Your name, family names and interests:
My name is John Sturtevant. My wife’s name is Dawn and I have a step-son Alex, who is serving in the United States Marine Corp stationed at Twentynine Palms, CA. When not farming I like to spend time day-hiking in the Cascade mountains, fishing and shooting traditional archery with my brother-in-law.
We live in Pasco Washington in the Columbia Basin area of eastern Washington state.
How long have you been farming?
My parents came to the Pasco area to farm in 1966 before I was born . I was born and raised on the farm before joining my older brother in the family operation in 1996.
Why did you become a farmer?
I had an opportunity to so I went for it.
What crops do you grow?
We’re primarily alfalfa hay farmers but we also grow wheat, dry beans and timothy hay for rotation crops.
|Right after harvest, this hay barn is full to bursting.
The roof protects they hay from weather damage.
What type of farm (irrigated, dryland, direct-seed, organic, etc.)
We farm irrigated farm land using center pivot, wheelines and handlines to water our crops.
Tell us about your operation.
Our operation is what you would call a family farm in the purest sense. My older brother and I farm 450 acres together and do the bulk of the work from fixing and operating the equipment to the day to day decisions that go into farming. When more equipment operators are needed such as when baling hay or if a trip to town for parts is needed, we enlist our wives and my brother’s sons into the mix.
Being hay farmers, we bale our hay into either 3-string bales (small bales of about 130 lbs.) or large 4’x4’x8’ bales which can weigh anywhere from 1500 to 2000 lbs. Our main market that we target for sale is the export market, which is about 70% of our hay, primarily to Japan to be fed to Japanese dairy cows. Most of the rest of our hay is sold and fed to local dairies or feedlots.
Do you use any sustainable practices? Please tell about them.
Over the past few years we have switched at times from using synthetic fertilizers to compost derived from local feedlots and dairies. We would like to believe for the amount of money we are spending that we are getting more bang for our buck in using the compost, in addition to maybe making our soil healthier.
Something interesting, cutting-edge, fascinating, you would like readers to know?
Most people do not know that we export hay outside the country. In addition to Japan, America exports hay to China, South Korea, Vietnam and countries in the middle east such as Saudi Arabia.
What are the biggest challenges you face as a farmer?
The biggest challenge I face as a farmer is maintaining our equipment. It can be tough to keep every piece of farm equipment from tractors, balers, swathers and the irrigation equipment we use up and running. Throw in hot weather and long days and the stress level gets ratcheted up when something breaks.
What are farming’s biggest rewards for you?
The biggest rewards of farming to me are being close to my family and also close to nature. Living in the same spot my whole life I’ve come to notice nature and its subtleties as it relates to my small world. From noting when various birds come and go in the spring and fall. Seeing coyotes, hawks, skunks, owls and the occasional deer pass through the farm. Also, there’s nothing like living out in the country for pretty sunrises and sunsets.
Do you participate in any civic or industry organizations?
I’m a member of the Franklin County Farm Bureau as well as the Washington Trails Association
|A storm rolling in across the timothy hay field.
Note the wheelline, which irrigates the field
Are there any stories about farming that you’d like to share?
On our farm we sell almost all our hay to large hay brokers who buy a whole stack (perhaps a few hundred tons) and haul it off the farm in large 30 ton loads. One winter however we sold a 2400 bale stack of 3rd cutting timothy hay by the pickup load by placing an ad in the local paper. It was a great way to meet all different sorts of people as they answered our ad. From people who would come out in a ratty old pickup, to people who would be towing a trailer behind the latest diesel truck. All needing hay for their horses or cattle. My brother and I would load them up, chat for a bit asking about there horses and such and then they would go on there way, sometimes coming back in the ensuing weeks for more hay. I came to the conclusion that most people are nice and decent people…at least those that buy 3rd cutting timothy from my brother and I are!