By Frank J. Buchman
“I have to load out three semi-trailer loads of soybeans this afternoon. That takes precedence, because I have to get them sold before the end of the year. And, with my busier schedule these days, I need to plan around all of the meetings I have to attend.”
Winter isn’t typically that hectic for farmers who have strictly cropping operations.
However, Bob Haselwood seldom has much opportunity to let down during this time of year, as he’s doing maintenance on his full line of owned machinery in his most complete on-farm shop, along with monitoring and sometimes loading soybeans and corn from his vast on-farm grain storage.
Of course, there’s also review of the crop rotation plan, locking in seed varieties which best match soil type and growth conditions, coordinating fertilizer and chemical needs and purchases, evaluating marketing alternatives, and clarifying decisions for complete farm program participation advantage.
And, far from last, if not most importantly, paying crop insurance premiums for essential protection from the widely varying weather-related damages that Haselwood well knows can occur, from personally experiencing nearly all of them at one time or another in his nearly 40 years of farming near Berryton in Shawnee County.
Obviously, there’s seldom a slack moment considering all that, but Haselwood also knows how essential it is for those in agriculture to be involved in developing higher quality produce, expanding markets from that production, not only in new and unique ways, but also to those who benefit from them nationwide and around the world, ultimately making a more profitable industry.
Involved in Farm Bureau leadership on the local and state level much of his adult professional career, Haselwood was called upon to serve on the Kansas Soybean Commission, leading to involvement in the United Soybean Board (USB).
Going through the ranks, the Kansas soybean grower was just installed as chairman of the United Soybean Board during sessions the second week of December in St. Louis.
“So, you can probably understand that my life will be quite a bit more eventful in the next year attending all of the board meetings to help develop and better utilize check-off dollars paid by soybean growers just like myself,” Haselwood verified.
“It’s essential for farmers to take a leading role in programs that have a major impact on their livelihood. I want to do my part, but I really didn’t set out to be so involved in the soybean groups. Yet, others encouraged me to more active in the state, and then the national level, and I’ve just tried to help out,” the Shawnee County farmer said.
“The soybean check-off is supported entirely by soybean farmers with individual contributions of 0.5 percent of the market price per bushel of soybeans sold each season,” Haselwood related. “The USB is made up of 70 farmer-directors who oversee the investments from the soybean check-off program soybean on behalf of all U.S. soybean farmers.”
These volunteer farmer-leaders, like Haselwood, were nominated by their state-level check-off organizations and appointed by the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture to the national board.
“The check-off funds are invested in the areas of animal utilization, human utilization, industrial utilization, industry relations, market access and supply,” Haselwood pointed out. “As stipulated in the Soybean Promotion, Research and Consumer Information Act, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service has oversight responsibilities for USB and the soybean check-off.
“USB and the American Soybean Association (ASA) are two different organizations with one focus: the success of U.S. soybean farmers. Both groups serve this purpose in different ways,” the Kansas leader said.
“Whereas USB administers soybean check-off activities focusing on research and market development and expansion, ASA focuses on state and national policy issues, which by law the check-off can’t,” according to Haselwood.
More than 50 activities are already scheduled for the USB during 2015. “I don’t actually have to attend, or even be a part of all of them, but USB will be represented, and I must be aware of who’s there and what’s going on,” Haselwood contended.
Enthusiasm for his newest leadership role is most apparent as Haselwood in his heated farm shop intermingled talk of the group’s efforts and progressive optimism for the future with his own soybean, corn and wheat operations, and the highly developed facilities supporting them that he’s continued to add during four decades of farming.
His cell phone rings. Truck driver on the line can’t readily find Haselwood Farms at Berryton, but with a few farmer clarifying directions, a semi-powered grain trailer is positioned on the farm scales for preloading weigh-in.
Haselwood, just shy of 61, actually runs quite spryly across the farmyard, turns a couple bin openers, switches a switch, shimmies up the grain system, and positions the auger soon flowing with farm-stored soybeans sold to Cargill to be delivered in Kansas City before day’s end.
Big red flashing digital scales light tallies 89,500 pounds total weight of truck and soybeans loaded as the truck driver guides the semi-trailer east.
How many bushels are on there? “Well, let’s figure here, there are 60 pounds of soybeans in a bushel, subtract the truck weight, so about 1,019 bushels of ’beans if I figured right,” Haselwood calculated.
“I didn’t have these scales for a long time, and even though I’d have a close estimate, I really never knew exactly how much was on a load. They always pay on end weight, but when ’beans got so high, just a few bushels difference could add up to a lot of money. At my age, I didn’t know if I should really invest in a scales, but they’ll retain their value, and it gives me some piece of mind,” Haselwood said.
From any direction, the bright Haselwood Farm grain storage bins with seemingly complex overhead elevator legs and operational mechanism appears almost a monument to progressive Kansas grain production.
“We can store about 70,000 bushels here. Most of the bins were put up in 1979, and then we added storage for another 30,000 bushels five years ago when we had the opportunity to add some extra acres to the operation,” Haselwood verified.
On-farm storage provides a number of advantages for Haselwood Farms. “We can spread our marketing out, and take advantage of some futures and hedging opportunities,” said Haselwood, noting that about one-third of both the soybean and corn crops are contract marketed ahead of harvest.
“But, one of the big advantages of these grain bins becomes most apparent at harvest, because it’s so convenient and efficient to unload and keep right on cutting instead of taking the grain to off-farm storage,” Haselwood emphasized.
Haselwood Farms is pretty much a one-man operation today. “My dad Everett, who still lives on the farm, had been involved in production until the past couple of years. But, as he’s retired out, I pretty much handle the work, with part time help during harvest, mostly to drive trucks, so I can keep the combine running,” Haselwood said.
