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M&K Henderson Family Farm

THOUGHTS WHILE IN A TRACTOR 

An ongoing series of entries by a Midwestern farmer.

EDUCATION COUNTS

February 14, 2020

I will always remember when I was at Purdue, so many people asked why I needed to go to college to be a farmer. They would say, "You don't need college to learn to plow!" I am so glad my parents encouraged me to go to school and it changed my life.

Without my Purdue education, our farm would have struggled mightily through some very challenging times. Grain farming today is a combination of science, economics, husbandry, business, mechanical, technology, people, passion and the all-important variable -weather. It's not enough to just "wing it" in any business.

My kids never thought twice about enrolling in college and I am proud that they made the commitment to further their education. No one can ever take away what anyone learns. I am always eager to hear what new things they have learned and how we can improve our farm.

I went back to school to work on my master's degree. It's a different feeling to be at school at a more mature age, but it is also very enlightening and it has changed the way I manage the farm and how I live my life.

Taking classes while also having experienced "life's lessons" brings a whole new meaning to education. College isn't always for everyone but education should never stop in anyone's life.

- Monty Henderson

FARMERS ARE ENTREPRENEURS 

January 15, 2020

In today’s modern era, there is more confusion than ever as to who a farmer is and what a farmer does. According to Wikipedia, “A farm is an area of land that is devoted primarily to agricultural processes or an area of water that is devoted primarily to aquacultural processes in order to produce and manage such commodities as fibers, grains, livestock, dairy or fuel. It is the basic production facility in food production”

In addition Wikipedia states that “A farm may be owned and operated by a single individual, family, community, corporation or a company, may produce one or many types of produce and can be a holding of any size from a fraction of an acre to several thousand acres.”

Some people feel that a farm is somewhat of a big garden, where the farmer produces more than he or she can consume for their own family – and then they sell the excess. Historically, that is what the majority of people did in the early development of civilization. They produced what they were good at and traded their excess for the things they needed. In the early 1800’s, people migrated to Indiana to start farms, including my forefathers. Business and trade to support them followed. They traded their products for things they needed – even then. That was their profession, their business.

Forward to today, where there are about two million farms to feed a population of 320 million US citizens. We are so productive that we ship a tremendous amount of food to other people in other countries as well. Modern farmers do what our forefathers did. We grow what we grow best and exchange our products for money to buy the things we need for our family. We’re not any different than any other entrepreneur. The pizza shop owners sell pizza to earn money to buy televisions. The computer programmers sell their services to buy food. Painters paint houses and factories make cars. Businesses hire people to help them do the tasks required. Very few people today have the time, talent, effort and energy to live sustainably from their own personal food supply. Not even farmers. This is true for everyone who calls themselves a farmer, regardless of the product they are growing.

Yes, many will say that farming is a lifestyle, but so is the occupation of everyone entrepreneurial and in fact all human beings. We all differ in our technical skills, yet in one sense, we are all the same. We do what we do best and trade for what we need.

- Monty Henderson

THE MODERN FARMER

June 13, 2022

We are not an ordinary farm.


I write this because we have always chosen to do some things different than our neighboring farms. In fact, all farms have different styles. This is not meant to be disrespectful of others. There are operations near us that we have great respect for. Like any business, we observe what others are doing, perform our own due diligence and make decisions that are important for the operation’s future. Achieving proper “scale” is critical in any business, and our operation constantly is trying to become more efficient.


One of those notable decisions that is easily observed is to improve soil health through cover crops, strip till, and no-till. Our soil is our factory, and we want to improve it. Today’s modern machinery allow us to plant into conditions unthought of twenty years ago. Healthy soil practices of generations past include cultivation of numerus crops through multi-year rotations. Today’s economy doesn’t allow for expensive land to be idled, so the next best thing is to try to keep something (different) growing on our land for as long as Mother Nature allows. We are early adopters of this method and have witnessed very good results.


An unhealthy practice, in our opinion, has been moldboard plowing and too much tillage in general. These practices advanced with improved machinery over the last few generations. They were adopted for two good reasons, weed control and the planting of the seed into a good seedbed. As noted earlier, we now have planters and products that allow us to overcome these issues.


We are also not ordinary because we have outside income that supports our families. People often wonder why I have a “day job.” My answer is this question, “Do you know how much good health insurance costs?” Austin is an entrepreneur who has a successful business. Our farm has a small trucking operation embedded. This outside activity complements, enhances, and helps to insulate the family farm from “the bad stuff” that we may encounter – poor weather and crops, low prices, expensive inputs and whatever else that gets thrown in front of us in farm life.


About fifteen years ago, I met with a respected Purdue Ag Economist to get his opinion on what he thought a modern midwestern grain farm should / would look like. His answer was “What you are doing now.” Anything called “modern” today, ages quickly. So, we must continue to be the new modern farm of tomorrow, always adapting, always changing for the good.


- Monty Henderson

Harvest

Harvest is our favorite time, when we get to reap the work of the twelve months prior.  It's also when we require the most people to make everything run smoothly and efficiently.  We love to quote Max when we find that "last row we've been looking for" to complete the season.