This week has been a whirlwind to say the least. I’m finding my work boots to be a very comfortable fit which is weird because it’s very different from my typical vans sneakers or my favorite flip flops that I’m frequently caught wearing during the summer months. This week was challenging for me only because I’m going through so many changes. Graduating, moving into this new life that, after 13+ years of schooling, is now the life that I am supposed to grow off of. Its very exciting but nerve wracking at the same time. I think that this time in college graduate’s lives is very suspenseful because we have been taught to work as hard as possible and to be whatever and whoever we want to be in our official adult life. Actually putting what we learned in school to use is a crazy feeling and it kind of starts to make sense! I think this was the perfect time for me to start working because the farm was chaotic this week. It allowed me to jump into chaos and get my bearings very quickly!
This past weekend, the crew at the farm started harvesting the corn and chopping it up into silage for the cows to eat the rest of the year. Its a very strenuous process that couldn’t have gone any smoother (has A LOT to do with the awesome group of people out there). Because we harvest the corn once a year, we hire on a team to cut and store the silage for us. This team literally becomes part of the Kleinpeter team for those harvesting days and makes it easier to cut as much as possible and pack it as quickly as possible. My first task at the farm was to sit in my little weigh shack and weigh the trucks that had just come from the corn fields and calculate how much each truck had of silage. They would pull onto the scale first thing in the morning so that I could get their empty weight (weight of just the truck). Once I documented the empty weight for every truck, thats when they were able to start heading to the fields so that the massive tractor could cut alongside them and and spout the feed directly into the truck. Once their truck was filled to the brim, the truck drivers would swop out with the empty trucks so that the next truck could start being filled with the chopped corn. They would then head to the weigh station (where I was) and let me get their weight. I would then subtract their empty weight (from earlier that morning) from the full weight (with corn) and get their net weight that I would then convert to tons. Each truck needed to be accounted for and it was very very important that it was done in a precise and correct manner. This is key because I’m able to calculate how much we need to pay the hired on crew because we pay them by the tons but also so that Mike can figure out the level of the corn production. The farm manager, Mike, or his son Brendan who is the assistant farm manager, will be in the bunker silos on a tractor, and it is their job during that time to pack the silage down as much as possible all the while running the farm and managing the team (it’s hard to do from a tractor). This is so that not only do we make as much room for more as possible, but to also pack ALL air bubbles down so that air trapped in doesn’t spoil any or the silage. It is inevitable that the very top layer of the silage will spoil because it is the most exposed to oxygen. Like our food, if we don’t seal up the bag of chips, they get stale. Same goes for the silage. Mike and Brendan have a veryyyy tedious job that is in fact pretty dangerous if you don’t know what your doing! After the trucks let me get their weight and calculations, they head over to the bunker and dump the silage so that Mike or Brendan can pack it down.
Why is this important you ask? Well, being that I’m a new employee, I was wondering the same thing! I figured it was important considering time is valuable at the farm (all employees are up before the sunrise and work until dark, daylight is a key advantage). My mentor and farm manager, Mike, tells me that life on the farm requires long term goals. Everyday is never the same out on the farm. The cutting of the corn was one of Mikes goals that he set out for the team a year ago. He wanted to increase corn production by 15% last year. By calculating the weight, we can see how close we get to that goal. With the Louisiana weather, corn growth is very finicky. One week we can get rain everyday all day, and the next could be a drought! This year the team increased the corn production by 10% which is still amazing because of the trouble we had with growth in one particular field. This has now become a part Mike’s next goal, to figure out how to make the field that gave us trouble more productive for next year. My dad and I were beyond thrilled that they increased production by 10% but I guess since goals are long-term, it makes them way more desirable for success because you work so hard at it. Mike is such a go getter that he already has his plan to regain that 5% in next years harvest.
I did the weigh station from Monday to Wednesday and then Thursday to Friday, I worked a lot in the milking parlor and even had a guest visitor. I’m going to write another post this evening talking about that. This is where it gets really fun! I can’t wait to share this with you. Its off to do yard work for the moment since I can’t do it any other time in the week.
Here’s a cool picture of the cows keeping me company at the weigh station on my first day. Gotta love em!