Faces of Food: Spring Blizzard
Farming can be a difficult and sometimes dangerous way to make a living. And when an unexpected blizzard strikes during planting season, it can be downright harrowing.
New ADM Video Series Showcases American Farms
While most farmers love what they do, it can be a difficult and sometimes dangerous way to make a living. And when an unexpected blizzard strikes during planting season, it can be downright harrowing.
ADM is debuting a new video series called Faces of Food to tell authentic stories of producers across the country. The documentary-style series gives a glimpse into the hard work, decision-making and dedication that goes into growing healthy, plentiful crops to feed families, communities and the greater good. For most producers, it’s their livelihood and their family’s legacy.
Along with family support, many producers form trusting relationships with community and business partners to help them maintain and adjust their operational strategy, as needed, along the way. The series also explores these intricate and important relationships.
Kicking Off in the Fields of North Dakota
The debut episode of Faces of Food features the D.J. Coleman Farm of Baldwin, North Dakota, and their experience with a mid-April blizzard.
The farm’s co-owner, Clark Coleman, says the storm made for the most challenging week of cattle ranching that he’s ever seen. “We knew we were losing calves, and there was nothing we could do about it.”
In the video, Clark recounts his terrifying experience of trying to get to the cattle in the dark with his son Cooper. They got lost several times, and finally had to turn back for safety’s sake. “My son got off the Ranger and walked about 10 feet with a powerful spotlight, and I couldn’t see him anymore. I thought, ‘Oh my God, he shouldn’t be out there.’”
A Diverse Operation
Clark and his brother Curt are fourth-generation producers with about 8,000 acres of crops and 500-600 head of beef cows. Clark says what differentiates their farm is that “we are so diversified.”
“On any given year, we’ll probably have 13 different crops planted,” he explains. “In addition, not very many people around here have cattle – at least in the numbers we do.”
Some of the crops grown include sunflowers, yellow peas, edible beans, soybeans, wheat, malting barley and corn. In addition to crops and cattle, the farm has other aspects to its business, including:
- A trucking business. They invested in two live bottom semi-trailers to haul their commodities about 175 miles to the ADM processing plant in Enderlin, ND. Then they pick up beet pulp and other feedstuffs from that side of the state to bring back to local ranchers.
- A custom corn chopping business. They also use the semi-trailers to haul chopped corn for silage, and they bought a larger chopper to take on custom chopping jobs.
- A corn maze. The Colemans started a 10-acre corn maze by Bismarck that went over well two years ago. Last year it was canceled because of the drought, but they plan to do it again this year.
“Yeah, we do a lot of different things out here, but we kind of feel like we have to do that to make things work,” he adds.
An Early-Adopter to Care for the Land
Clark consults regularly with ADM representatives, including Guy Christensen, to understand what opportunities may work best for his operation each year.
Guy says Clark’s not afraid to try anything. “If it’s got a scintilla of sense, he’s willing to try it. And that’s unique.”
For example, the Colemans have operated as a no-till operation for 30 years and were one of the first farms in the area growing no-till corn. This year, they are trying Precision Planting for the first time.
“We decided with the input prices the way they are that we needed to be a little bit more efficient with our planter,” Clark says. “We’re going with a Precision Planting product that has been successful for other guys, and I think it’s going to work really well for us too.”
They use variable rate applications for fertilizer, and the farm employs crop rotation and no-till to keep weeds at bay, so less herbicide is needed.
Clark says they also were one of the first in the area to use cover crops. “It all started a little bit after we started no-tilling corn…Well, we feed a lot of cattle. We need to figure out a way to grow feed and not take away from our farming practices,” and cover crops were the answer.
“If I had to go back to conventional ways of farming, I wouldn’t do it. I mean, our soil health is so much better. At any given time, you can go and look at our soil and dig it up and you’ll find angle worms in the middle of the field. And our organic matter over the years, we’ve had it as high as 7.5%,” Clark adds.
A Positive Outlook
Guy says Clark is always active in promoting agriculture. “He’s the first guy to volunteer to have somebody out to the field to show what he’s doing, show the results of his work, and share that with the public.”
Clark points out that he expects 2022 to be a very good year for the farm. While the blizzard was an ordeal for cattle, it was a blessing for the crops. The area was coming off a severe drought, and the snow provided a boost for soil moisture to get the crops off to a good start.
“The moisture is just a godsend. With these commodity prices, we’re looking forward to a really good year if we can just get the crop in the bin,” he concludes.
More American Farm Stories
The men and women who operate farms across this great country have great stories to tell. Of hard work. Challenging conditions. Overcoming obstacles. Family members working together. Over many generations. And hopeful for the future. Take the time to hear their voices.