed or disced – it’s “medical” history).  I have learned that it has actually been cost-effective for him to take on this kind of project at times, when instead of purchasing a “new” tractor, we can find something like this that can be rebuilt for cheaper and seems to be as trusty and dependable as a new piece of equipment. This tractor will be used to mow waterways, auger grain, unroll bales for the barley modules, as well as harvest pecans. All work for this project should be completed by the end of March.

The John Deere 4020 Marty is bringing back to life.

The John Deere 4020 Marty is bringing back to life.

Trash day on the farm.

Trash day on the farm.

And of course, along with working around the shops and office, comes the trash. So this week we had our much anticipated “Trash Day Parade”. This typically consists of our Uncle Steve’s blue pickup bed mounded over with trash, along with an old bed trailer attached and full…led by THE trash truck shown here. We are proud to represent the “Clampits” of Noble County. We take ours to the Davis Disposal, which is about 8 miles north of where we live. 

As far as the family, I am busy  homeschooling our soon-to-be 6-year-old daughter, Ava. She has started piano lessons with the new year, along with her other two music classes and gymnastics. Morgan, the two year old, is busy playing with new toys and waits for time in the shop with the guys. The big birthday party for both kids is in planning mode for the end of what has turned out to be a very busy month.

This weekend we head off to San Antonio for the National Farm Bureau Convention. Marty will be serving as a delegate, and both of us are also helping with the National Young Farmers and Ranchers Discussion Meet. Blogging is also on the list! We have much we would like to share, in hopes that readers without much agriculture background can gain insight and appreciation for what the young and seasoned American farmers do every day of the year.

Catchin’ Up – The Harris Family

Okay, we have done a poor job throughout the summer updating after wheat harvest, but we’ve taken some great notes so hopefully we can get caught up.

 Late June

Navigating a road in between fields in the sprayer.

Navigating a road in between fields in the sprayer.

June was crazy.  We felt like we were always behind schedule. Although as farmers, we should know by now we don’t make the rain or grow the crops. It’s only by the grace and the perfection of God that we get to keep our jobs year after year. Wheat harvest finished late June, just in time for me to go with the family to Kenda’s state softball tournament. They qualified to go last year and during the regular season had beaten the state runner up. This season didn’t end the way we would have liked – both the state runner up and the state winners in 8U OKKIDS league were on our side of the bracket. They were great teams and we had a blast in Preston, OK, for the last weekend in June. But I had plenty to do when that was finished. Remember, harvest was a month behind my schedule so I hit the road running in July.

July

July seems like a blur. I had planned to take the family on some sort of vacation, but making a living by providing a safe food and fiber supply didn’t allow for that this year. July consisted of much-needed rain, planting only one field to double-crop cotton, spraying, as well as time in the alfalfa field and several doses of working and moving cattle.

A section of sprayer boom.

A section of sprayer boom.

When it rains it gives the weed seed an opportunity to grow – like crazy.  So that means if weeds are growing they are taking nutrients and water from the soil that needs to be used to grow a high-quality consumable product. We had 6 inches of rain in the month of July, so lots of time on the sprayer.  No complaints about the rain because we are thankful for every drop. The cattle had some pond water so we were able to give our solar paneled wells a break.

Also, July was full of planning and preparing; we have decided to jump on the canola band wagon. So that automatically means we had to buy a new planter. Our no-till air seeders aren’t capable of planting canola seed. We are very excited about the new addition to Harris Farms.

August

August has been an interesting month to say the least. The beginning of the month I was spraying, which seemed like it was taking forever because of the small showers of rain and the high temperatures. I can’t spray if the ground is wet because I don’t want to cause the ground to be compacted or risk washing off the chemical I put down. I also can’t spray if the wind is blowing more than about 17 mph or if the temperature is above 95 degrees Fahrenheit. So spraying 6000 acres in late July and August has its own difficulties.

The fire in the pasture.

The fire in the pasture.

One day we are trying to mend the boom on the sprayer. My sprayer has a span of 120 feet, so I have basically 60 feet of boom on each side. I have to be careful of any and all obstacles.  Sprayer booms take a beating even under the most careful eye. My dad and a hired hand are helping fix some areas in how the boom folds up and my 85 year old grandfather calls and says, “Hey, I’ve gotten hung up in a draw trying to spray mesquite trees. I need a tractor to pull the pick up out”. We say we’re kinda busy and it’s gonna be a little bit. He calls back 2 minutes later and says, ” Come now! I’ve got a fire”!  Well it didn’t end pretty as you can see by the pictures. Apparently, he was a little too impatient and got the ground hot with his tires and the grass caught fire.  Around the farm, accidents happen and we need to always be aware of our surroundings.

