This time of year, farmers have a little more breathing space than they do in the summertime. So, I’ve asked Farmer Todd Strader (originally profiled August, 2013) to give us a little idea as to his thoughts and activities this winter. Here is his update. Enjoy!
Spring is almost here, the snow has melted, the temperatures have been steadily warming, and fieldwork is right around the corner. Thankfully, I haven’t noticed any winter damaged crops in the Palouse. In addition, we have amassed more rainfall this winter than most – at my house, I have collected over 13″ of rainfall since September 1, 2015! National meteorologists have said that El Nino is slowly starting to break, but it broke for us last November – we had an extremely wet and mild winter. The ground never froze during any of theses big rains, and most all of the winter moisture went into the ground without running off.
I plan to plant garbanzo beans on 2/3 of the Palouse farm, and either spring wheat or barley on the other 1/3. The garbanzo beans will be direct seeded* into standing wheat stubble which was left to over-winter to help control any erosion from heavy winter rains. Part of the garbanzos will be a smaller variety which will be used for making hummus – specifically “Sabra” brand hummus! (When you buy Sabra brand, you can think of Todd, knowing that his beans may be in your hummus!) The rest of the garbanzos will be planted to the larger “cafe” style “Sierra” variety chickpeas (aka garbanzos).
The last third of Palouse Farm will be seeded either to soft white spring wheat or feed barley (for livestock feed instead of for malting barley, grown for beer).
The topic of many conversations around the Palouse this winter has been trying to decide on what to plant which will lose you the “least amount of money.” What a weird thing to stay! With the strength of the U.S. dollar and the world bumper crop of wheat and corn, farm markets have really taken a hit this year. Hopefully, the old adage “the cure for low prices are low prices” is true! Most farmers have talked about growing anything besides wheat, and the USDA has reported that winter wheat plantings are the at the lowest level since 1957. Maybe, because of this, the markets may see a turnaround, and wheat prices may go up.
I’m just about finished with my winter maintenance, and don’t have anything major to build, manufacture or overhaul. A friend of mine who is a mechanic and I recently finished rebuilding the motor on one of my Peterbilts. This project has given me a new respect for mechanics! With the complexity of the motors, the precision that it takes to put it back together so that it will run another million miles, and the overall weight of the parts on a Caterpillar motor, I am thankful that I am a farmer and not a mechanic. I guess that, as a farmer, you have to be both….
*read about direct seed on the “Hot Topics” page
We wish Todd and his family the best in this upcoming farm season. Thank you Todd!