Exploring the Young Farmers & Ranchers Group – The Williams Family

Early morning “cloudy” sunrise on the beach. First time many have seen the Atlantic Ocean.  Well worth the frigid temps.

Early morning “cloudy” sunrise on the beach. First time many have seen the Atlantic Ocean.
Well worth the frigid temps.

The weekend came, along with another plane ticket taking us to Virginia Beach for the National Young Farmer’s & Rancher’s Conference.  On the plane ride back, I started thinking again about who might be reading this. Maybe, just maybe, there’s a prospective new YF&R member who isn’t really sure what this committee or organization is about.

Marty and I really didn’t have much experience with Farm Bureau and the YF&R group 6-10 years ago. Our county YF&R group has generally been small and inconsistent … not surprising as our age bracket is busy starting new jobs and families, which really isn’t a viable excuse as any age bracket is stretched in commitments and priorities. It is a challenge nonetheless. When we were elected to the state committee, we really didn’t know what to expect since our experience at the county level has been nonexistent other than helping with the farmhand Olympics at the county fair. The past 3 years we have served our state committee have provided the most informative and eye-opening opportunities for us to see how Farm Bureau works as well as each respective committee. Heck, I’ve got to meet people and see places I otherwise would never have gotten to see. Flying out of Virginia Beach, an amazing hub of commerce & trade, history, Naval presence, and contribution to agriculture, I am so appreciative of these opportunities.

Keili Summey, AGED OSU student, coming from a non-ag background. Competed in Final 4 National Collegiate discussion meet in Virginia Beach.

Keili Summey, AGED OSU student, coming from a non-ag background. Competed in Final 4 National Collegiate discussion meet in Virginia Beach.

This is a grassroots organization. One may think sure, the grassroots starts at the county level, and it does, but for me personally I have gained a little more insight into where exactly the involvement and education begins. It doesn’t begin with just YF&R, although this great committee presence is involved. It really starts with the kids. Kids involved in 4-H, FFA, Collegiate YF&R … and surprisingly with non-ag kids who are mentored into these great programs. I have heard more testimonies about kids with no ag background  (impacted by FFA leaders) who are great advocates and leaders of ag.

Both the county YF&R committees and our elected state committee are involved in mentoring kids young and older. We sometimes collaborate together with other counties and organizations (examples are Ag in the Classroom, OSU extension agents, etc.) to do just that. YF&R’s purpose ranges from mentoring programs for kids of all ages, to get them involved, teach leadership skills, and promote anything that has to do with agriculture (safety, legislation, education, etc.).

Great young leaders from our State committee enjoying time with fellow farmers and ranchers,  learning how to be better leaders and advocates back home.

Great young leaders from our State committee enjoying time with fellow farmers and ranchers,
learning how to be better leaders and advocates back home.

Why is this relevant or important to you, the reader? You may be like Marty and I six years ago. Wondering, what is YF&R? What is Farm bureau, I thought it was an insurance company? How do I commit to meetings when I have no one available for childcare? What can I do if my county YF&R committee isn’t very strong? Or more importantly, what you can do to encourage ag and non-ag kids interested in agriculture but without much direction or family support to support an industry that supplies the basic essentials for human life?

You don’t have to be an “expert” in farming or ranching to be involved with this organization. You simply have to have an interest and passion to learn, mentor, or advocate for agriculture.

The 2014 OKFB Young Farmers & Ranchers committee.

The 2014 OKFB Young Farmers & Ranchers committee.

The challenge that has been presenting itself within these three years is making time and eliminating excuse after excuse, to strengthen our county YF&R presence. Goals of the program are to provide state committee members not only a firsthand look into how legislation works for agriculture and other important issues, but also to see agriculture at work in our state, nation, and world. Perspective, networks, and leadership are broadened.  Individuals serving on this committee show up, commit, and sacrifice personal time to invest interest in creating a stronger county and State Farm Bureau team.   Ultimately the goal for members serving on the state committee is to take back what we have each learned about networking, commerce and legislation, and educate our county members (prospective and current), the non-ag consumer, and our youth.