So now that I’ve told on my grandfather I might as well share about my mishap.

Simply put, because of a mechanical error on a swather, the swather wrecked while I was driving. Luckily, I wasn’t on a bridge or by the creek or meeting a vehicle. The drive chain came loose and I had no way to control the swather.  It safely turned into to the ditch and we stopped hard. The kids had been missing time with me, or that’s the story, so I had Kenda and Rylan with me.  I think it’s because Amy had started the homeschool year back in early August and they wanted a break for the morning. So with homework in hand they came to farm for school work in the tractor that day. They haven’t asked since to ride with me. Although, I’m certain with the couple days of milo harvest coming this weekend that will change. The kids, all three of them, from the infancy stage have all enjoyed harvesting crops.

Upcoming

A new planter on the Harris' farm.

A new planter on the Harris’ farm.

This fall appears to have its own full calendar. We will harvest milo, go to Washington D.C., plant canola and hopefully finish in time to plant our wheat that we use for winter grazing. Then we will plant the rest of the wheat just in time to harvest the cotton before the expected hard winter sets in. Amy likes it if I can be around for holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas!

I mentioned I am going to Washington, D.C. It’s going to be a quick trip, September 8-11. We will get to discus with our elected officials how the backbone of providing a safe, consumable product is going and see how they are doing in our nation’s capitol.  Amy and I were privileged to be able to go to D.C. in 2008 with Farm bureau and loved every minute of it. It is a great trip to see how the grassroots organization fights for our right to farm and ranch everyday.

Before I head to D.C., Kenda will show her prospect steer at the county fair. She is very excited. I am too! I can’t believe she is old enough, but very excited about what the future holds. It looks busy!

An introduction – The Graves Family

Hello, I’m very excited about sharing with you about me and my family’s life on our farm. My name is Lisa Graves and I will be blogging once a week here on the Harvest Watch blog.

My husband, Matt, and I live and work at Graves Farms, LLC. We have two children, Xander, age 5 and Keira, age 2. Matt and I work with his parents, Gary and Jolena Graves. They have owned the farm for 35 years and prior to that, Gary’s parents, Doris and Gerald, lived here and owned the farm. Matt has grown up working alongside his dad. Jolena works as a Health Educator for Harper County Health Department, but still plays a vital role in the operation.

A wheat field on the Graves family's farm in the Oklahoma panhandle.

A wheat field on the Graves family’s farm in the Oklahoma panhandle.

The farm has evolved over the years, and I still get more history about it on a regular basis. Currently, we have Angus cows, run steers and heifers on pasture, dry-land farm, and have center-pivot irrigation. Our main crop is wheat, dry-land and irrigated. We also have irrigated alfalfa, irrigated corn, dry-land milo, and grow Sudan feed, both dry-land and irrigated; and we custom harvest wheat, corn, and milo.

The day-to-day operations are done by Gary, Matt, and Jake Harris. Jake has been a full-time hired man for 3 years; prior to that he worked for the farm during the summers. I cook lunch on weekdays for the guys, do the bookwork, and during harvest find myself running the swather or a tractor when needed. Jolena also helps a lot during harvest and haying. We also have neighbors and extra guys we call when the work gets extra heavy.

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The first calf of the season the Graves’ ranch is growing quickly.

Ours kids keep us busy on and off the farm. Xander is a kindergarten student at Laverne Elementary. He could write his own blog on everything farm. He keeps his teacher and classmates informed on the correct name of every implement you can imagine. He’s dad and granddad’s shadow and will probably be able to tear down an engine by the time he’s ten. He loves riding his 4-wheeler and hanging out on the combine during harvest.

Keira is momma and grandma’s shadow. She is a spunky, yet loving, two year old. She loves animals. I took her to “school” (daycare) during fall harvest and she gets to play with her friends. She likes to get in there with kids her own age.

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A newborn calf soaks up the Oklahoma Panhandle sun.

Lately, the guys have been doing the yearly maintenance on machinery, feeding cattle, checking cows, and hauling hay. They also have been working on the alfalfa fields. They have fertilized and harrowed the fields and filled in the wheel tracks made by the center-pivot irrigation system. On Tuesday, Feb 12, we received much-needed moisture in the form of snow. It came down so pretty, too.

The wheat fields have perked up a little since then, but we need more moisture, like everyone else. The cows are starting to calve. Our first calf came last week, and another was born this weekend. For the next month that will keep the guys busy, checking and tagging the calves.