The room filled with good farming ideas

When the top farmers from the Southeast sit down together in one room to visit and talk with each other, I do well to listen and learn … and not say much.

A few of my fellow Penton ag editors and I recently spent a couple of hours with many of the South’s top farmers, who represented the region’s broad breadth of farming ventures, from row crops to livestock and from vegetables to poultry.

It’s become an annual chance for these farmers to talk shop and share ideas: the ideas that worked and the once that didn’t. We all agree to keep any specifics from the visit confidential, a policy that works to let everyone open up and freely talk. There are a few things I picked up from the visit I can share without breaking that policy. But these men and women share a sense of community anyway, the types to do what they can to help fellow farmers; the types who share ideas with others, and here are a few:

Establish a relationship with your local ag student groups, like FFA or 4-H. Their top students can be a valuable resource, and you might just find your next farm manager, business partner, or that IT person you likely need sooner than you think.

Consider rotational grazing. By using dozens of paddocks with each planted to a different crop throughout the year, cows can graze a paddock when a particular crop has young, lush growth, providing a quality, year-round feed. It boosts production and can keep a business in business.

Be patience with no-till. When you invest in it, commit and stick it out until the real benefit of the practice returns dividends down the road, and it usually does, bringing positive results to the soil, the environment and, most important, an operation’s bottom line.

Returning to conventional varieties can work to cut input costs. With commodity prices down across the board, dollars per acre matter. Even with the drop in potential yield, it’s worth the pencil and paper to find out if conventional varieties can work again.

Finding quality labor is a problem. For labor-intensive crop producers, pooling resources can get a group the connections or executive help needed to trudge through the quagmire of labor regulations that an individual producer can find daunting to get on his own.

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