Wrapping up wheat harvest and rocketing through summer – The Wilcox Family

A field of swathed Canola is about to get wet.

A field of swathed Canola is about to get wet.

Hello again! It feels like forever since I have sat down to write a blog post. Lots of exciting things going on here on the Wilcox Ponderosa, the most exciting of all of these is the fact that it is raining again! We are very thankful for the rain God has blessed us with starting back at the end May.

For many of my fellow farmers the rains came right as their wheat harvest was beginning and made harvesting below average wheat that much more “fun”. We were able to get our wheat and canola out in a mostly timely fashion. This year the combines/tractors/trucks all ran pretty well, whew!

We were lucky to have my Brothers help for most of wheat harvest… And this is why…

We were lucky to have my Brothers help for most of wheat harvest…
And this is why…

The 2014 wheat crop brought a myriad of challenges: early severe cold, drought, late freezes, oh, did I mention drought? We went 168 days here in Fairview this winter and spring without a single rain event that precipitated over a quarter inch. Some of our farms further to the North and West of town received even less, it was a really tough year.

As we put Wheat Harvest 2014 behind us, my thoughts turned to the same thing as everyone else’s – sweetcorn season! Wait, am I the only one that gets excited about sweetcorn? Anyway, my family in Eastern OK has a long standing tradition of bringing great sweetcorn to Eastern Oklahoma and Western Arkansas, and this year was no exception.

Yes- that’s a backhoe in the corn field- all hands on deck!

Yes- that’s a backhoe in the corn field- all hands on deck!

It’s been a busy summer on our farm- Thanks for following along!

It rained, and rained, and rained some more over in East OK this spring.

It rained, and rained, and rained some more over in East OK this spring.

Harvest has arrived! – The Wilcox Family

Swathing our canola into windrows

Swathing our canola into windrows

The end of May and beginning of June is a busy time here on our farm. We have started wheat and canola harvest! Before the combines get to rolling in the fields, there are many hours of shop work that must be done to make sure that everything runs as smoothly as possible when the wheat and canola are finally ready to go. This doesn’t mean that there won’t be breakdowns by any piece of chalk, though. Harvest and breakdowns are like peas and carrots, they just go together! Besides combines, there is the swather, the grain cart, tractors, headers, trucks and trailers that must be checked out to see if they are in good working order, too. Is it any wonder that our parts guys know us really well by the end of June?

Canola moisture was too high, so we switched to wheat

Canola moisture was too high, so we switched to wheat

The few fields we have harvested so far this year are yielding below half of what we usually grow in the same fields. This is disheartening, but we are thankful to have anything at all to harvest. The drought has really hit us hard up here in Northwest Oklahoma. It is also a testament to the amazing plant that wheat is. Some of our farms had less than 3 inches of moisture during the entire growing season (October to early May). The fact that the plants even grew is amazing!

Thanks for allowing us the opportunity to grow a safe, nutritious grain and oil seed for you and your family. I will have more pictures and I’m sure a good story or two for next month!

You can follow along with many farmers across the country as they bring in harvest by searching/following the #harvest14 hashtag on Twitter.

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.

Time to harvest and time to plant – The Leonard Family

This blog entry was written by Katy Leonard.

Things at the Leonard house became very hectic the week of June 16. I left the morning  of June 17 to go to basketball camp in Cleveland, Oklahoma, and it was raining when I left so we didn’t cut any wheat.

However, Tuesday, June 18, is when they kicked wheat harvest into gear and haven’t really stop since then. Dad is combining, Kody is planting, and mom and I are in charge of loading Kody and trying to keep everyone else happy. Along with trying to keep everyone busy at our house, we are having to run dad’s seed customers their seed when they are in need of it.

When I came home from camp the afternoon of June 19, they put me straight to work helping clean some of the wheat dad had cut that we are going to keep until winter. When Kody came home to load the planter he realized that the inside tire on the tractor had a leak around the value stem, so we aired it up and told him to call us if it went flat again. With our luck he made it home, but the next morning it was completely flat so we had to take the dual off and have the local tire repair shop come fix it so he could get rolling again and keep up with dad.

Along with all of this we had the county fair lamb tag-in the morning of June 22. In the midst of all of this, I work at a vet clinic in Vinita on Mondays and Fridays. On June 22 Dad said wheat harvest should last about 2 more weeks if we don’t get the semi stuck in a hidden mud hole like we did the night of June 19 or break a sickle in half. But here we are on July 6th done with our wheat but helping a neighbor finish his.

Thankfully, this year’s yields were very good. But it’s amazing that three weeks ago we were too wet to plant, and now we are too dry to plant all of our acres to double-crop beans.

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.

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.


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.


