We tend to take grains for granted. We can go to our local grocery store and buy some bread, cereal, pasta and alcohol, not considering what it took to grow the main ingredients.
Grain is used in many products, from food to drink to cosmetics to fuel, and hard-working folks are toiling in the fields to ensure there’s lots of it. Do you wonder how gran is grown? What is the life of a grain farmer? Let’s get some insight into their lives.
What is grain farming?
Canadian grain farmers grow a variety of crops, including:
While they can grow almost anything, they usually focus on 2 or 3 grains or for large commercial grain farming, and one crop single crop is grown. While some farmers own their land, many farms are owned by huge corporations and employ managers to run the operation.
Farms range in size, and there is more profit, upfront capital, and risk with larger acreage. They can range from a few 100 acres to in the 1000s. There is a huge investment in equipment and the land itself. Farmers will need to use technology like grain bin temperature monitoring systems to preserve the quality of their harvests.
Grain farming is more than a full-time job. You are up from dusk till dawn, and your day can turn to the night during the busy seasons before the work is done. Most farmers are educated in agriculture and keep up to date with the latest methods and machinery to be more efficient and produce a higher and better yield. It is not for the faint of heart because it is hard labour.
How to be a grain farmer
A grain farmer’s life is a yearly cycle, from planting to harvesting and everything in between. Let’s break it down into seasons.
Grain Farmer in Winter
Winter is for planning and preparation. It is the year farmers sell their grain and plan for the new year of growth. This involves purchasing the right amount of seed, pesticide, and fertilizer, and they only buy what they need for the year to keep costs down.
Winter is also a time to fix and maintain farming equipment, so it is ready to go in the spring. They get together with their team of bank managers, accountants and grain marketers as there are many important decisions and deals to make for a successful, new crop. Farmers may also meet with other farmers and their agriculture organizations to learn new techniques and innovations.
Grain Farmer in Spring
The busiest time of year for a grain farmer is in the spring. This is when they prep the land by tilling (as necessary) and start to plant seeds. They may also use no-till methods and apply pesticides and fertilizer to the ground before planting. Farmers monitor the soil to plant at the right time for the best chance of success as they need soil that is loose enough without being too dry or wet for young plants.
This beginning fieldwork has already been planned out in the winter, so they just need to implement the plan using their farming equipment.
Grain Farmer in Summer
This is the growing season, and a watchful eye is kept on the fields to ensure crops are healthy. Farmer’s battle disease, insects and weeds as they grow their grain, which dictates how they use fertilizer and pesticides.
Winter wheat will be harvested as some fields will have been planted the previous fall. The wheat hibernates over the winter and is ready to harvest around July and August. Then these fields can be planted with fall harvest cover crops. It is a busy season to keep the various types of grain healthy.
Grain Farmer in Fall
The main harvest has arrived, and lots of work and timing go into this reaping. Different grains are harvested throughout the autumn months, from oats and barley in September to corn and soybeans from October to December.
After the harvesting, it’s time to till the fields turn over the dirt and bury any nutrients and residue in the top layer of soil. This also helps with soil compaction. Some cover crops are planted for winter wheat, and soil samples are taken to test things like:
- PH levels
- Acid levels
- Nutrient quality
The results help farmers determine the nutrient levels in their fields and how to enrich them after a long year of growing crops.
This is how the cycle works. As farms expand, more land is purchased, which means more seed, fertilizer, pesticides, manpower and equipment. You have to deal with the extremes of weather and the changing crop prices, and sometimes you have to store your grain until the prices go up. Grain farming is a hard life but a rewarding one. You are feeding the world, which is something to be proud of.