True Story: I was hosting three business partners for supper in Sikeston, MO. We decided this time to bypass the restaurant in Sikeston that everybody knows about and try an older, downtown place instead. A few regulars were at the bar, but we had the dining room all to ourselves. Our server, who appeared to be about college age, came to take our orders. A piano sat just off to my left and it truly appeared to be seldom used. Being a bit of an instigator, I asked her if she would play us a song. Seems nobody asks that question around there as she gave me a weird look and stated that she probably shouldn’t bother other folks by obliging my request.

Later, when she brought our food to the table, I smiled and gave the piano thing another try. She said “oh, I suppose I could do something quick.” Now we were strangers there, folks. I didn’t know if this young lady had any clue how to play the piano. But she sat down and within the first five seconds had my jaw on the table. Not only could she play – she was awesome!  Her light-as-air hand movements, the changes in tempo and volume. This was a concert pianist at work! We applauded enthusiastically and tipped accordingly.

I received a unique, exceptional experience at that restaurant that no one else had. Why?  Because I wasn’t afraid to ask a question that created the possibility I might get something above and beyond what everyone else got.

Exceptional soybean crops. This soybean crop, the one you are growing for the summer of 2022. What are you asking for this year? Let’s look at a few ways to open the door to a jaw-dropping experience that perhaps nobody else in the neighborhood will experience.

  1. Examine your circle of influence. These are the people you lean on as partners and advisors in your farm operation. They may include family members, your banker, your key employees, your crop insurance agent, or even a close friend. One farmer I know who lives near Rockford says he leans heavily on the advice of a buddy who lives in Southern Illinois, because most pests and changes in growing conditions move from south to north each year. Your circle of influence likely includes many cautious voices reminding you not to waste money. But how many money-makers have your ear? Do you have key partners who can encourage you down the path towards harvesting an exceptional crop and have you been bold enough to ask them to help get you there? Now could be the time to make changes.
  2. Question your priorities. My assumption is that those who farm, farm with a goal of top profitability. It is often the case that this just isn’t true. Other goals I have encountered from time to time regarding where making the most profit per acre is not in the cards, include:
    1. “I have an elk hunting trip coming up and I want to harvest beans early before I go.”
    2. “I need to cover acres fast.” Perhaps didn’t cover them well, but fast is the word.
    3. “I won’t have this piece of ground next year. Not putting money into fertility that might benefit somebody else in the future.”

These priorities are all a part of life, and we negotiate them as best we can. Eventually, the health of the operation depends upon performance. Save a little corner of your heart for maximizing profit.

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  1. Question your pursuit of planting perfection. It’s all happening right now as approximately 70% of the Midwest is getting planted this week as I write. In my home area two miles from the Indiana border, we had four days of field work opportunity in April split into two windows: the third week of April and again the last week of the month. In April, my blog entry centered on planting perfection. A quick check around the neighborhood shows that some operators can achieve supremely placed seed, and some just aren’t there yet. Photo 1 shows a field hit with a tillage pass shortly before planting the last week of April with a large center-fill rig. Photos 2 and 3 reveal that seed was placed here, there, and everywhere with some whole rows being worse than others. Here, There and Everywhere is a great song, and I prefer Kenny Loggins’ live version, but it is a poor seed placement philosophy. Today on May 12, some seeds on this farm are popping through, some will in a few days, some may never become a producing plant. No doubt there will be a soybean crop in this field this year. I think when the dust settles, it could have been better, and I believe those extra bushels could have been had for free with better care in seed placement at the time of planting.

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Contrast this with another farm nearby that was planted no-till the third week of April (see Photo 4). I dug around the very next morning and was thoroughly impressed.  Working around a full complement of last year’s corn crop residue, this operator had every seed uniformly settled 1.75 inches deep with no residue wedged in the furrow at all. Today I snapped Photo 5, and the conductor has this band harmoniously all playing the same tune.

Photo 5

Posing the right question could be the launching pad towards achieving your best crop ever. The first person you need to be posing questions to is yourself. “How can I have an exceptional experience that most others never even consider they could have?”

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About the Author: Jeff Shaner

Shaner of Sheldon, Ill., has been an agribusiness professional for over 30 years, including his role as Soybean Product Lead at the AgVenture Seed Company which he has served since 2001. His job keeps him involved with people and crops across approximately 20 states. A graduate of Lanark High School and the University of Wisconsin – Platteville, he served as a past president of the Soybean Division of the American Seed Trade Association. Jeff and his wife, Mandi, have four children.

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