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A cooperative effort

A cooperative effort

We don't have to sit through a lot of team-building meetings and exercises here in our organization. Sure, they're all the rage in corporate America, but not so much here in real America. We know how to get things done and aren't afraid to have others help us if we can.

For instance, most small towns in rural America have a volunteer fire department. A group of able-bodied people have chosen to volunteer to assemble on short notice and drive various red vehicles to the area of a fire and put it out. The various government entities of the area assemble the funds to make those organizations work. I've been a township trustee for years and take great pride in the job that our firefighters do for us. In fact, I've been fortunate (or unfortunate, depending on your view) to have used their services at least once or twice in the past.


Go ahead, Tase him, bro!

Let me get my bearings

There was another incident last fall when we fired up our corn dryer. I wasn't around, but a belt apparently smoked and sent a big cloud of smoke into the air. In an abundance of caution, someone decided to call the fire department. I was at my place feeding cattle, so I decided to make a quick trip down there and see what was going on with the cloud of smoke. No big deal, I was informed. Smoked a belt and called the fire department, but it didn't amount to anything.

I took that to mean the fire department was called and then canceled after the non-event.

With that, I decided to return to my cattle chores. "There's nothing to see here, folks. Go back to your homes." Pretty standard stuff.

As I rounded a corner of a building with the feed wagon at my place, I noticed a large number of red and blue lights coming into the building site down the road where the bins are.

Odd, I thought. No visible flames, no smoke, no sign of noxious fumes when I was down there moments ago and yet it appears the majority of the department has shown up. Maybe they're here to thank me for making the motion to buy that new fire truck at the last meeting.

Since I was not involved, I chose to remain really, really not involved. Why show up and add to the crowd? There would no doubt be checkers driving by before I got there, because the scanner seems to bring out the lookers in no time flat.

When I got down there, I discovered corn all over the place. The department decided that the best risk was no risk, so they required Guy No. 1 to dump all the corn out of the dryer to make sure there was no fire and no fire risk. We now had a few hundred bushels un-neatly assembled. That looked like major shovel work to me. I'm not into major shovel work.

A grain vac was acquired and the pile was sucked into the vac and transferred to a wagon. That wagon was then backed into the shed at my place to be dealt with later when we had more time.

More time never came. We got to spend a month making balage from all of the Prevent Plant acres we had last year. 

Had we been using a wood stove to dry our corn, maybe some hickory-smoked corn would have gone over well with the cattle. We used LP, though, so all we had was smoke-smoked corn. That doesn't win a lot of taste tests. The other problem is that a wagon of corn is more than a single serving, and it's not easy to get it from the wagon to the feed wagon multiple times to get it fed up, especially when it snows every day during the winter and rains every day during the spring like it has the past few months.

Better idea. Why not just ask the guys at the co-op if I could bring my wagon of smoky corn in and have them run it directly into their mill and then put it back on a feed truck to deliver it to my bulk bins for me to use? Don't contaminate any other corn with my flavor package, but still get it back to me in a useable form. Win-win, I'd say.

The stranded buggy

That would require some cooperation. I find cooperation works best with a personal visit, so I stopped in one day to run the idea past the staff at the co-op. They were pretty much on board with it, but they did have some recommendations. Monday and Fridays wouldn't work. They're usually busy grinding all kinds of feed to get through the weekend and refill customers' bins after a weekend. Mid-week would be best.

So, on a recent Wednesday, I took my load of corn to town and got to pull into a different unloading point than I typically use. My corn would then be put into an empty bin before being ground and mixed with enough other corn to make a full load to bring back to me. I was taking variety segregation to a whole different level than most farmers do.

As we stood there emptying my wagon, the branch manager came over to ask me a question.

"Jeff, do you have Pioneer outlets on your tractor?"

Uh-oh. A hydraulic question. Did I leak oil all over the place or something and now I need to buy a pallet of FloorDry to clean up the mess?

Yeah, I have Pioneer outlets.

"Hey, is there any chance you could do us a favor? See that truck over there? We've got a fertilizer buggy that's hooked up and loaded. Somebody hooked onto the wrong one and filled it and it's busted. We can't get it emptied, because the wheels are down on it."

A small wheel is hydraulically lowered to rub against the buggy's wheels and engage the spreader mechanism as the buggy travels across the field. If the wheel is down and your buggy is parked in, let's say, the yard at the co-op, it will spread fertilizer wherever you move it.

Not good.

Fertilizer spreader wheels

"Is there any way we could get you to swing over there and hook up to the hoses so we can raise the wheel to work on it? We don't have anything here with hydraulic outlets right now."

Let's see. They're doing me a huge favor by letting me bring my mistake load in and haul it back to me in a form I can use with little effort. I'm not exactly on any deadlines right now. I kind of like these guys. Add it up and I'd say it's a pretty easy decision.

Sure, I'll do it.

Got my wagon emptied and weighed, then drove over by the fertilizer incident scene and unhooked my wagon. I knew about how easy it would be to get fertilizer spreader hoses to reach the outlets on my tractor with a wagon hooked on behind, so I decided to skip the part where I'd get myself wedged into a corner and had to back a four-wheeled wagon out to escape.

As I backed up to the buggy, I noticed a lot of really long levers lying around the project. Looked to me like the staff was trying to see if they could pry the wheel loose with force. They found no success.

We plugged in the hoses. I hit a lever and raised the little wheel effortlessly. There were plenty of smiles as I got back out to unhook the hoses. One of the staffers, who is always very formal, gave me a big, "Thank you, sir! We appreciate it!"

He always calls me Sir. No salute, but always a Sir. I like that.

He's the kind of guy you want to cooperate with when you can. I'm glad he's on my team. Although, I'm glad he and I didn't have to climb some rope or a rock wall together to be so tight.

Guy No. 2

Jeff Ryan is Guy No. 2 in the operation of Two Guys Farming, Inc., near Cresco, IA.

Read more blogs from Jeff.

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