Encouragement and ingenuity lead to success
Tori Dickinson’s last few years of farming have been everything but easy. In 2007, the Neosho River, which runs alongside portions of her southeast Kansas farm, swelled beyond its banks and flooded 1,000 acres of 12' corn. "The river rose to 30' and my acres flood at 18'," she says. "The river either makes you or breaks you."
More floods followed the next two years. In 2009, she wasn’t able to harvest 300 acres of soybeans. She had a good year in 2010, but the last two years have been hot and dry.
Despite the challenges, you won’t hear Dickinson complain. She is just proud to be operating the farm she and her husband, Matt, started back in 1984. That’s her source of joy.
Dickinson was always heavily involved in their farming operation. But in 2004, her family learned Matt had cancer. After a hard-fought battle, he passed away the following year, leaving behind Tori and their 14-year-old son, Matthew.
"Matt and I never discussed what to do with the farm if he was to pass away," she says. "With the help of area farmers, family and friends, I decided to continue farming. It has been an interesting journey."
"All of my company and field reps are a great support group," she says.
Dickinson is quick to credit others as one of the main reasons she has survived in her solo farming career. Farmers should identify and seek out people to be part of their team, says Bret Oelke, University of Minnesota Extension ag business management expert. This can include those you do business with, family members or retired members.
"You need to bring people in that will complement your weaknesses," Oelke says. "Trusted advisers can provide a different outlook."
M D Farms is comprised of Dickinson, farm manager Kevin Faulk and a part-time employee.
Faulk worked for Dickinson and her husband and is a diesel mechanic. He’s in charge of keeping all of the machinery running, as well as purchasing new machinery. While Dickinson makes all major decisions, the daily operations of the farm are always discussed between the two.
Dickinson knows her strengths and uses her support group to compensate for her weaknesses. Faulk does all the planting, but she’s the official "digger." "I dig in each row and make sure it (the seed) is the way I want it," she says. "I make sure it is the correct depth and population. If it’s not, we adjust.
We get along well."
Continue to Improve. Dickinson’s analytical and innovative nature has allowed her to take calculated risks. On her 2,500 acres, she primarily produces corn, soybeans and occasionally wheat. But she’s also tried sunflowers and sesame seed. She also has a small cow-calf operation.
In 2006, her first year farming by herself, she was the state yield winner in the National Corn Yield contest with a yield of 244.49 bu. per acre.
Dickinson experiments with new agronomic methods to improve M D Farms. "With all the demands and new technologies, I still have so much to learn," she says, noting that this year starts a new chapter in her farming career. "I’ve switched from 30" rows to 20" rows for my row crops," she says.
After tons of research about yield advantages, Dickinson pulled the trigger and bought the equipment needed for the narrower rows. She’s one of the few producers in her area to plant 20" rows.
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