Farming Practices & Services
Sustainability is the underlying principle for crop production at Yost Farm. We have five crops in our rotation: corn, soybeans, alfalfa, sugar beets, and edible dry beans. Crop rotation breaks up the disease and pest cycle of the different crops. Minimum tillage, the planting of cover crops on our sugar beet fields, and using the Conservation Reserve Program for filter strips and highly erodible acres keeps our soils in place. We practice integrated pest management, only applying pesticides when threshold infestations warrant application. Our equipment is GPS guided to reduce fuel consumption, pesticide, and fertilizer usage. Our alfalfa and most of our corn production is delivered to local dairies thereby reducing transportation. In return, we apply manure from the same dairies thereby eliminating commercial fertilizer. We are constantly adapting new technology that reduces inputs and improves our efficiency without reducing yields.
Once the topsoil is dry in the spring, field cultivators and a vertical tillage tool prepare the seedbed by tilling the ground four inches deep. Oats are spread over sugar beet fields as a cover crop. Small seed crops like alfalfa and beets are planted in soil depths of an inch or less. These crops are the first to be planted as they will germinate at lower soil temperatures. Corn planting starts shortly thereafter, with soybeans following and then edible dry beans. All of these crops have larger seeds and are planted two to three inches deep. We are constantly implementing new technologies to maximize the potential of every seed. The entire planting season takes about two weeks, with the goal to be done by the second week in May.
We apply pesticides, growth promoters and micronutrients with both ground and air applications. All crops are continuously monitored for pest infestations. Pesticides are only applied after an economic threshold is attained. Ground sprayers are used before crops emerge and when crops are small enough to drive between the rows. Airplanes are used when the crop canopy covers the space between the rows. All equipment is GPS guided to avoid application overlap and drift reduction nozzles reduce pesticide drifting onto nearby crops. Biotechnology has eliminated the use of insecticides on our corn fields.
Starting in the last week of May, four crops of alfalfa are harvested for the dairies. The alfalfa is mowed at four week intervals using tractor mounted disc mowers. The hay is required to dry down to 60% moisture or less which is required for long term storage and for maximum cow nutrition. This process usually takes about 24 hours. Yost Farm is a partner in CY Harvesting, which completes the rest of the harvesting process. Hay mergers are used to combine several smaller windrows of hay into a single seventy foot windrow of hay. Next the forage harvesters pick up the hay and chop it into approximately ¾ – 1 ½ inch pieces and blow it into a truck. The trucks go to the dairy, weigh each load and unload the hay where the hay pile is being built. Four wheel drive tractors with blades push the hay onto the pile where it is packed down to force out any air that will cause the hay to spoil during storage. The pile is covered with two layers of plastic to keep oxygen out, enabling the fermentation process to start.
Corn is also chopped, hauled to the dairy, packed into piles and covered with two layers of plastic. CY Harvesting is contracted for the entire process. Corn silage moisture is important for cow nutrition and corn hybrids are selected to maintain a consistent moisture throughout the two week silage harvest season. Typically, harvest will start around Labor Day. Silage harvest is a 24 hour, six day a week process that requires a crew of 175 people working in twelve hour shifts.
Sugar beets are a crop that grows below the ground and requires specialized equipment. A tractor pulls a “topper” which chops the green leaves off the beet. A second tractor pulls a “beet lifter” which pulls the beets out of the ground and elevates them into a truck that drives along the lifter. The trucks haul the sugar beets to piling stations where they are kept in storage until they are processed into sugar. The sugar beets are harvested by Lundberg Farms.
Swift Pumping applies manure from one of the local dairies to nearby farmer’s fields. Once the crop is harvested in the selected field, manure is delivered to the fields using a combination of underground pipelines and hoses (like a fire hose) which are laid out across fields. A large pump sits on the bank of the lagoon at the dairy which provides the main pumping force. Booster pumps are placed inline at strategic points to push the liquid manure up to four miles to a designated field. Manure is knifed into the ground using a tractor pulled toolbar. The process is constantly monitored to ensure proper application rates. A crew of four people work twelve hours shifts six days a week from mid-September to mid-November. Manure is applied at agronomic rates prescribed by the state and fields are soil tested beforehand to determine appropriate rates.
Dry edible beans are the first crop combined in the fall, starting the second or third week of September. The black beans we raise are harvested using a conventional combine and a draper head. Extra care is taken to prevent the beans from cracking or splitting. The black beans are hauled from the field directly to a processing plant. Next up are soybeans. Two combines using draper heads harvest soybeans. To increase efficiencies, a grain cart is pulled alongside the combines to allow for “unloading on the go” which allows the combines to harvest continuously. The grain cart operator weighs each load which is then augured into a truck that hauls the soybeans to our farm to be stored. Corn is harvested with one combine using a “corn head” that snaps the ears of corn off the stalks. The corn is unloaded into a grain cart where it is weighed and then transferred into a truck. The trucks haul corn to our farm storage facility. We dry our corn to a moisture level of 15% or less at our storage site.
Yost Farm trucks are on the road year-round, transporting feed ingredients from processing plants to the Riverview dairy sites. The ingredients that we haul are soybean meal, dried distillers’ grains, and corn gluten meal. We also haul corn from our farm storage to the Riverview sites, local commercial elevators, and ethanol plants. Our soybeans are hauled to local commercial elevators.