Farmer Secrets: 12 Things You Didn't Know About Farming
Award-winning children’s book author and family farming advocate Rebecca Crownover grew up in the farming community of Sunray, Texas. As a kid, she would lend a hand on her grandfather’s farm, irrigating crops and driving the tractor. For a time, she left the farm life behind and became a technology consultant, but in 2003, Rebecca married a farmer and returned to the Texas panhandle and the farm life she loved so much as a child.
Rebecca lost her husband to an accident in 2006, but she has remained part of the family farm, which has grown to thirty thousand acres, commercially growing corn, wheat, seed milo, cotton and canola. A strong advocate of agriculture and educating children about farm life, Rebecca is known as “Texas Farm Girl” and, through her books, teaches about the values of family, faith and farming. A supporter of local farming and home gardening, Texas Farm Girl shares her secrets for growing successful crops and how the basics or large-scale farming can be applied to your own garden.
- Seed germination is important when getting seed from a seed company. It is important for us to look at both the hot and cold germination factor on the seed we purchase to ensure that we will get the best yield for our soil temperatures and to know the age of the seed.
- What a farmer grows is driven by the markets. The price of commodities and what we can sell at determines how much of each crop we will grow. Just like a gardener will grow what their taste buds have at interest, a farmer grows what the consumer and market demands.
- Growing specialty products is helpful for a farmer in diversification of crop portfolio. If the consumer is demanding more of a specific type of product, this allows farmers to find a more niche market through buyers of that product. A farmer will find more premium in growing special crops for specialty markets.
- Organic farming tends to consume more water for farmers than non-organic farming. When you plow up the dirt to kill the weeds and prevent weed growth, you tend to lose soil moisture in your topsoil. It takes more water to get that back into the soil. In our area of Texas, our farming practices have changed over the course of the years to no till to strip till which allow us to conserve more water for future generations of the Ogallala Aquifer.
- Technology is quickly becoming our biggest secret to efficiency that is making farmers more competitive. Drones, Precision Planting, real-time cloud solutions of transferring data. The more efficient we can become at knowing our crops real-time, the more we will be able to produce.
- Soil testing is an important management practice on all farms, whether growing vegetables for fresh market or pasture for livestock. It’s nearly impossible to determine what a soil needs to be productive, without a soil analysis. There are many types of soil analyses available depending on what information you are seeking. The most commonly requested analysis is for nutrient content, though you may wish to know what organisms are working in your soil, if there are pesticide residues or determine the particle size analysis.
- Watering method matters. In farms that use Center Pivot Irrigation such as ours, we have found that the simple use of using a bubble nozzle for our sprinklers versus a spray nozzle makes a big difference in getting the moisture into the soil with less water evaporation in our dry climate. With water becoming an increasingly important resource for conservation, it is important to look at this as a key factor in how best you are utilizing your water for your garden.
- Manure is an excellent fertilizer containing nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and other nutrients. It also adds organic matter to the soil which may improve soil structure, aeration, soil moisture-holding capacity, and water infiltration. Many gardeners use it as a fertilizer source. Farmers find it to be just as important as a tool for boosting the nutrients in the soil as gardeners.
- Participation in peer groups with other growers gives a big advantage in learning new ideas that you can implement on your farm. Connecting with organizations like FamilyFarms Group has been a big niche for us. TEPAP is another big one for farmers. Sharing information with other gardeners can be of the same benefit.
- Use the entire plant. Being able to find uses for the entire plant down to the stalks is resourceful and can prove more revenue for the farmer. For example, stover is produced out of the stalks of corn. A farmer can work with stover plants to process their corn stalks into stover. Stover can be used as a fuel for bioenergy or as feedstock for bioproducts. What can you do in your garden to utilize the entire plant?
- Fertilize judiciously. Too much fertilizer, especially nitrogen can promote plenty of lush green leafy growth, but at the expense of fruit production; you’ll have a smaller harvest. Excessive fertilizer can also be harmful to your plants and the soil. Be sure to read the labels carefully and not overdo it.
- Crop rotation is very important to farmers. Annual rotation helps to maintain soil fertility, maintains soil organic matter levels and soil structure, ensures that enough nutrients are available and reduces the risk of crop failure in case of drought or disease.