Saturday, May 25, 2013

Farming is in the Trail Blood

Originally published in Spring 2013 edition of PivotPoint.

Today, the two men and their wives work together very closely. Eventually, Rocky and Terrie plan to step back, taking more time off and traveling. For now, though, it is truly a family affair, as Rocky teaches Rusty all the nuances of farming the land, even as Rusty uses technology to get more out of that land with precision planning. meanwhile, Terrie and Jennifer work together on the books.

“We’ll be sitting around the dinner table at night with the kids, talking business,” says Rocky. “We make all of our decisions jointly. With us, it’s all family – all business.”

Working together to save money

Farming 2,200 acres in the hills and valleys of Idaho presents some challenges, one of which is how to irrigate their sugar beets, alfalfa, and winter wheat. They have always irrigated their land, mostly with hand lines, which requires a lot of labor.

Rocky explains, “The whole goal is to save on labor, and while pivots aren’t totally labor-free, they’re much better than hand line irrigation. It takes 10 guys to work with hand lines, but only three to work with pivots.”

The Trails decided to start the switch to pivot irrigation about 13 years ago. Valley dealer JTS Farm Store is about five miles away from Trail Farms and the Trails knew the owners, Jim and Lea Ann Schraeder, so it made sense to work with them.

Lea Ann Schraeder says, “Rock and Rusty are just great guys to work with. They’re very business-oriented, so they require a quality product and good service. Just because we’re close by doesn’t mean we’d keep their business if we didn’t come through for them.” Including two soon-to-be-delivered new pivots, the Trails have nine Valley pivots, covering nearly half of their land.

“Fifteen years ago, some of our land wasn’t considered suitable for pivots at all,” explains Rocky, “but by adapting to different water sources, we installed pivots on that land, and it’s working well. Using sprinklers on beets while they’re germinating is so much better,” Rocky says. “Pivots are very flexible for that, and hand lines really aren’t.”

”We were one of the first operations to use a reverse swing arm, which moves counter clockwise,” says Rusty.

The Trails keep up with technology when it makes sense. For example, they use auto-steer on their implements and they have Trackers on their irrigation systems, with all alerts going to Rusty’s smart phone. They’re also looking into purchasing a Valley BaseStation2-SM.

Will there be a fourth generation Trail farmer?

Rusty’s son Parker goes out on the tractors with them every year and loves it. “He says he wants to be a farmer, too,” says Rusty with a smile. “Of course, he’s eight, so we’ll have to wait and see.”