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Saskatchewan Harvest 2017: A 48-year career farmer talks draught, agriculture technology, and facing the inevitable tough times


Written By: Amy Rederburg, Nov 09, 2017
Harvest 2017 was a tough year for many Saskatchewan farmers.
 
Doug Jones of Whitby Farms was one of Saskatchewan's first to wrap up harvest 2017. He says it's thanks to a prototype loaner combine -- one of two sent for field testing in Western Canada -- on top of the two he runs every other year. And a family team that works together year round.
 
The Flaman Agriculture team caught up with Doug while he had a few fleeting moments of free time on his hands. We talked about what effect this years' terrible drought conditions had on his farm, agriculture technology that matters for harvest 2017, and his advice for young farmers facing a tough climate for growth. All before he left for the field to help one of his neighbours finish their harvest.
 
What does Whitby Farms do?
 
Whitby Farms manages around 11 acres of land and grows a variety of grain, cereal, and bean crops; raises cattle and trains quarter horses; offers grain hauling services; and much more in the country surrounding the Great Sandhills at Lucky Lake, about 150 kilometres south of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.
 
The family-owned Whitby Farms stays busy all year round. While Doug’s brother does seeding, his nephew sprays, his son-in-law manages cattle, and his daughter trains quarter horses. They have one hired man who's been with them for 10 years. After a decade of service you could say their hired man has become as close as family. In case you’re wondering, Doug refers to himself as “the gopher” of the operation.
 
We asked, "Who runs the combine at harvest?"
 
Doug jokingly replied, "That's the easiest job in the world! [With the automations these days,] mowing your lawn is way more complicated."
 
He likes that today's combines automatically update as conditions change, so you don't have to manually reset when something goes wrong. He thinks of driving a combine as the perfect job for a multitasker.
 
Harvest 2017 wisdom from a 48-year farming career.
 
Doug's been farming since 1969. And he says, "I never changed my mind once."
 
He recalls taking the leap just before the start of one of the worst periods in farming history, the farm crisis of the 1970s and 1980s, when anyone who started farming "went broke". This was due to a combination of bad economy, dried up foreign markets, and high debt resulting in thousands losing their farms.
 
But Doug was stubborn about his dream to become a farmer and raise cattle. He says it's the only thing he's ever wanted to do.
   
How did drought conditions in Saskatchewan affect Whitby Farms for Harvest 2017?
 
The lack of rain and the heat did a number on his crops, along with many other farmers around the prairies. Doug says his crops are located in the lowest rainfall RM in the province of Saskatchewan. And they didn't get a lot of rain last year, which means soil moisture was low this year. He admits they've had better looking crops in previous years.
 
Their lentils performed the worst and canola would have been a disaster without support from an agrologist.
 
He says, "When I started out farming, [this years' canola harvest] would have been less than 10 bushels in the acre." They got 20 this year, but they're used to an average of 50.
 
Despite a lackluster harvest due to the low moisture and extreme heat drought conditions, Doug remains positive. He thinks the new varieties of canola are "amazing" and credits their performance to scientific advancements in the seed.
 
But there was an upside. Whitby Farms came out with perfect quality lentils and durum over a string of three consecutive years with salvage value. Doug improved the crops’ success by implementing an irrigation system that uses water from nearby Lake Diefenbaker and a preventative spraying process.
 
He’s not the only one that’s happy with his yield given the dry conditions. CBC News reported that other Saskatchewan farmers were surprised at the quality of Harvest 2017.
 
The drought conditions affected the Whitby Farms livestock, too. Doug and his son-in-law had to dig one of the farm's springs out twice to get the water moving again. Their quick thinking likely saved the cattle and horses from heat stroke, unlike another unfortunate case that killed 200 cattle.
 
How do you stick with it during tough times like Saskatchewan Harvest 2017?
 
Doug declares, "Young farmers aren't used to the tough years!"
 
Since the farm crisis, Doug has noticed that the cycle has a way of repeating itself. He cautions many farmers face a similar fate without proper planning. 
 
"Work as hard as you can! It's going to stay dry. You'll hardly see a field that hasn't been affected by drought."
 
