By: Justin Krick, Farmer at Schluckebier Farms and Crop Advisor at Star of the West Milling Co.
When the air around our family farm fills with the scent of corn drying in the neighboring grain storage, it’s a good indication that the holiday season is here. Each Thanksgiving, I reflect on the past year and think about farming seasons yet to come. The traditions in my farming family remind me to work hard, to listen and learn from others’ experiences, and to take care of our land.
I think, growing up in a farming family, you have to love the outdoors. My great uncle, who is 87 years old, is still always out working in our wheat fields. He and my dad instilled in me a passion for farming and an unrelenting work ethic. During harvest time, that means that we’re often out in the fields past midnight – sometimes past 3 a.m. – doing what needs to get done to bring in the bounty of the season before the weather turns. For us, farming means setting a vision for the future, whether it’s the next season, the next growing cycle or the next few decades. We have to take care of the land and respect the soil, so that it will continue to provide for us.
For many people, this time of the year is about slowing down to enjoy friends and family, regrouping, and celebrating the year’s end. I would say our family does that too, but we also focus on preparing for the new year. At the end of November, we’re taking care of our soil for the next season. We till our land to enable better freezing and thawing so it doesn’t get too compacted over the winter. And we plant cover crops like rye and wheat that help protect the soil from erosion. Winter is an incredibly important time, and tilling at the right time helps us be ready for the spring.
Growing up among farmers, I’ve learned to listen. I’m a stubborn guy, but when you listen and learn from basic principles, you can avoid making mistakes. And it goes both ways. My dad and great uncle listen to me about nutrient management, fertilizer, cover crops, marketing – they let me take care of that stuff. We can incorporate new technologies, but that doesn’t replace their trusted practices. What we do now affects the next season and the years to come. We listen and collaborate; it’s so powerful. The traditions in a farming family come from sharing our experiences, so it’s going to be up to me to share their wisdom with the next generation of farmers.
This year, like most years, my mom and dad will host Thanksgiving. We get to see lots of family members, especially those on my mom’s side. And my mom is a great cook! Dad and I will smoke a turkey in the morning and go work on the fields while we wait for it to be done. Then, after the meal, we’ll go back out to work in the afternoon.
It might sound like a lot of work, but I’m thankful to have grown up on the farm and learned, at an early age, that this is what I love to do. I’m thankful for Star of the West for giving me a job opportunity out of college to consult with farmers and for exposing me to the newest technology and agronomic practices that I can incorporate into my family’s tried and true farming practices. I’m thankful to be able to grow crops that are ingredients in great products like Kellogg’s Frosted Mini-Wheats™ for people to enjoy. And, I’m thankful to start a new season on our land and a new cycle of farming with my family.