April 14, 2024

Preparing for harvest includes facility, equipment maintenance

Chris Gould (right) and Ron Bychowski, the key maintenance guy for Gould Farms, re-install a cover on the grain handling system in preparation for the upcoming harvest season. Along with maintenance on the grain system, the team at the Kane County farm in northern Illinois are also completing machinery and truck maintenance.

MAPLE PARK, Ill. — August is the month for maintenance jobs and preparing for harvest on Chris Gould’s farm.

“We finished sweeping out the bins so the wheat and corn are all gone,” said Chris Gould who together with his wife, Dana, grow corn, soybeans and wheat on their Kane County farm in northern Illinois.

“Dana is reconciling everything that went out versus everything that went in to make sure we haven’t lost any loads,” Chris Gould said. “We’ve got our two tanks of propane full and we filled the diesel tank.”

Work is now focusing on grain system, truck and machinery maintenance.

“We have an overhead hopper that feeds the dryer and in the off season we use it as a load-out bin,” the farmer said. “We had the deal done to replace it this summer, but our millwright called me a couple of weeks ago and said the bin is not going to be done until mid-September.”

Since it is not a good idea to tear the grain system apart in mid-September, Gould is making repairs on the hopper to get through one more season.

“Our harvest equipment is ready to go with one exception,” he said. “We traded for a combine last year and we still don’t have it so that is our one remaining hole.”

Typically, Gould has two combines running to harvest soybeans and one for corn harvest.

“I’m not that worried about it because I still have a month,” he said. “But it would be nice to have it because we will do some customization.”

Gould will add YieldSense, cameras for the grain cart operator and cross auger clutches to the John Deere combine.

“None of these are big deals, it will take a day or two for a couple of guys to get it done,” he said.

The cross auger clutch is operated by a foot switch that stops the cross augers in the grain tank.

“That allows the unloading auger to empty out, so the next time you start it, you are not trying to start the whole system loaded full of grain,” Gould said. “We’ve been using this aftermarket system for four or five years, and if it can save a rebuild that costs $15,000, to me that’s a pretty easy decision.”

Since farmers are such a minority in the U.S. population, Gould said, it is important for them to get involved in organizations to amplify their voices.

Gould is currently the District 1 director for the Illinois Corn Growers Association. The Kane County farmer also participated in the Illinois Ag Leadership Program.

“That was a wonderful program and one thing that really stuck out to me from that was it only takes a few people with a unified voice to make a difference in Springfield and Washington, D.C.,” Gould said.

“We have to further the ag organizations to make our voice heard and I’m willing to help in that process,” he said. “If you develop a relationship with a congressman through the Corn Growers or whatever organization you’re in, they’ll pick up the phone when you call.”

Gould has been a director on the board since last November.

“It’s been a learning process to see how the organization works,” the farmer said.

“One of the board meetings was held during Commodity Classic and I had not been to that before,” he said. “Dana went with me and it’s fun to meet other people from around the state, their wives, and learn about different farming techniques and ideas.”

While attending the Farm Progress Show, Gould spent some time in the Corn Growers’ booth to talk with those at the show.

“We took our whole crew and I did the rounds,” he said. “Everybody has to give me three things they learned at the show.”

Work at the farm has included some cleaning of the storage areas and purging of the scrap piles.

“We’ve got some pallet racks in the machine shed with parts from planters and rotary hoe wheels,” Gould said. “We haven’t had a rotary hoe for 10 years so last week we got rid of those rotary hoe parts.”

Lots of the parts were put in storage 10 to 20 years ago when Gould only had one employee.

“Now everyone else knows the parts we have,” he said. “We lost a planter closing wheel at some point this spring and we knew we had a pile of them on a pallet rack somewhere and we couldn’t find them, but we found them last week.”

Gould also had a one-row, three-point hitch corn planter that was used before planter monitors were available to patch in a row when one row would get plugged up during planting.

“I put that for sale on Facebook and had two offers within a day,” he said. “A guy with a one-acre sweet corn patch bought it.”

Typically during this time of the year, a couple of Gould’s employees do some custom graining hauling for local grain companies.

“We’re having a challenge trying to find trucking to do,” he said.

And that includes the farm’s flat bed trailer.

“I don’t know if that means the economy is slowing down,” Gould said. “I’m starting to hear some hints of that.”

A friend of Gould’s, who is a farmer, also operates an excavator.

“He feels like his projects are getting slowed down, minimized or canceled,” he said.

Martha Blum

Martha Blum

Field Editor