Harvesting wheat and peas on Gunsmoke Farms, 35,000 acres on the south side of the Missouri River near Pierre, South Dakota. They are growing organic wheat for the first time, with a sell price of $23/bushel vs. $8-9 for conventional, and the buyer is said to be General Mills. Organic wheat is much more difficult to harvest with grasshoppers and weeds, and yield per acre is roughly half that of conventional wheat at this time. Apparently some very experienced organic growers can have yields that rival conventional.
Crew is combining an average of 10 hours a day. Olsen's crews start in Texas and Oklahoma, a typically finish their season in Canada. This is the first year that this farm has grown organic crop, having planted 31,000 acres in a variety of fields containing winter wheat, spring wheat, and field peas. To qualify for organic certification, the fields have to remain fallow for three years.
Olsen has about 100 combines, a third he runs himself, the rest are rented out to self-harvesters. Olsen usually sells their combines after two years of service, and buys new ones.
- ©2020 George Steinmetz
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