Answer: The biggest changes have been in farm size, technology, and production costs.
My Great-Grandfather Marsden Carey started this farm back in the 1950’s. He farmed with his sons, including my Grandfather Don Carey. Today, I farm along with my parents, John and Cindy (Carey) Baenziger, as a 4th generation farmer.
Grain & Livestock Changes – My great-grandfather started with about 300 acres of corn and soybeans and now we farm about 3,000 acres. He also fed about 50 head of beef cattle at a time, raised in the outdoor lot he built. Then later the confinement shed was built for the feedlot cattle. We recently replaced all the original floor slats that were over 50 years old and use both the original outdoor lot and confinement shed to raise about 400 head of cattle at a time currently. In the ‘50s cattle were fed a set amount of corn silage per day and today we feed a specific corn silage and distiller feed ratio based on weights of a group and their gaining needs.
Farm Regulations – When this farm was established there were little to no government regulations and now we have regulations on handling manure and pesticide applications, for example, to better preserve our environment.
Equipment/Technology Changes – Back in the day, farmers used much smaller tractors such as the John Deere 70 model on this farm compared to today’s John Deere 8R370 tractor which is about a 300 horsepower difference. We went from a 4-row combine to a 12-row combine and the same with the planters. The technology on today’s equipment has provided us with so much more crop knowledge and accuracy – it’s amazing what computers can do! It used to be quite the competition to see which farmer could plant their crop rows the straightest and now most farmers have auto steer where each row is planted with pristine straightness thanks to GPS. My great-grandfather took his load of grain to the market and then manually calculated with the weight receipts how much a crop yielded; now you can see everything about your crop (yield, test weight, moisture) on the computer screen in your combine cab.
Production Costs – Bigger equipment and better technology has come with far greater costs. The cost of all equipment, livestock, seed, and all the input costs of farming have rose significantly, putting some farms out of business. When this farm started there were many farms all across the county. It was common that you and many of your neighbors farmed side-by-side on your small family-owned farms. Current day expenses mean you can’t just start a farm these days and make a profit like you could back then. In the last few years, crop production costs have skyrocketed, making our farm margins tight.
Things have definitely changed over the years, but a few things have stayed the same. The farm remains in our family and I hope one day my sons will continue our farming tradition as well. Our work ethic has stayed the same since my great-grandfather’s day in that we are all working hard towards the same goal of striving to produce the best grain and livestock we can for consumers near and far.
MATT AND JOHN BAENZIGER FEED CATTLE AND GROW CORN, SOYBEANS, WHEAT AND HAY ON THEIR FAMILY FARM IN RURAL KINGSTON.