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In running a farm operation, there are advantages to having two children who work in the ag industry. That’s the case with Mark Weckel, whose two children also work ag-related jobs. They provide fresh insight into positive changes on the farm — things that can make work easier and more efficient — and dad isn’t too proud to listen.

Weckel answers the questions in this week’s entry.

How long has your family been farming?

We are a relatively young farm in the area. The farmstead in Urbana was acquired by my family in 1936, and my parents, Mack and Helen Weckel, farmed it until retirement in 1987, and are still active on the farm today. I retired from Birkey’s Farm Store in Urbana and took over farming in 1988, the year of the drought.

Where is your farm operation?

We farm northeast of Urbana and east of Rantoul.

What does your farming operation consist of? Is it strictly a grain operation, or do you also have livestock?We had livestock growing up, but when I took over the farm, we became corn and soybean farmers. My kids now enjoy a little hay baling.

How many people in the family does the operation support?

Six: My wife, Kathleen, and I; my parents, Mack and Helen Weckel; and my kids, Tyson and Shelby.

Any members of the family in the farm operation also working other jobs?

It takes many hands, minds and viewpoints to make the farm run. My son and daughter both have jobs in ag-related fields outside the farm. Tyson is a diesel technician at Birkey’s Farm Store in Urbana. Shelby is a sales agronomist with Ehler Brothers Seed in Thomasboro. They help out on evenings and weekends. Shelby helps with the seed and chemistry side of things, and Tyson helps with the mechanics. They are both also happy to jump in the seat of a piece of equipment whenever possible.

How have you seen farming change over the years?

— Seed genetics. Yields have continuously improved over the years. Seed genetics and seed treatment keep making steps forward leading to higher yields.

— Planting dates. When I started farming, I would not plant soybeans until the middle of May or later, long after I planted corn. Now I plant soybeans before I plant a single kernel of corn. We have learned so much the last several years about the ability of soybean seed and the yield potential, that we have been missing out on.

— Technology. It is great when it works. It has improved the efficiency of the farm and allowed us to make applications that we used to be unable to do. We strip-till our corn, and this would be difficult without GPS technology.

— Size of equipment. More rows, more horsepower, larger tractors.

Your farm equipment: Green (John Deere), Red (Case IH) or other?

Red. My in-laws, one was green, one was red, (green won out), so my wife was green when we married and now has to drive red equipment.

What makes farming such

a good vocation?

Being your own boss and working with family/friends. I like being able to make my own decisions on the farm, as well as having input from family. Decisions can be made and changed many times some days. We have to be flexible to change and adjust constantly. Things have changed so much, and the kids bring some good ideas to the table because of their job experience. That is what is nice about having them involved in other jobs. Some days/weeks are busier than others. I usually start early and rarely come into the house before dark. Planting and harvest times being the biggest push with long, hard days. Many meals are eaten on the run, but we are blessed to have several kind neighbors and friends that often bring us meals to the field and at home. Since I can be my own boss, I do make a little time to get away from the farm. Outside of farming, I have been described as a “closet machinist.” I enjoy milling/making various parts on a lathe and mill. I also like volunteering at the Monticello Railroad Museum, helping fix old train engines and cars.

If you could change one thing about farming, what would it be?

The amount of paperwork that is required, PERIOD!

What’s the best time of the year to be on the farm?

Harvest. There is enjoyment in each season, but I enjoy harvesting corn the most. (But what farmer doesn’t). We work all year for the harvest. In the spring, my wife, dad and I do a lot of the work ourselves, but in the fall, everyone gets to be involved. People often ask us, “What do you do the rest of the year?” We are preparing for the next season, thinking ahead all the time. As soon as harvest is over (and even during), you have to make decisions about fall fertilizer applications and possibly even the seed for the next year has to be ordered and finalized while I’m sitting in the combine. When the crop is out, all the machinery is checked over. The equipment gets shuffled in the sheds for the next season. Then the planting equipment gets a check-up. Constantly checking the weather forecasts to see what job can be done … fall strip-tillage, drainage issues need to be checked, rodent control in buildings and equipment, making sure there is sufficient fuel delivered for the season, mowing waterways and ditches, hauling grain out of bins, picking rocks up out of the field, picking up trash in road ditches and fields, studying for various certifications. The “job” of farming never ends, but we think being born and raised on a farm is a blessing.

Our County Editor

Dave Hinton is editor of The News-Gazette's Our County section and former editor of the Rantoul Press. He can be reached at dhinton@news-gazette.com.

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