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Like father, like son
In recent harvest stops in major crop production states, Agriculture.com's Mike McGinnis found out that America's young farmers in Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and Missouri are looking into the future through the eyes of their fathers. Jeff Caldwell contributed to this slideshow. Photos by Jonathan Aurélio de Campos of Gazeta do Povo.
81-year-old Harold Caviness (at right), son Randy Caviness (center), and Randy's son Merritt Caviness (at left), stand in front of one of their four combines. This southwest Iowa cornfield, with a 32,000 plant population, is averaging 200 bushels per acre. Harold remains astonished at today's $7 corn market. "I remember when we sold corn for ten cents per bushel, in 1936."
At age 15, Merritt Caviness says farming is "fun" and seems natural. In his fifth year of running a combine, the young farmer says he started with a 6-row bean head. "This year, I'll be running a 40-foot bean head," he says. Each year, he learns more and more about farming from both his grandpa and father, he says. "I do hope to be able to farm when I get older. Other than the weather stopping you, it's a profession where you can set your own hours."
David Kruse, president of CommStock Investments, Inc., keeps one eye on the markets and farm operations in northwest Iowa and the other on his interests in Groupo Iowa Farms in Brazil. David's son, Matthew Kruse, farms full-time in South America. "With yields improving in Brazil, we can now claim that we might be the first ones to raise 200 bushel corn in both hemispheres," David Kruse says.
Aaron Steffen farms near Cropsey, Illinois, along with his father, Herb Steffen. In this photo, the younger Steffen walks the next row of soybeans to be cut. "Even though we are going to be short on yield, my marketing strategy should make up for that. I forward-sell cash, work with the federal crop insurance, and use put and call options to hedge my crop," Aaron says.
Along with farming with son Aarron, Herb Steffen, operates GMS Laboratories, in central Illinois. "Right now, we are finding that area soils are running short on potassium levels. Potassium loss is a big problem anymore, mainly due to wet conditions. This is the busiest time of the year for soil testing, Steffen says. Aarron and I are testing our soils and we encourage others to do so as well."
With his son, Justin, running the combine, Tim Schwab was kind enough to step aside for a few harvest questions. "Aside from the morning dew delaying each day's fieldwork, harvest in Benton County, Indiana, is going well this year. "The bean size is good on this field that was planted in mid-May. In this 220-acre field, the yield average is running around 60 bushels per acre."
Justin Schwab, a recent Purdue University graduate, has a love for farming, and is part of family that has farmed for generations. But, he is still trying to decide on his career. "My three college internships taught me that it's a big world. I'm not sure if I want to be tied down to one location, much like is required with a farming occupation." Soon, the younger Schwab will leave for Zambia, South Africa, to take part in a mission trip.
Bill Northey, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture, farms in northwest Iowa. Secretary Northey knows the importance of U.S. farmers handing down the love of agriculture to their sons. "Times have never been better in farming. I just hope young farmers realize there will be tougher times and to enjoy the career as a love," Northey says. "If the money isn't there, would they still love the job. That's the question they have to ask."
America's young farmers are looking into the future through the eyes of their father.