MAPLE PARK, Ill. — Due to a cold, moderately wet spring, Steve Pitstick did not start any field activities for the 2022 growing season until May 10. However, with some above-normal temperatures in June the corn and soybean crops are quickly reaching average growth.
“We planted all the soybeans without a stop,” said Steve Pitstick, who farms near Maple Park. “We have two machines, so we plant corn and soybeans at the same time — my son plants the soybeans and I plant the corn.”
It took about two weeks to complete the corn planting due to some rain delays.
“We have a good spread in the maturity, which may work out,” Pitstick said.
The operation includes about 5,000 acres of corn and soybeans.
“My son, Dale, and I each have our own land and machinery, but we help each other,” the Kane County farmer said.
“About 80% of our operation is within 10 miles of home and we have fragments in a larger 25-mile circumference.”
If the 2019 and 2021 growing seasons are averaged together, Pitstick said, the beginning of 2022 is average year.
“In 2019, we didn’t finish planting until sometime in mid-June, after about a half of year’s worth of rain in May and in 2021, we had everything planted on May 1,” he said. “Average is a compilation of extremes, so every year is somewhere in between those years.”
Pitstick purchased many of his crop inputs during the third quarter of 2022.
“Input costs were not as bad as I thought they might be and supplies were available, but the bigger problem may be machinery parts availability,” he said.
One of his tractors needed a new steering cylinder.
“Most of the time we would just replace it, but we had it re-chromed because that part was not available anywhere in the country,” he said. “It worked out well. We’ve adapted as needed.”
In addition to his farm work, Pitstick is currently serving as the chairman of the Illinois Soybean Association.
“Somebody led the organization when I was younger and helped build the vital industry we have today,” he said about his commitment to the organization. “I’m in a place now where I can take my years of experience and help try to set the stage for my son and his peers.”
ISA works to find projects that can build for the future.
“A lot of these growth opportunities are not just showing up at the door and asking if someone wants to buy our soybeans,” Pitstick said. “It takes continuous coaching.”
Recently, Pitstick traveled to Washington, D.C., to meet with different industry groups and the Federal Aviation Administration.
“We talked a lot about where soybean oil as a feedstock may fit in the sustainable aviation fuel space,” Pitstick said.
“We also had in-depth discussions about how the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission rule pertaining to greenhouse gases and climate change may affect farmers,” he said. “It’s in the early stages but we need to be at the table to make sure it is something we can live with.”
Carbon programs can be a challenge for farmers who lease land.
“They require permanence to be effective and most farmers are on year-to-year leases,” Pitstick said. “For our operation, we’re trying to adopt more no-till and continuously improve.”
Pitstick started farming in 1975 for his FFA project.
“I actually started before that with pigs in 4-H in probably ‘73,” Pitstick said.
“When I look at the way we farm today versus when I started, it’s way more sustainable,” he said. “The reason we didn’t no-till 30 to 40 years ago is because we didn’t have the machinery capability.”
Prior to the development of equipment designed for no-till, multiple tillage passes were necessary to create the appropriate seedbed and cultivation was used to kill the weeds.
“Now we’ve got machines that sense the soil and adjust accordingly,” Pitstick said. “They clean the area as we plant, fertilize as we plant and then we come back and spray herbicides for the weeds.”
There was a reason a farm was 200 acres in the past since the jobs were more labor intensive.
“We farm 5,000 acres easier now than I did 600 acres when I started,” Pitstick said. “It’s because of herbicides and big, fast equipment.”
Agronomy is local, Pitstick said.
“What I do on my farm is right for me, but if someone 30 miles from here wants to do something different, that’s the beauty of farming, no one size fits all,” he said.