If you have any questions about getting involved with your county YF&R or Women’s Leadership Team, please check out our Oklahom Farm Bureau website at http://www.okfarmbureau.org.  Contact information is available there under the tab “member engagement”. We want nothing more than for more members to these great committees.

Seed treating, pasture mowing and planting milo – The Leonard Family

This is Kody writing. Over the past two weeks or so we have been treating seed, mowing pastures, planting milo, and preparing for wheat harvest and planting double-crop soybeans.

This week started out with my dad and sister treating approximately 1700 units of soybeans, which our customers wanted, treated for planting in the month to come. While they treated, I made a little trip to Stillwater to get my FFA Grain Production Proficiency ready for the national contest next month.

Leonards6-10-13CattleinYardMy dad on Friday finished mowing our rental pasture to keep the cows from getting pink eye from the fescue stems. Though the John Deere 8410 tractor we used to pull the 20-foot bush hog may of been over-kill, it got the job done.

If you were to ask my dad if planting milo before a 4-inch rain was a good idea, I think he would say yes. That pretty well sums up the luck we had planting milo. We will just say we have to replant it.

One of the Leonards' grain trucks clean, polished and ready to roll.

One of the Leonards’ grain trucks clean, polished and ready to roll.

We have also wrapped up the finishing touches on getting the combine and header ready for wheat harvest. I greased the combine and header, along with making one last glance to make sure we did not miss anything that needed fixed.  We have washed, serviced, polished and fueled the trucks and swept the bins.

Finally, we have fly tagged our heifers and fall-born calves to help keep pink eye and the flies in general away while we are going hard farming for the next month.

P.S. Dad says by next week at this time we will be cutting wheat in northeast Oklahoma, barring any more rain.

A time to sow (after the snow) – The Leonard Family

Preparing a field to plant corn.

Preparing a field to plant corn.

Over this past month we have planted about 500 acres of corn, though it may be a little late, some is better than none. What makes it hard to work around is the weather when it rains ever other day and it even snowed on May 3rd!

The new seed warehouse is still full of corn and soybeans. Dad says he sure hopes all the corn disappears soon, whether it is in the form of farmers planting it or returns. Between rain showers and planting corn, we have been working on the combine and header to get them ready for wheat harvest. We also serviced our trucks getting them ready for wheat harvest. We have hauled off the remaining bit of corn we had leftover from last year’s harvest off as well. We hauled the corn to a local poultry feed mill – Simmons Foods in Fairland.

After finishing planting we moved on to spraying pastures and spreading Bermuda grass seed on a 5-acre piece of ground near a cell phone tower. Last weekend Katy bought three sheep and went 50-50 on another with me to show at the County fair in August. While at the sale we got volunteered to build a bracing stand for the lady who bought the sheep from. So over the weekend Katy and I have been constructing and welding the stand together.

The Leonard family at the 2013 Oklahoma FFA Convention.

The Leonard family at the 2013 Oklahoma FFA Convention.

Last month we attended the state FFA Convention in OKC where Katy was with the Afton FFA chapter and Kody won the state proficiency award in grain production entrepreneurship.  That was a great honor for him and his FFA program, and now along with the scholarship money he won he gets a chance to apply for a National FFA proficiency to represent Oklahoma.

Greg has been busy with the Oklahoma Farm Bureau farm bill task force working to help get as good a farm bill for Oklahoma farmers and ranchers as possible this past couple months. He is glad it has once again passed through both the house and senate ag committees, but really hopes that all this work again this year doesn’t end up with a repeat of last year’s farm bill efforts where nothing ended up getting passed on the house floor and no farm bill passed. Greg and the kids have also finished the new office in the seed warehouse during all this rainy time.  It’s going to be a nice addition to our farm to have a place for the business to be outside of house while providing a break room for all working on the farm.

