So, Jeff focuses on capturing every kernel and maximizing efficiency on every acre. One of his biggest challenges is moisture management and dealing with soil variability within his fields. To combat this problem, he set up his planter for precision variable rate planting and dual hybrid capabilities, with 20/20 meters, DeltaForce, CleanSweeps, and SmartFirmers. He uses this technology to make MZB maps to determine different zones and soil types that allow him to plant multiple hybrids at various populations across the field depending on the characteristics within each zone, while also using those maps to inform fertility decisions.
“I took a leap of faith and spent a lot to set that up, but it really shines on these low moisture years,” he said. “By variable rating N, P, and K, we can put the money where the soil is producing more crop and back it off where it’s producing less. The last thing you want to do in high pH areas is put more urea on because it’ll create more salt. We’ve also found that the last thing you want to do is put a determinant hybrid at higher populations in a high acidity or alkali area because it’ll just put out a stalk with no ear because it’s not able to get the nutrients it needs to put the ear on. If you have a good year with good moisture, fertility, and weed control, we’ve found some of these lower population areas can give you ears the size of your forearm with an 18 x 42 ear. We’ve even found some 20 x 38 and 20 x 42 cobs out there.”
In addition to bringing efficiency to his farm with precision technology, one of the assets Jeff considers most important to the success of his farm is the knowledge and opportunities brought forth from his relationship with his Hefty Agronomist, Chad Jessen, who works with him out of the location in Groton, South Dakota.
“I’ve got such a good relationship with him – he’s probably one of my best friends, not just my agronomist – and if he tells me we should spray the corn twice next year, I don’t question it,” Jeff said. “Basically, he treats this farm like he’s farming it himself through me. That’s why Chad is my agronomist. You couldn’t find a more loyal guy.”
Through Chad, Jeff has also started growing soybeans for Hefty Brand Seed production, and that has challenged him to improve his output even further to maximize seed quality while capturing every seed he produces.
“I’m actually trying to be one of the best seed growers that Hefty’s has,” he said. “I want them to call me to get my seed varieties first.”
To that end, in addition to Hefty’s production practices such as using fungicides to protect the crop throughout the season, Jeff has changed his infrastructure and harvest workflow to create the best possible product quality. For example, he harvests slower, doesn’t use a grain cart when harvesting seed beans, and he runs bin augers slower and fuller – all to minimize damage to seed. Plus, this year he’s invested in bin management systems that allow him to keep seed in ideal condition in all of his bins.
Being a production grower has also allowed Jeff to see the benefits of Hefty Complete Seed Treatments and Naturals products that the company is bringing to the market.
“I love all their supplements and inoculants and biologicals that they’re putting on their corn and soybeans,” he said. “I think that the new 40 Series Corn is going to make us better growers because we can go out a few days earlier and plant in 46- or 48-degree soils. We would always hold the reins back a bit waiting for 50, but let’s face it – the best corn 9 times out of 10 is our earlier planted corn. This year, H4844 is new on our corn ground and it looks absolutely unbelievable, so we’ll probably plant more of that next year.”
On top of high production standards and the season-long benefits of seed treatments, Jeff also appreciates efficiency when it comes to both ordering and picking up product from his local Groton store.
“The guys that they’ve got working in their warehouses – I know Tommy at Hefty’s and Tommy is as fussy as fussy gets,” he said. “You can just tell how much attention he pays when unloading the trucks and monitoring how things get loaded. That says volumes to me. And when you go load chemical with Tim in the chemical warehouse, nothing is leaking, everything is marked, everything is clean. You don’t have to question what’s yours. At other facilities and co-ops, you were just another number. They were just selling a product, you couldn’t ask questions, and they made you feel like you’re just another guy buying inputs. You can get stuff from elsewhere and be scratching your head about what you’re getting, but not at Hefty’s. That’s just the kind of top-notch facility that they have there.”
Much of the business of farming is grounded in relationships, and the linchpin of Jeff’s relationship with Hefty’s comes back to the trust he has in his agronomist, Chad.
“Chad’s someone that’s not going to sugarcoat it for you and tell you what you want to hear,” he said. “If he tells you you’re going to get these corn numbers, unless there’s a production issue with that number, you’re going to get it. Same on the chemical side. If he says it’s going to be in the warehouse in March, it’ll be in the warehouse in March. I know that doesn’t always happen in other places.”
Working with Chad and Hefty Seed Company allows Jeff’s operation to continue to grow and run smoothly because he’s found a reliable partner invested in his success. Which is good, because farmers already have enough to worry about – and Jeff would rather be more concerned about being ready to hit the water when the fish start biting again.