When harvest is over, what do you look to next? The mountains might be calling or a beach
vacation sounds just right after long hours in the field, but the end of our season and many
other farmer’s doesn’t stop with cleaning up the combine and storing it until next year. We
start looking ahead and begin our process of debriefing, marketing, and building a crop plan
Debriefing is a crucial part of any team. Whether you’ve just won a nail biter basketball
game or pitched your best business idea to a group of investors, sitting down as a team to
understand what went well, what went wrong and what was learned makes you a better team
or operation. Farming is no different. This year we had some of the best dryland yields we’ve ever had on the farms thanks to all the spring rain. We couldn’t have achieved those yields without the rain, but we also hedged our bets early on and put down fertilizer to help the crop along. If you would have told us in November of 2022 that we would see the moisture that we did, we likely wouldn’t have purchased crop
insurance. Our yields far exceeded the minimum for crop insurance to kick in this year, but we
would rather pay for protection than place a bet on whether we will have a crop to harvest.
This harvest taught us a lot as cultivators and businessmen and women. We learned small tricks
like how to pick up a downed crop with the combine that had fallen over due to the excess
growth and moisture, otherwise known as lodging. Learning new harvesting techniques can
benefit your bottom line in the end.
Before we send the combine and the semis to the fields, we typically have 50% or more of
our crop sold before we start harvesting. It gives us a direction on where our product will be
going whether that be in our own storage or to the local elevator in Roggen. Marketing the
amount of product we have correctly and timely can be a challenge. The commodity markets
gave us a run for our money this summer. We got to watch the basis on wheat drop 40 cents at
our local elevator in roughly one month’s time. In that same stretch, wheat fell over a dollar per
bushel on the Kansas City Board of Trade. The effects of the events happening in Ukraine and
Russia had everyone speculating on how they should market their crop. We were no different.
We learned to practice patience and strike when the opportunity to profit presented itself. We
were very diligent in watching the markets every single day. We will even plan to watch in the
off season when it may be off other’s radar. We also work hard to not be just another
commodity farmer. We try to place ourselves in value-added spaces so that we are not limiting
ourselves. We have great working relationships with malt houses like Troubadour Malts in Fort
Collins, CO and Proximity Malt in Monte Vista, CO. These relationships have allowed us to
produce quality products that return premium value to our bottom line. Keeping these customers abreast of how our harvest turned out is important for them to have confidence in their future supply chain.
Building a crop plan takes a lot of consideration and time to develop, but having confidence
in our numbers and knowing which crops drive our revenue on the farm really informs our
decisions. On our best brainstorming days, you’ll find us in the conference room with a blank
whiteboard and dry erase marker. We draw everything out. We like to see it and conceptualize
our plan together. Crop rotation, partnership needs, revenue and conservation efforts are at the top of mind. We prioritize our most efficient, high performing and greatest ROI crops. For example, seed barley, alfalfa and malt barley are our top three earners. Whiskey wheat and commodity wheat have their place and drive good revenue, but the volumes are not normally high enough to build overall farm
revenue. Corn and silage also have a home on our farm, but requirements for water are much greater. Another example of our decisions lies with our partnership with Limagrain Cereal Seeds. They rely on some of our acres to grow barley and wheat trials that can help excel their programs forward.
We must set aside the right amount of acreage and water allocation to meet their needs. All these thoughts along with managing rotation needs and diversifying the operation make up a lot of our conversation around the conference room table.
Aside from focusing on what crop will go where, we discuss what the ground needs in the
immediate future, what new conservation programs we can implement, potential winter
conditions and water availability predictions for next year. Most of these decisions are built on
historical trends and experience. Our main goal with our crop plan is to match the planned crop
with the water that we THINK will be available in the next growing season. None of us have a
crystal ball to predict how many acre feet of water we will have available, but we can make
educated and calculated decisions to help us be successful. All in all, we plan for what we
believe will be practical. Our first crop plan will not be our last. There will likely be 8-10 versions
before we get in the field, but preparing and being flexible are all part of a successful farming
Here are some final thoughts to leave you with as we conclude this crop season. These
questions came up throughout the summer and have been rolling around in our heads for some
- How do you plan for another crop year when you’ve just had a year for the record
- When you normally have 8-12 inches of annual precipitation and you were able to work
with 20 inches or more this summer, how do you expect the next few years to pan out?
- Is this a teachable year? Can we use this year in our graphs of data points, or is it too
much of an outlier?
We’d say that this year presented challenges as well as triumphs. Every day spent farming could
be used as a teachable moment in some way, shape or form. Patience was one of our biggest
hurdles this year. We had to get comfortable with entering the fields in the afternoon rather
than first thing in the morning due to humidity and moisture. We had to rush back to the shop
to beat an afternoon storm even though we had only just gotten to the field a few hours prior.
We used the opportunities we had to get our crop out of the field even if we didn’t feel completely accomplished at the end of every day. We learned the true meaning of the word
urgency and put our skills to the test. Weed pressures were higher than ever. Markets were
fluctuating in interesting ways. The list can go on, but we all feel that this year was one for the
While soaking up the last few days of decent, warm weather sounds great right about
now, we want to make sure we are in the best possible position for next year so we can drive our success from the ground up. We will get our chance to sneak away soon and enjoy the last bits of the fall leaves with family and friends!