He adds, "[We farmers] are at the whim of markets and weather. [Have a plan in place] if your wage is cut in half."
 
Doug reminds young farmers to hope for the best and prepare for the worst, so you'll always stay ahead. The young farmers who have a lot of faith and prepare for hard times in advance can give themselves stability in tough years.
 
Doug’s final words of wisdom for Saskatchewan Harvest 2017:


"If you focus on it and stick with it through tough times, you'll make it out alright. You have to bear down. Take risks and buy some land."
 
Doug Jones is a long-time customer of Flaman Agriculture in Saskatchewan, most recently purchasing a set of new grain bins and monitoring and a longer auger to reach taller grain bins.
 
Like learning about hard-working people, community roots, and new ag solutions? Subscribe to the Flaman Agriculture blog HERE. You’ll be the first to hear about the latest insights from the team!
 
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Posted in Farm related news | Tagged with Saskatchewan Harvest 2017 grain bins wheatheart auger grain monitoring | More articles by Amy Rederburg

Is everybody ready for a potentially record setting crop?


Written By: Eric Anderson, Jun 23, 2016
The potential for this year's crop to be a record setting event has been confirmed by the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan (APAS).  In a recent press release, APAS issued notice to rail companies to be prepared for what could be a large crop this year.  You can see their actual press release here.

APAS said it's anyone’s guess whether it will reach the record-setting levels farmers experienced in 2013 (38.4 million tonnes, according to Statistics Canada), but either way, APAS president Norm Hall wants rail companies to be ready.  “If you remember three years ago when we had the potential of a huge crop, and turned out to be the largest crop on record, the railroads used the excuse that oh, we didn’t know this was coming, we weren’t prepared for it,” explained Hall in an interview with News Talk Radio.

So, APAS is asking the railroads to be ready to handle the grain - but they are the end of the system - the system begins with farmers?

Are farmers ready to harvest the crop within the small window of opportunity presented by crop development and the weather.

Are the combine(s) fast enough? Are there enough trucks ready to move the grain to a bin or bagging area?  Maybe the ground is wet, so is a grain cart ready to move the grain off the field towards a truck, bin, or bagging area?  Is the bagger ready with enough bags? Are the transfers, augers or conveyors able to quickly unload the grain and move it, which allows for the combine to keep moving without having to wait for unloading?

And after moving the grain by rail, are the ports and ships ready?

APAS has put rail on notice, but what about the rest of the system?




 
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Posted in Crop reports | Tagged with harvest augers carts bins bagger | More articles by Eric Anderson

Harvest Time - Around the Corner


Written By: Mitch Flaman, Marketing and Sales, Grain CleaningAug 21, 2014
And once again, the most exciting time of the year is here, Harvest. Depending on where you are in the prairies, harvest happens at different times. Some folks in Northern Alberta (La Crete area) already have the combines in full swing and in other parts, producers are just greasing up the swathers for next week. Either way, if you haven’t quite gotten into the full swing of things, it’s just around the corner. I was on top of a bin just north of Edmonton last night when I looked into the field and it hit me; harvest is underway! The sun was shining and the swathers were rolling. Harvest is a time where we get to see our efforts pay off, providing we worked late enough to get it all in the ground, prayed hard enough for the right weather to get it to grow, and crossed our fingers long enough to dodge any hail and disease.
 
Now compared to last year, this was a bit of a weird year. There doesn’t appear to be bumper crops across the board like there was last year. Throughout my travels, I have seen and heard many producers say this is the best crop they’ve had in years, and many others state this is the worst luck they’ve had in years. Last year it really didn’t matter where you went, “this is the best crop I have ever seen” was a statement heard throughout the prairies. Given the cool temperatures and all the rain that occurred at the beginning of the year, crops were pushed back about two eeks from the average. Before we knew it, it seemed like July was already gone and minimal was happening. Extended periods of warm weather in the past couple of weeks have really helped the crops start to turn.  Keep your eyes and ears open in the next couple of days, but if you haven’t already started getting snap chats and pictures sent to you that say “it’s starting” or “we’re underway!” I can assure you, you will.
 