Mary is now out of school and busy keeping us all going in the right directions, along with feeding and helping Katy with her animals.

Heifers to AI and poultry going to market – The Bolen Family

Brent Bolen gathers heifers to get ready for artificial insemination.

Brent Bolen gathers heifers to get ready for artificial insemination.

This is a picture of some of our heifers that we have recently processed to get ready for artificial insemination. We have never used artificial insemination on our farm before and are very excited to use this technology.  We think it will be a great opportunity to use proven sires for low birth weights and maternal traits for future replacements cows.

Also, we have been busy with our poultry that will be going to market in a week or so. When they start getting bigger, the demand for keeping everything perfect in the houses starts to increase as well. We are also getting the cleanout equipment serviced in case we decide on a complete cleanout after this flock.

I am also getting hay equipment serviced and maintained because it looks as though we could start on the alfalfa in the next couple of weeks if the weather permits.

On the personal side, softball, choir, art, FFA activities and schools functions are happening almost on a daily basis. I even made a trip to Iowa to buy some bulls and did a little sheep shopping while I was there. Our ewes are finished having babies and the early born will get weaned this week. Even though we raise our own we still like to buy a few really good ewes to show and then put back in our flock to breed.

Success at OYE – The Bolen Family

Anna Bolen in the showmanship contest

Anna Bolen in the showmanship contest

We spent our spring break in Oklahoma City at OYE showing sheep. Our daughter Bay won the sixteen-year-old sheep showmanship division out of 45 participants. I think she has been showing at OYE for maybe 5 years and has never even placed for showmanship there. It’s really difficult to catch the judge’s eye with that many good showmen in the ring at one time. But this time she got the payoff for years and hours of working her lambs at home. Bay also showed a ewe that didn’t place and a whether that placed 10th.
 Anna showed for showmanship and didn’t get pulled for a placing spot, but did a great job. She also showed a ewe that didn’t place. Autumn, our youngest, had a lamb, but the lamb was ill and couldn’t make the trip.

Bolens3-26-13OYE

Bay showing her lamb at OYE.

We had a good time together as a family even though it’s a lot of work and sometimes a bit stressful. We use every opportunity at such events for learning experiences that are almost endless. The girls even got some time to go shopping at the local malls. I on the other hand got to visit with several old friends and college acquaintances.

As I’ve stated before, the young people involved with 4-H and FFA are second to none in my opinion.

Also, the OYE staff need to be commended for their hard work and dedication to the youth of this state.

Repairs, cattle and meetings – The Leonard Family

My dad, a neighbor, and I baled 125 bales of hay for us on our 1st cutting of prairie hay and 2nd of bermudagrass hay. I mowed the meadows with the help of dad on our neighbor’s tractor.

We also worked on the combine changing the concaves from our small wires for wheat to round bars for corn and soybeans. Also we did some minor repairs like taking a half link out of the feeder house chain and sealing come cracks.

We have been working on getting the planter ready for corn planting next year. Also, we have put new blades on it so that we can get a clean cut through the ground.

Recently we worked the rest of our fall cows and weaned the calves. We sold the steers and kept the heifers to grow out and decide which ones to keep for replacements. Then we ground feed to put in the creep feeder to grow the heifers out.

Dad has been at meetings, he was appointed to chairman of the county excise board, which sets the county budget. Katy left for FFA Alumni Camp Sunday and gets back Wednesday.

More seed, State FFA Convention/Contest and haying – The Leonard family

I hope every one’s week last week wasn’t as busy as ours.  We started the week with the kids being the second place team in the state crops judging contest in Stillwater.  Then came Monday and we unloaded 2 more semis of soybean seed and made a few deliveries of milo and soybean seed.  The kids headed to OKC for the State FFA convention that evening and Mary got left to do the sheep and heifer chores for them while they were gone.  (Dad said he was to busy and mom’s more caring than dad when she feeds!!)