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.

Wheat, hay, fairs and an international visitor – The Leonard Family

Cleaning up fields with a bulldozer.

Fall is here as we have now had a killing frost and survived the Tulsa State Fair!!!

After a month of fixing washes and drain problems with the scraper and bulldozer, we are now into planting wheat here in northeast Oklahoma.  We also baled the last of a very short hay crop, rolling up about 50 bales of Bermuda grass and weeds.

We have cleaned up an old house site at one farm and fixed several terraces and waterways around the farm trying to prepare for wheat planting.  We started planting wheat on October 4th and are now down to 115 acres of our wheat left to plant before soybean harvest starts in a couple weeks.  We do have 300 acres of custom planting to do for a neighbor to help him out as well as ourselves since we have the new drill to pay for.  I also planted about 350 acres of rye grass and cover or vetch into pastures for me and other neighbors this fall after getting the new drill.

What a year this has been with record heat and dryness, then record-early killing frost, and now 4.5 inches of rain over a two-day period this weekend after just planting 600 acres of wheat.  I’m guessing that at least we will be out replanting spots if not whole fields because of the hard, quick 3.5 inches last night.  Don’t take me wrong; we needed the rain very badly – just not that much that fast right after planting.

Greg and Danish visitor Jens Peter Hansen discuss Greg’s equipment.

Last week we had a very interesting visitor that found his way to us from Denmark from reading this blog and contacting Oklahoma Farm Bureau and arranging a visit to our farm while he was in Oklahoma speaking at a conference in OKC.  Jens is an extension specialist in Denmark and was very interested in the precision farm tools that we use on our farm.  After looking over some historical data, we looked at the machinery we farmed with. Then we went out and rode in the tractor planting wheat with our new 40-foot grain drill using RTK auto steer with saved guidance lines.  He had a great time and I very much enjoyed the exchange of ideas and learning much about the extension service and farming in Denmark.

Tulsa State Fair livestock show preparations.

I attended our local county extension PAC committee meeting this week to help out county ag extension agent plan what programs we need in our county.

Katy showed her heifer at the Tulsa State Fair, and we all got to find our coveralls that weekend as the high temperature on Saturday was in the low 50s and then dipped to around 27 the Sunday morning she showed.  She loved washing the calf at 5:30 a.m. when it was 27 degrees.  We all had a good time, and at least for Katy her calf placed in the middle of her class

Kody is still doing well at NEO A&M College and is excited that the first tractor he bought is going to be delivered on Monday. He bought a John Deere 7800 MFD with a 740 loader to replace the tractor we had stolen last year while we were at state Farm Bureau convention.

Preparing to seed wheat – The Leonard Family

It is a Saturday morning and it is raining on the Leonard farm. We have got some much-needed rain – approximately 2.5 inches. Recently we have been cleaning ponds and working on preparing ground for planting wheat.

Dad and another farmer went to the Farm Progress show in Boone, Iowa, where they saw new technology in the farming industry and saw some friends who he served on the American Soybean Association with.

Also, we have been running a vertical tillage tool over all of our corn and grain sorghum ground along with soil sampling to see what our fertilizer needs are to grow wheat. We also have run a land leveler over a new piece of ground to level and fill in some holes. We also traded our 30-foot Great Plains grain drill in for a 40-foot one so we are able to cover more ground faster reducing the amount of wear on the implement over time. Recently, dad drove out to Kingfisher to look a tractor we are thinking about buying to replace a tractor we got stolen in November of last year.

Greening grass and seeding rye – The Webb Family

Brandon Webb plants rye with an air seeder and tractor.

Oh, what a difference a rain makes!  My normally, positive attitude was taking a swan dive just a short, few weeks ago.  I was irritated at the weather and the fact that we had suffered such a hot, miserable summer last year and somehow we were having to endure yet another summer of much the same conditions.  However, a few rain showers later and my faith has been renewed. The grass pastures have greened up a bit and the guys started planting rye over the weekend.

There is always an underlying rhythm that comes with planting and harvesting, and most generally, we all fall into place during those frenzied times. Tractors and trucks run in and out of our home place like busy, little ants to refill, refuel and retool.  One tractor spreads fertilizer while another is in the field cultivating and then comes the mother of all machines..the wheat drill (usually run by dad).

Clayton Webb fills the air seeder with rye seed.

My job is gopher which usually is all-encompassing.  Go take food to the field, go check water, go open/close a gate, go leave a truck here or there, go get parts in Enid or Kingfisher, go get so and so from the field and take them to such and such.   You get the idea.

With sowing comes the much anticipated cooler weather and of course, a renewed excitement for the harvest that will take place months down the road.  Oh, what a difference a rain makes!