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Jim Micenheimer, longtime farmer of 50 years, said he had bought the farm from his father and uncle. He added the farm has been in the family since the early 1900s.
Photo by Breeze–Courier reporter Elizabeth Wood
The pride that comes with having a well maintained field–neat rows of crops with little to no weeds in between and freshly mowed ditches–is what made Jim Micenheimer take over his father’s farm, Micenheimer Bros. INC.
“Well, back to why you start [farming],” Micenheimer said, “it’s the pride of having a nice field of corn or nice field of beans.”
Micenheimer said the farm has been in the family since the early 1900s. Throughout his teenage years, Micenheimer helped his dad and uncle maintain the farm before going to college for a little while. He later decided to come back to help his parents maintain the farm and eventually bought it in 1963.
“I’ve been farming for 50 some years, a long time,” Micenheimer said. “The way things have changed. You know, when we took over the operation, we had two four row planters. That took two men running to four row planters. Well, the first thing we did, we went to an eight row and now we’ve got a 16 and 24 row planter.”
At 75 years old, Micenheimer is technically retired, but he still helps drive the grain trucks during harvest.
Micenheimer’s pride in his fields has led him to make sure he and his two sons do their part in making sure everyone stays safe and conserve the land as much as possible during the upcoming harvest and into the planting seasons.
“The main thing we have tried to do over the years is reduce the amount of erosion,” Micenheimer said. “Of course, here in Illinois we used to get a half inch or an inch of rain, but now we get a two and a half or a five inch rain. Well, this ground isn’t ready for that and it just washes away. We’re on the back end of Lake Taylorville, one of these days Lake Taylorville is going to be full of eroded dirt, so we try to do our part by not tilling some of the ground and try to maintain the soil.”
In the mornings, everyone meets at the farm. One of the first things they will do is check the equipment and radio systems to make sure all of the safety features are working before going out into the fields.
“For safety, we always make sure the mirrors are clear and the windshields are clean because a lot of people don’t see us, but we’ve also got to see them,” Micenheimer said. “You have to make sure you don’t have blind spots and make sure all the turn signals and things are working. For comfort, we make sure the air conditioning is working, but it hasn’t been a problem this week with the daily highs around the 70s and 80s. You always have to check the oils and the tires. You can take off here with 1000 bushel grain, hop a bottom, and maybe have a flat tire. Traveling Nokomis roads, there’s not many places to turn off if you get a flat tire.”
Micenheimer added they make sure to check everything daily because they never know what will break down through the day.
On average, Micenheimer said they spend about 14 to 16 hours in the fields when it’s time to harvest, occasionally, they will harvest late into the night.
With the long hours in the field, it’s important to take breaks to make sure those working are able to do so safely. Micenheimer said taking breaks during harvest has been made easier because some combines will have small fridges and heating appliances.
“The farm industry is probably the most accident prone because people just don’t think about backing up and run into something or run over somebody,” Micenheimer said. “There’s been many times that people have gotten injured in a corn head or platform or turned a tractor over in a drainage ditch and things like that. So you have to keep the operators with a clear mind, so they’re always paying attention to the dangers that could be.”
Micenheimer added modern tractors and combines are nicer to drive late at night because of all the lights the equipment has on it. The lights allow drivers to see the type of equipment they’re approaching and gives them a bit of a warning on the road.
“A change from way back is the amount of warning lights,” Micenheimer said. “You see a big vehicle going down the road today, you think it’s a big old record track because it has strobe lights and reflectors so oncoming traffic can see you. That’s one thing we make sure to check every morning before we start. We make sure all the safety lights and procedures are intact and working because it doesn’t do any good if it’s just sitting on there, and you come up behind us in a car you don’t know what you’re coming up behind.”
The harvest season doesn’t come without some difficulties. Micenheimer said he’s had trouble finding people who will drive the grain trucks.
“I think in the pandemic because everybody was getting a relief check. Truthfully, people were getting more for not working than they did for work,” Micenheimer said. “So common sense, if I can sit here in my easy chair, why do I want to go out and work and maybe make less or just a few dollars more? I think that’s the trend nation-wide that people just don’t want to work.”
Once they’re done harvesting, Micenheimer said he expects to have some difficulty selling the grain due to the recent ADM explosion and the Mississippi River has been limiting the amount of barges due to the river being low.
“The big deal today is that ADM had a tremendous explosion this last week,” Micenheimer said. “That’s one of the main terminals for our grain. First thing that happens is they [ADM] lower their bids. The Mississippi River is probably getting close to an all time low, a lot of the grain here locally goes to the Gulf and you can’t get the barges to haul it. The barge traffic is running 20% to 25% more load capacity because of the depth of the water. So all those things are on a downtrend in getting things marketed.”
Despite the struggles that come and go with harvest, Micenheimer said his favorite part about farming is the conclusion of the harvest.
“You do your best, but the good Lord is still in charge of the farming business,” Micenheimer said. “He will either give the rains when He wants to or not, or the high temperatures. I guess it’s the challenge of all the controllable things and the non-controllable things because there’s nothing I, or anyone else, can do about Mother Nature. There’s a lot of luck involved, especially with the strange weather patterns lately. There might be a farm a few miles North that gets a half-inch of rain but we didn’t get a drop. I think the Good Lord, He’s doing what He does, and you hope you get smiled on when you do get that inch or half-inch rain.”