For the 2010 crop season, Monsanto is trying something a little different with its planting and harvest reports. We thought it’d be fun, insightful and worthwhile to follow a few people through the entire year, instead of hopping around the country only at planting and harvest. We hope this approach will allow our online audiences the opportunity to get an intimate look at agriculture through the eyes of our customers and our employees.
I’m happy to say that I get the honor of being a contributor to this coverage. I’ll provide reports on Monsanto’s research farms and what their experiences are through the course of the year—in particular, how our researchers find the best biotech traits that will eventually be planted by farmers 8 to 10 years from today.
Last week, I visited our Jerseyville, Ill., research farm to learn more about how these farms prepare for planting.
If you follow social media sites, farmers are sharing their personal planting and farm stories via Twitter (#plant10), blogs (Martin Farms), Facebook (Weeks Enterprises) and YouTube (Gilmer Dairy Farm). Many Monsanto researchers grew up on farms and have their own stories to share, too.
Like most farmers, our employees are just as excited for planting to start. For Sean Evans, a research associate at Monsanto’s Jerseyville farm, planting brings back memories of helping his dad and family in the field.
“Everyone was involved in some aspect in the operation,” said Evans, one of five Evans children. “We all had different jobs. It was always my job to make sure that dad had enough seed in the planter. I ran back and forth to the truck and loaded the planter up.
“The other job I had, I’d always help my mom bring dinner to dad, and we’d all eat our meals on the back of the tailgate. I get a kick out of doing that now too. It brings back the memories.”
One thing that Evans remembers most about planting (besides that dad—and only dad—ran the planter) is that his dad never let on how quickly things had to get done.
“Everything took a little more time back then, but I was a kid, so I don’t feel the urgency that I do now,” Evans said. “My dad never let that urgency trickle down to us
Jeff Taylor, a Monsanto site manager at the Troy, Ohio, farm, said the anticipation to hit the fields has carried over from his personal farming experience to his job.
“The best memory I have from either growing up farming or working for Monsanto is the ‘itch’ you feel to start planting around the first of April when the weather begins to warm up,” said Taylor. “Every day that the weather is warm and dry is so limited and valuable. Farmers make every effort to maximize the opportunity that day creates in order to finish planting in a timely manner. There is also an extremely satisfying feeling of accomplishment when each day is done and seed is in the ground. Having children of my own, I liken the feeling to watching your child start their first day of school. Planting really symbolizes the beginning of the journey, whether it’s raising a crop or producing research data.”
While a Monsanto research farm is slightly different from a commercial farm—planting progress is measured in tens of acres instead of hundreds; fields are planted in side-by-side rows instead of 12, 18 or 24 at a time; and our farms are regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture—Taylor said the “rush” he feels to get the seed for his farm in the ground and the season under way is similar to how customers feel.
“There is a high sense of urgency when the calendar gets past the first part of May to push to get the plots planted in order to produce the highest yield and be comparable with our customer’s results as well,” he said. “It’s a great feeling knowing we are involved in developing the future products helping our customers produce more and being able to test them in their fields and local environments, which few other companies can say.
Evans recognizes the urgency level too. Timely planting helps to generate good data for crop research.
“We know time is of the essence,” he said. “Even though we’re pressed with tighter deadlines for when seed is coming back, we still have to turn it around in time to generate data. You never feel like you’re going to get there, but I know within 10 days we’ll be planting. It makes it hard when it’s nice weather and everyone is planting right now though.”
Learn more about Monsanto’s research farms and their preparations for spring planting season in the three-minute video above.
Monsanto employees will be following the 2010 crop season from beginning to end on the Monsanto.com Crop Season site.