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OLD RULES STILL APPLY? Are the best dates to plant and harvest economically the same as they were 30 years ago? Retired Purdue professor Howard Doster wants farmers to help him find out.

Professor emeritus organizes farmer self-help groups

Howard Doster envisions helping land-grant universities by helping farmers.

Howard Doster and his wife, Barbara, invite you to join Corn Belt Top Farmers Inc., a 501(c)(3) Ohio nonprofit, with permission to do business in Ohio and Indiana. Doster is a retired ag economics professor at Purdue University who grew up on an Ohio farm and still owns farmland there.

What is Corn Belt Top Farmers Inc., or CBTF? As Doster describes it, the mission statement is: A farmer-directed effort to revitalize land grants and ourselves.

“We want to complement, not compete with, land grants, as we do what we have a comparative advantage doing,” Doster says.

Land-grant university faculty and staff have a comparative advantage doing unbiased cropping systems research and management education, he says. But they are short of people and money. Together, farmers have an opportunity to help revitalize land grants and themselves.

3 ways to help
Doster outlines three ways you can be involved:

First, organize, he says. “I’ve started the process by incorporating as a nonprofit,” he says. “I want CBTF to be farmer-run. Join and make it work for you. I’m donating my time. Maybe you’ll set the membership dues high enough to cover expenses.”

Second, gift funds to land-grant faculty and staff of your choosing to do what they have a comparative advantage doing, Doster says. Namely, he believes that is unbiased, site-specific, cropping systems research and management education, perhaps online today.

Third, help farm couples start or restart their own farm advisory board. This is the heart of Doster’s proposal. Each couple will pick another couple they respect professionally, like personally and don’t compete with for land, he explains. They will share balance sheets and budgets, and meet on each other’s farm four times per year to monitor each other’s site-specific cropping systems and whole-entity financial performances. 

In the off-season, you may switch employees or kids, and any or all may do online education. Find a trusted farm advisory board coach — maybe a third CBTF couple, retired teacher, Extension educator or lender.

Doster taught some 7,000 mostly eastern Corn Belt farmers in the 30 years he coordinated the Purdue Top Farmer Crop Workshop. “Now I really want to target the next generation and their kids,” he says. “I have a dozen lessons almost ready to share online; most are multigenerational.” 

Solve real-farm problems
One practical question Doster hopes to answer is if the best dates to plant and harvest have changed since he coordinated workshops decades ago. Peter Thomison, an Ohio State University Extension corn specialist, is excited about working on this, but it takes funding, Doster says. He’s hoping to find donations to help Thomison update that answer.

Doster would also like to know the most economic corn seed, fertilizer and herbicide recipes for each expected plant-harvest dates for an average soil. And for fun, he wants to learn the most economic corn recipe for the expected best plant-harvest dates on the best soil. 

Join in
Doster hopes to hold an informational meeting at the Beck Ag Center at the Purdue Agronomy Center for Research and Education on Jan. 3, and a similar meeting in Ohio later in January. His goal is to organize as many small groups of farmers as quickly as possible.

To learn more, contact Doster at 9363 New Burlington Road, Waynesville, Ohio 45068; call 765-412-1495; or email He hopes to create a website soon.

TAGS: Crops
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