Then came two physicals for Greg one for his DOT CDL license and then another for his yearly preventative health checkup.  He passed both but it took about a good 6 hours between the two and waiting in line and at the labs.  Then it was on to OKC for Greg and Mary Wednesday evening to watch Kody receive the State Farmer Degree.  It hits home when you watch your firstborn go across the stage getting that degree, knowing that he’s grown up and you’re getting old!  Then after spending the night in OKC, it was back to Tulsa to pick up parts and home to work again.

Preparing to bale hay.

Thursday brought hay mowing to the Leonard Farm.  The hay was the thickest we’ve seen in a few years, which is good after being short last year.  We had a small shower go through Friday as we worked in the shop on a tractor repair and the combine.  Saturday we tedded the hay, fluffing it up to help speed drying.  The girls worked in the yard planting flowers and sprucing the place up in preparation for guests next week

Greg baling hay.

when Kody graduates from high school.

Sunday we once again tedded the hay.  Then after lunch we raked the hay followed by baling.  We got done just before dark.  Our timing was great as it rained later Sunday night.

Hay we wrapped up over the weekend.

Technology on the farm – The Leonard family

Another busy week here in northeast Oklahoma.  I have finished my corn planting and all but one of my custom planting jobs. We are only 90 acres from being done there but it showered again last night so waiting for it to dry up again.  I have planted 1400 acres of corn for me and my customers since starting almost a month ago.  The first planting had to be done over after the rain so more fuel, time, and seed had to be invested to get the same results at harvest, or we hope so.  The kids were busy with more crops judging contests for FFA this week, winning second place team and in the top five at most contests.  I’m proud of them and the work they are putting into the contests with a goal of repeating as state champions at the state contest like Afton did last year. Kody hopes to repeat his high individual win again at state contest like he did in 2011.  Time will tell if their hard work pays off.  Mary has been very busy with visiting and helping her mom, who is still in the hospital in Tulsa.  It looks like we will get to see her come back to Vinita next week.

This week as I was planting, I set back and was amazed at the technology that we now use in our machinery.  I hope some of the pictures help you see what I’m talking about.  My tractor drives itself and will put me back within 1 inch of the same place any time I return to that field with the RTK and auto steer system.  All I have to do is get it to the field, load the stored pattern I want it to follow, and then turn it around on the end rows and hit the button.  It drives itself in a straight line or a curved pattern back to the other end of the field.  My grandfathers both would have been so amazed to see that work, and my son Kody thinks the tractor is broke down and can’t run if the system fails and you have to actually drive the tractor!!  What a difference in generations.

Driving is not the only thing the computer controls.  It turns the planter on and off, row by row as we cross over any area of the field that has already been planted, thus saving me lots of seed and dollars, which can add up very fast when corn seed costs $300/bag nowadays.  I can also monitor every row of the planter telling me how many seeds per acre it is dropping and the spacing between seeds, and then I can use that information and change the rate at which the planter is planting – all from inside the cab.  All this information is being recorded along with what variety I’m planting, the date, the speed, and any other information I want to put in for future reference either back on my computer in the office or later in the combine when we are harvesting the crop and laying our yield maps over our variety maps as we harvest the grain.  I have seen a lot since I started farming with no cab tractors to today, and it just makes me wonder what Kody will get to see if he decides to make farming his occupation.

We’ll see you all next week and hope we can show pictures of rows of nice green corn and Katy showing her heifer in the first stock show of our year.

A welcome rain break – The Leonard family

Water stands in one of the Leonards' fields after recent rains.

