‘Trash farming’ isn’t garbage, it’s award-winning


LINGLE – The National Corn Growers Association based out of Chesterfield, Mo., announced the winners of the annual National Corn Yield Contest on March 10, 2021. One of those winners was Rick Cook of Lingle. 

Despite 2020 and its multitude of obstacles, Cook finished first place in Wyoming in the H Class of the competition. Class H, according to the National Corn Growers Association, involves farming utilizing the following methods of cultivation and irrigation: strip-till, minimum-till, mulch till or ridge-till irrigation.

He won the contest with a Goshen County field initiated with Pioneer P0339Q seeds and resulting in a yield of 211.849 bushels per acre of corn, beating out the projected national average by approximately 37 bushels per acre. 

According to Pioneer’s data sheets, the P0339Q seed has a high drought tolerance, highly sustainable late harvest and high stalk strength.

Cook said he primarily uses the P0339Q seed because of its high drought tolerance, but noted it’s a long day corn, which causes some farmers to shy away from the particular seed.

“I use all Pioneer seed,” he said. “I use the 0339 seeds, which is a 103-day seed. A lot of people won’t plant it because it’s a long day corn. It works good for me and it’s a good hybrid.”

Cook began his 2021 crop season by purchasing one of Pioneer’s newest hybrids, the P0446Q corn seed, from Goshen County’s own Brett Meyer of Meyer Seeds. Though he typically uses the P0339Q hybrid, Cook wants to give the new seed a try and see how well it will perform.

A short trip to Meyer’s warehouse, located at 3758 Highway 156, Torrington, resulted in the purchase of around 20 bags of corn seed. Meyer’s son, Gage Meyer, used a forklift to carefully load the bags into the back of Cook’s pickup.

After purchasing the corn seed, Cook returned to a rural Goshen County field where he met with his son, Cameron Cook. He and Cameron loaded their John Deere planter with the newly purchased seeds and prepared the tractor for planting. 

After loading the tractor, Cameron began the process of planting. Though he didn’t have to touch the steering wheel, he carefully examined a series of monitors to make certain everything was working as it should be.

“I came back here to help him (Rick). He was only farming a couple hundred acres,” Cameron said. “He went from that to 1,000. Now, between ours, custom and everything else in between, last year I did 3,285 acres.”

Cameron said the planting equipment they have plants a seed every six inches in the field. The monitors show him how close the seeds are planting to the desired six inches and how close the population and singulation are to their desired result. 

As he continued planting, he contacted Garrett Meyer of Precision Planting to discuss the operations. He explained the importance of making sure the planting equipment is calibrated properly so the operation can be as effective and efficient as possible. 

Garrett and Cameron were both1pleased with the readouts on the tractor and will continue to work together to ensure the Cooks have the best yields they can for this year’s growing season.

Rick started with 100 acres five years ago, as something for him to do. He purchased a tractor in Nebraska and set out to begin working his own farm. 

“The bank only loaned me $30,000 to farm with; they thought I wouldn’t survive,” he said. “They said they didn’t think I would make, and I did.”  

Today, Rick has about 450 of his own acres he farms, but also works another 1,000 acres of custom farming. In the previous year, he grew beats and beans, but with this year’s corn prices, he plans to stick with corn. 

“Corn prices are really good right now, so only corn this year,” he said.

Though Rick said he has no preference in brand, he currently runs a John Deere Planter and a John Deere 8285R. The planter is enhanced with Schlagel equipment and precise global positioning system (GPS) equipment purchased from Precision Planting.

All of Rick’s fields are either flood or pivot irrigated and are strip tilled using Schagel’s strip till. Using the strip till, he and Cameron are able to plant and grow their crops more efficiently and effectively. 

Rick pointed out how some farmers spend three or four days plowing up their entire field when he could have tilled, using the stirp till method, in four hours.

“The amount of fuel you save is tremendous, but a lot of the old-time farmers don’t do that stuff,” he said. “They call it trash farming because the field isn’t nice and clean.” 

Rick’s method of strip tilling, or so-called “trash farming,” has clearly shown the method isn’t garbage. He hopes to have another good year of farming, though there is always a good degree of uncertainty when farmers have to rely on the weather and climatological conditions to give them a good year.

Only time will tell how this year’s crop will turn out, but for Rick and Cameron Cook, they remain optimistic for this year’s growing season. 

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