Unfortunately, the region has had a very late, wet spring along with some unbelievable flooding. While some farmers have already planted, many a tractor sits waiting for the fields to dry before the real work can begin. Timing is everything in farming, and planting when the ground is too wet can result in sticky dirt clods that won't hold a seedling or it may result in rotted seeds. Right now, there's a lot of hand wringing and calendar watching going on - they need hot, sunny weather, ASAP.
However, this scenario also meant that our farmer, Brent, was available to drive us around, answer all my silly questions (Brent: "The Northern Lights are up." Me: "Which direction?") and serve as the world's best NoDak tour guide. Kirk and I both got to drive massive tractors which was an incredible thrill.
I think one was a 600 horsepower 4WD number but Kirk could spew the exact stats. So many tractors are automated these days and learning about that was amazing too.
Beyond the auto-steer (to insure straight lines in the fields), each tractor is outfitted with a computer system that measures things like moisture density, spacing, yield histories and complete per-acre profiles. This is all due to GPS, which has revolutionized the way a farmer manages his fields.
|Computer generated drainage patterns in Brent's fields.|
|Brent stands in the U.S. while I photograph him from Canada.|
|My foot, sticking up through a mountain of corn|