Today, there are 1,850 acres in the strictly cropping operation just adjacent to the east of Forbes Field south of Topeka.
“I have a conscientious rotation program with about 850 acres each of soybeans and corn, and usually about 150 acres of wheat. But, I didn’t get that much wheat planted this fall, so there’ll probably be more soybeans,” tallied Haselwood, revealing that about a fourth of the crop acreage is family owned .
Dad bought the home place and moved here in 1965, and we’ve continued to grow a little at a time. It’s not like farms that have been handed down from generation to generation,” explained Haselwood, who earned a degree in farm management at Cowley County Community College, Winfield.
Married to Judy (Sextro), a Brown County farm native, the couple has two grown children, daughter Katie, who’s married and with her husband has the Haselwood’s only grandchild, a boy, and son Kenny, a bachelor, works for Evco at Emporia.
“Our children never had a lot of interest in the farm, and the way things were for farming in the ’80s, we couldn’t encourage them much, so they’re not involved in the operations. And, Judy’s off-farm income was more important in those early years than here working, but she’s retired now and does do more on the farm,” Haselwood said.
When his Dad built a new home to the northwest of the headquarters, the couple lived in the main farm home, until building their home to the east. Haselwood commented: “We’ve rented our former home out as added income, too.”
Hay acreage was leased from the nearby military base for a number of years with 20,000 small square bales of grass hay merchandized annually.
“We also had a hog finishing operation, and even did some sow farrowing for a while. But, we got out of the hogs, and the hay business, too, in order to do a better job taking care of our cash crops,” Haselwood figured.
Although there is very limited irrigated cropland, Haselwood describes the farmland as “hill ground,” requiring more precise management to maximize profitability versus a creek bottom farm.
“Of course, there are so many variables to what a crop will yield, depending on not only the soil type, but the varieties, planting date, temperature variations and most importantly the moisture at the exact right time. Mother Nature always has the controlling hand,” Haselwood insisted.
Still, crop yield averages have remained well above county averages with 50bushel soybeans not uncommon, up to 180 bushels of corn an acre in best times, and even years with the wheat crop producing 68 bushels an acre.
All farm machinery is owned, maintained and operated by Haselwood personally. “I have New Holland equipment and have had for the most part since the early ’90s. Kan-Equip provides real good service. I have a 12-row planter, and a 6090 combine, the smallest machine New Holland makes,” he related.
There’s a 30-foot draper head for soybeans and a six-row corn head. “I’ve been trading for a new combine every year for some time now. That keeps the warranty in place and figures out a lot better economically than having custom harvest crews come in. I can harvest the grain when it’s ready, and not depend on somebody else,” Haselwood verified.
Always looking for improvement in operations, the farmer uses GPS tracking and tractor operator assistance to assure proper fertilizer and chemical placement for maximum yields of all crops.
“I get my fertilizer from Jackson Farms and JB Pearl, and most of the chemicals from JB Pearl. They deliver, which is a big deal, and they are real good to work with. Doyle Pearl even put up some of the first grain bins here, when they were in that business,” Haselwood stated.
“I’ve been no-till farming for 25 years, and extensively since 1999. I should be looking into using more cover crops, and I intend to, but there’s so much going on now, I pay most attention to my crop rotation for best soil nutrition,” he added
Grain trucks and trailers are a major key to handling of the crop, with two semis for 30 and 34-foot trailers, with capacity of more than 1,700 bushels of grain combined, plus a 700-bushel grain cart.
“I usually sell my soybeans picked up here at the farm. It turns out more economical all the way around than doing the hauling myself,” Haselwood said.
All machinery and grain hauling equipment are kept under cover. “We built this 60-foot-by-120-foot machine storage building with 45-feet concreted floored here in front for the shop. We have a complete line of tools and can do about anything needed for maintenance and minor repair, although some of the newer equipment is more technical and requires computers to figure out what’s wrong.
“I really enjoy doing my own machinery work, especially here in the heated shop where everything’s at my fingertips to use,” Haselwood said.
Another 54-foot-by-112-foot open front building was originally used to store 12,000 square bales of hay, but now houses the semis, grain trailers and miscellaneous machinery.
Again, Haselwood emphasized farming’s vulnerability to nature. “I always insure my crops, and several times the insurance has been what’s saved me,” he said.
Acknowledging the drastic swings in commodity prices seen in his lifetime, Haselwood is insistent that markets will continue to fluctuate based on supply and demand, often determined by weather changes, even though management techniques will always be an integral part of highest farm returns. “As a producer you can only do so much,” he admitted.
However, in his role of soybean leadership, Haselwood is only optimistic “Nearly $218 million was collected in fiscal year 2014 by the soybean check-off. One-half of it stayed with the qualifying state soybean boards, and the other one-half goes to the USB. Federal monitoring verifies that soybean growers get $5.60 return on every dollar invested.”
Of course, soybeans are important as high protein livestock feed, and as middleclass populations develop, there will be expanded demand for meat, be it beef, pork or poultry. “Whichever it is, the meat producers will look to soybeans as their main protein source for efficient added animal growth,” Haselwood said.
Additionally, research has continued to develop many uses for soybeans including highly nutritional human food products as well as ink, oils, plastics, and a continually growing list of by-products.
“When I started farming, I never thought I’d be involved in so much agriculture leadership, but I really enjoy it, and want to help in every way I can. There will be ups and downs, in farming and commodity prices, but I plan to continue working to improve the quality of production and profitability for producers,” Berryton, Kansas, farmer, Bob Haselwood, chairman of the United Soybean Board, concluded.