Happy Harvest

Mitch Flaman  

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Posted in Division News | Tagged with harvest last season weather | More articles by Mitch Flaman

Harvest Report: Crop progress and removing dockage


Written By: Mitch Flaman, Sales and MarketingSep 06, 2013

A few weeks ago when I started this blog entry, I was excited to report that agriculture equipment dealerships were approaching sold-out inventory levels and already delivering machinery to numerous producers province-wide. It was actually a bittersweet situation getting stuck on a secondary highway behind a semi hauling a combine for 16 miles with no option to pass. But, on the other hand, it was exciting to know that harvest was just around the corner. Needless to say, a few weeks later harvest is now in full swing and farmers are going hard.

To date, 14% of Saskchewan crops are combined and are experiencing above average yields (Sask Agriculture). “We haven’t seen crops like this in years,” one producer told me as he was gearing up to go swathing. “Let’s just hope the weather permits.” The 2013 crop season is looking to record bumper crops in many areas. One major worry for many producers is the fear of the dirty “F” word – frost. A late spring has consequently resulted in many crops province-wide maturing over a week late due to limiting seeding situations. This creates a vulnerable situation as the growing season is also extended by a week or more. On the plus side, we have been experiencing lots of hot and dry weather with no sign of frost in the near future. Fingers crossed, but if weather continues to cooperate there is going to be a province full of happy farmers with full bins.

As harvest is underway, producers are becoming more aware of volunteer varieties and other unwanted dockage in their crops. A windy harvest last year blew swaths all over fields and caused unwanted shelling of many commodities. Lots of these seeds germinated and grew into dockage this year. Flaman Grain Cleaning & Handling offers the answer to many of these situations, such as the Kwik Kleen grain cleaner. Whether you have volunteer flax in you oat crop or pesty Kochia growing in your wheat, the Kwik Kleen is designed to remove unwanted foreign material, as long as it can be sifted out.

Although the Kwik Kleen is not a “grain cleaner” in the sense that it is not designed to produce grain clean enough for seeding purposes, it can help clean out the bulk of smaller weed seeds from the larger sample. Kochia is a prime example of a weed seed that farmers would want to remove from their grain with a Kwik Kleen cleaner. Kochia’s high moisture content causes heating once it is mixed in a bin with other grains. This heating can ruin an entire bin full of grain, leaving it fairly useless to the farmer. The Kwik Kleen cleaner removes the Kochia from various grains like wheat, Durum, and other cereals by dropping it through a screen separation as it is augered through the Kwik Kleen before entering the bin.

I am pleased to say that in my opinion the future is looking bright for the 2013 crop year! Good luck to all the producers out there working from sunup to sundown and stay safe trying to get this year’s crop in the bin!

Happy Harvest
Mitch Flaman

 

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Posted in Product Information | Tagged with Grain Cleaning Harvest Kwik Kleen uses removing Kochia | More articles by Mitch Flaman

Saskatchewan Harvest Report


Written By: Flaman Grain Cleaning, Grain Cleaning SalesAug 22, 2011

Southern Saskatchewan 2011 harvest is under way! The combines are rolling through peas and lentils in most of the areas that I have seen. The crops are looking above average in most areas of the south, after a rainfall of 25 to 30 inches in the south last year it is not hard to compare the quality of this year’s crop. Pea acres seem to be down substantially this year compared to recent years, after seeing what the quality of the peas are this year, this may be a tough pill for some farmers to swallow especially if the price continues to rise. The lentil quality also looks very good this year, after the European’s declared no glyphosate on lentils I have seen a few more lentil acres being swathed this year. Canola is being swathed daily and more and more acres are down every day, the canola crop’s look very good in southern Saskatchewan this year, which is a different look this year due to the fact that you would not usually see so many canola acres in Southern Saskatchewan, But with last year’s chem.-fallow acres very high it set farmers up well for a large canola year. Wheat and durum are slowly behind in some spots I have seen; staging anywhere from seeing wheat being swathed to wheat that still needs 3-4 weeks frost free weather to avoid another feed wheat year. As long as we can keep that white combine away, I would say that the 2011 crop year will be a very successful year in most areas of the South that did not drown out in June.

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Posted in Division News | Tagged with saskatchewan harvest combine crops lentils peas southern | More articles by Flaman Grain Cleaning