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Life on the family farm under an open heaven: You have no business planting that corn up here

Tom Heck for Progressive Dairyman Published on 18 July 2018

As a young farmer, I dreamed of raising super-excellent crops to feed our dairy cattle, especially since I had very limited acreage. A couple years after I started farming here, I had a dairy analyst in to mate my dairy cows. The man also did a little part-time farming on the side.

The man was more interested in talking about a new type of corn he had started to raise than he was about my dairy cattle. Looking back on it, I think he should have been a seed corn salesman instead.

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He told me in glowing terms about the small field of his he had planted to a certain giant silage corn. It had grown really tall and had huge stalks with lots of large leaves and giant ears on it. The tonnage per acre was phenomenal. And, needless to say, the cattle loved it.

There was one drawback though: It was a variety 15 to 20 days longer than the corn we normally grow here in northwestern Wisconsin. That made me hesitate a little, but the man assured me it did just fine up here.

Well, after the man left, I told my family all about it. At night in my dreams, I dreamed of raising this giant silage corn that reached to the sky. Now it didn’t go up through the sky like Jack’s beanstalk, but it almost did.

I was really hesitant, though, because it was such a longer-day corn than what we normally plant here. I decided I had to plant it, but I had better play it safe. I had a small 4-acre field that was some of the best land on my whole farm, so I decided to try it on that land. After all, if it didn’t do well, it wouldn’t half-break me. Better safe than sorry.

So, when spring came, I carefully tilled the field and planted it with tender loving care, believing come fall I would have a tremendous corn silage crop. Well, what can I say? We had a perfect growing season that year, and that corn grew and grew. As the summer went on, the neighbors started to take notice of that cornfield every time they drove by.

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They couldn’t help but notice it, since it was right out by the road, and that corn was literally reaching for the sky. Every once in a while, I would walk through it and just check it out and, even though I’m a fairly tall man, I felt like a midget walking through that corn.

Well, fall came, and what a corn crop. It was beautiful; I had never had corn this tall with such large-diameter stalks and super-huge ears on it. I went to chopping it, and that was the slowest I ever chopped corn in my life. My neighbor, Jim, saw me chopping it and said to me later, “I never saw you chop so slow in all my life.” It took a lot of power to chop that tremendous crop.

I was almost in the clouds, so to speak, chopping it, the chopper boxes filled up so fast. There was one problem though: With the corn being so tall, it would fall ahead once the cornhead cut it off and not want to feed up into the chopper like it should. But I did get it chopped off without too many problems.

It was kind of disappointing chopping the other corn off to finish filling the silo. It was excellent corn, but it sure didn’t measure up to my giant silage corn. I got thinking: I wished I would have planted all my corn acres to it for the way it yielded. After all, it did mature just fine. But I was still a little hesitant on it because of the day length.

Well, my neighbors were all demanding to know what kind of corn that was I had planted there. When I told Howie what it was, and the day length, he replied, “You have no business planting that corn up here.” Howie was an excellent farmer and 20 years older than me.

I had a lot of respect for him, and I realized he was right. If I hadn’t had a perfect growing season, that corn wouldn’t have reached maturity, and I could have had a real mess. I counted my blessings and never planted it again.

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About 10 years later, in the fall, after I had my corn silage all chopped off already, I noticed Howie had a cornfield north of mine that looked just beautiful, but it was still green. I was getting ready to go at combining corn, and I asked him what the deal was with that cornfield.

He told me a seed salesman had talked him into planting a certain variety that was an excellent silage corn – and was only about 10 days longer in maturity than his other corn. My response was, “You have no business planting that corn up here.” To which he said, “But it is supposed to yield so many more tons per acre.”

To which I replied, “You should be going at combining corn, and here you can’t get your corn silage off yet. Somebody told me years ago I had no business planting way long-day silage corn, and he was right.” To which Howie said, “Yeah, Tom, you’re right.” It was the last time he ever planted that silage corn.

We all like to try new things hoping for excellent results and, if it’s done rightly, that’s OK. I’m glad I planted that giant silage corn years ago; it was fun, and I learned a lot from it. But I don’t plan on ever planting it again.

The Bible even encourages us to try God. It says, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” I did years ago; one day I got down on my knees with tears running down my face and repented of the terrible sinful life I had lived and asked Jesus to forgive me and to come into my heart and be my Lord and Savior.

It was the greatest and best decision I ever made. I’ve never regretted that decision, as I’ve followed Him all these years. And someday I will step over into eternity and see my beloved Savior face to face. What a future to look forward to. Who knows? Maybe over there, I’ll plant giant silage corn that grows up through the clouds.  end mark

Tom Heck, his wife, Joanne, and their two children own and operate a 35-cow dairy farm in Wisconsin. Contact him at Life on the Family Farm or order his book at Tom Heck Farm.

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