Eye on KELOLAND: To plant or not to plant?


LENNOX, S.D. (KELO) — To plant or not to plant? That’s the question many farmers are finalizing their answers to this summer. 

An excessively wet spring after a moisture-filled fall means several in southeast KELOLAND are not throwing in the seed. Instead, they’re throwing in the towel this year. 

There’s a lot of mud. So much, Matt Loewe is spending money to dig out of it at his feedlot south of Lennox. 

“So I purchased this track loader to be able to get around in there. Move some of the mud around, get it to dry. Get the pen shaped and eventually haul some out and that sort of thing,” Loewe said. 

The facility handles 1,000 head of cattle. Keeping them happy and hungry has been a chore to say the least. 

“It’s crazy. It’s like a dog chasing its tail you might say or something. We feel like we’re crazy busy and then when you get done with a day of work it’s like, I didn’t get much accomplished,” Loewe said. 

Thanks to all the rain, Loewe’s focus has been here tending to the cattle that can use roughly 100,000 bushels of corn a year. Most of which, the farmer grows himself on 650 acres. 

Getting that seed in the ground this year though, has been a challenge. Still, it’s one he feels he needs to tackle. 

“Is it going to be more profitable for me to not plant the grain and buy it or maybe take a reduced yield and market it through the cattle because buying the corn will come at a cost higher than typically I could sell it for at the elevator,” Loewe said. 

We visited his farm on sunny day last week. 

Matt Loewe was hoping to do some planting, but he got caught in a rainstorm and the field is still a little too wet for activity. 

This work is taking place about six weeks later than normal. Many fields have been too wet in this area forcing planting season to crawl along at a turtle’s pace. 

“Finishing up planting some corn and got rained out about 7 o’clock last night. I have just a few hours to plant to get done with that one. But again, you need to drive and check it to see if it’s ready. You can’t just wake up this morning and say, okay now I have to go plant,” Loewe said. 

A few miles away, Jonathan and Arlan Hagena just made the decision not to plant in several fields at all this year. 

“Everybody is in a little bit different situation but there’s a lot of people around here who’ve hung in the towel,” Hagena said. 

From the front porch, you can see one of the few fields of corn they were able make happen. Jonathan says it’s been one of the most difficult years in history for the farmers in this area. A place his family has lived for 100 years.  

“My grandparents grew up in the depression, which was a time of unprecedented drought. I’m sure they would be amazed at how much water we’re getting right now. The result is the same though, we’re unable to grow a crop,” Hagena said. 

Driving around in his vintage 1977 Ford truck, you can see plot after plot unplanted. It’s a sad sight to behold. 

“It’s people’s livelihood and it’s what we’re passionate about and what we do for a living. It’s hard to see all these fields being unplanted,” Hagena said. 

Fortunately, the Hagenas’ decision to leave their seed on the shelf doesn’t yield a devastating blow thanks to insurance. 

“This is one year. I’m in this for the long haul. We’re fortunate that we do have prevent plant insurance coverage which means that if we’re unable to plant, we get some type of payment. It doesn’t make us whole but it does allow us to survive another year,” Hagena said. 

Another reason to be positive, Jonathan says the family will get refunded for the seed they purchased six months ago that they won’t use.  

“We invest in our farming operation, our equipment. We still have those bills to pay. We’ll be able to cover that and put shoes on the kids for another year and hope for a better year next year,” Hagena said. 

In the meantime, they plan to spend the summer improving drainage and finding a cover crop. 

Like the Hagenas, Loewe will also continue to take things one day at a time depending on what Mother Nature throws his way. 

“Had to change a little of my plan around but that’s the story of this year I guess,” Loewe said. 

“You look at the calendar and times against us, Maybe I’m okay planting 85-percent of what I wanted to and then worrying about that 15-percent later,” Loewe said. 

Every farmer’s choices are different but it sounds like the key is to have faith good things will sprout up eventually. 

“I would say keep your chin up. As farmers, I think we’re optimists because you put a seed in the ground and you trust that it’s going to grow and something is going to come from it. There’s nothing we can do to make that happen,” Hagena said. 

Farm and rural stress hotline: 1-800-691-4336

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