This past week has been one of change at the Leonard Farm.  After a very dry summer, fall, and winter we had 5 days of rain totaling a little over 7 inches.  So instead of dust and dry ponds we now have muddy fields to work in and washed out water gaps with fence to fix.   We needed the rain and it is unbelievable how much the grass has grown where we had spread fertilizer earlier.  We are now past feeding hay and that is a welcome event as we all wondered if we had enough hay to make it through the winter after the drought last summer. Because of the mild open winter we ended up with about a third of our hay left to carry over into next year’s feeding time just in case the summer turns dry again.

Cattle follow the feed buggy as the Leonards move them around their farm.

We had many projects planned during spring break besides watching the OSU women play basketball, but because of all the rain we worked in the shop, got caught up on office work and record keeping( this seems to take more and more time with all the requirements now place on business).  In the shop we had to put a new rear tractor tire on because we ran over something and ruined a nearly new tire.  That was just a $1800 dollar unexpected expense.  We were able to get the fall-calving cows worked and moved to a pasture with tall grass Sunday afternoon. As seen in the one picture it is a good thing to have some of the kids past 4-H heifers in with the cow herd when it comes to moving cows with a feed buggy!  At least the sun was shining even if it was a little muddy in the corral.  We also got to fix some fence around the water gaps after the rain water run off and the creeks went down.

Wheat development is several weeks ahead of normal.

To start this week we have been scouting the wheat fields for aphids and getting the airplane lined up to spray fungicides for us as it is to wet to get a ground sprayer across the wheat fields.  Sunday we did find the first few wheat heads coming out of the early planted wheat.  This is a good two to three weeks early for us and now it looks like we maybe harvesting wheat in late May instead of the normal June.

As for the kids this is the beginning week of FFA crop judging contests and Kody is interviewing for District Star Farmer on Tuesday.

I will hope for more sunshine and drier weather as I have around 1200 acres of corn that really needs to be planted before April 10th.

Here Comes the Rain, the Leonard family

March 19, 2012

It’s just after lunch and the rain that has been promised has started here in Afton, OK. This has been another busy week around our farm with the kids and their FFA crop judging

Kody feeds cattle in the rain.

practices and my meetings.  As with all farms in the area, the warm weather has brought green grass to those that have fertilized their pastures after last year’s drought.  We are most likely on our last week of feeding hay to our cow-calf operation.  With this week being spring break, we plan on working and moving cattle around this week so that they have had their shots and are wormed – ready to take advantage of the green grass we now have.  We will still have to bring them back later in May to fly tag and give booster shots to the calves.

On the farming side of our operation, the warmer weather has things one to two weeks ahead of normal.  We have wheat that will have the flag leaf out by the end of the week, which means to us that it is time to put fungicide on to protect the plant health from foliar diseases.  This costs around another $10/acre so our breakeven has gone up by 2

Kody and Katy help their dad, Greg, on the farm during spring break.

bushels per acre to pay for the cost of the fungicide.  We are all praying that we do not have any more freezes this year. If we do, all of our investment in the wheat will be ruined by just one late cold front now.  In corn, we started planting late this week as the ground temperature is warm enough and we are past the beginning date for crop insurance coverage, but with the forecast of 8 to 10 inches of rain this week we just planted 3 fields and chose to wait and see what mother nature does next before spending that $65 to $70 per acre on corn seed only to have it washed out by that kind of hard rains.  I guess Mary and I really don’t need to gamble too much this week

Greg planted a couple fields of corn last week in anticipation of the rain.

as we planted 180 acres of corn betting that it will get up and growing before that chance of heavy rain.  Its a gamble either way as if you wait and it rains too much you may not get it

The wheat Katy is standing in will head out in about one week.

planted in a timely matter so that it can grow and mature before the summer heat, and if you don’t plant and it doesn’t rain then you have lost valuable growing time.  Welcome to farming 101 – it’s always a gamble, just a very high priced one these days.

We had great news this week for Kody. He won the Ottawa County Farm Bureau scholarship after being interviews last Tuesday.  It was a very tough competition with his good friend from Fairland being announced as the runner up.

The Leonards