An early start to harvest season


SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Fall harvest is well underway for many area farmers.

For Tim and David Ostrem, harvest season is the most rewarding time of the year.

“I think when you bring the crop in at the end of the growing season and if the bins are full, great, but you know, just the feeling that you’ve accomplished something,” David Ostrem said.

But this year, the corn crop is looking a little different. This field is averaging nearly half its normal yield.

“When you combine a good crop, it is really rewarding. I mean sure, a guy wants a good crop, but it’s just always fun to see that yield and see all the work you put into the crop, all the imputes financially invested in these crops, and then to see a deal like this where you’re not going to get the return, and then we have to rely on federal crop to help make up the difference,” Tim Ostrem said.

This corn is headed to the Poet ethanol plant in Chancellor.

“Because of the ethanol industry helping to find a use for the corn we raise in America, it’s not so much just feed and oils they are using anymore. Now they have a way of producing ethanol that as many have heard it’s a green source of energy, and it’s renewable, so obviously in South Dakota that’s our marketplace for our grain,” David Ostrem said.

Nearly 90 percent of Ostrem’s corn goes to the ethanol plants, where it is then created into a product for consumers.

“Our job here is to take that corn and convert it into ethanol. and so we produce, or take in about 40 million bushels a year and produce close to 120 million gallons of ethanol each year. Along with that we also merchandise a fair amount of additional items such as corn oil, as well as various animal feeds,” POET general manager Tom Pierson said.

Harvest season is ahead of schedule this year, due to the dry conditions.

“When we are starting this soon, normally I never really get going until October 1st and so we are about a week ahead of schedule as far as our start time for harvest. And, with the rapid dry down of both corn and the beans coming around, I expect to be done probably two or three weeks ahead of normal,” Tim Ostrem said.

The ethanol plant has just started seeing new-crop corn coming in. They have seen producers reporting various yields, but the quality has been good.

“Moistures are coming it at that 16-18 percent range and test weights are in the 56-58 category,” Pierson said.

Weather is one of the most unpredictable and challenging factors of farming.

“You have to develop a lot of patience and I think it builds your faith, you know, that you’ll have time to get it done, but you know it can add a lot more stress to farming and if it gets too dry you know you just have to wait for it to rain, if it doesn’t rain, you just take what you get. So you never have any security of know how big is my crop going to be, what’s the price gonna be… you know you got a little more stress not knowing what could be, but at the same time, if you have faith that God will provide, that always makes it a little bit easier,” David Ostrem said.

A farmer can work very long hours during the harvest season.

When you’ve got threatening weather coming, maybe a rain event, we will stay out in the field the latest, if the wind blows, if we’re doing soybeans if we can go until two or three in the morning, we will. If it gets tough at 10 o’clock you’ve got to quit,” David Ostrem said.

Typically, the crew will go until around 11 in the evening. With long hours, also comes hard work.

“Well, you get up in the morning, if you’re doing soybeans the first thing you are going to do is see how much dew you got in the morning. You go service your combine, get it ready to go for the day, get it fueled up,” Tim Ostrem said.

“So for me, because I’m usually the one hauling a load, I mean I live in one of our trucks and you know, most of our grain will go to the grain bins, so you know, I just wait for a truck to get filled, bring it home and unload it, and sneak into the house real quick and grab a bite and take it with me,” David Ostrem said.

The business of harvest is also felt by the ethanol plant workers.

“Our corn receiving hours typically are 7 in the morning until 6 in the evening and so we are bringing in corn, at the same point we are shipping ethanol 24 hours a day and we are also shipping animal feed during the daytime hours. So, a fair amount of activity that goes on here in the plant,” Pierson said.

But for many farmers, they wouldn’t trade this lifestyle for anything.

“I love being a farmer, you’ve got the independence of making your own decisions, you’ve got different seasons of different responsibilities, you aren’t doing the same thing day after day,” David Ostrem said.

Farmers could be done with harvest as much as a month ahead of schedule.

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