Farmer's Approach to Adapt with Chicago for Demand, Profit

May 9, 2017 09:05 AM

As large cities like Chicago spread their suburbs farther and farther, rural areas often get swallowed. Manhattan, Ill. is where city meets country, and farmer John Keifner prefers the basics. 

“Several people have said when they see me all bundled up in the cold lake breeze, ‘Don’t you have a cab tractor?’” said Keifner.  “I don’t need 120 horsepower to pull [a planter].”

It doesn’t matter if he has GPS, radar or monitor, he believes being old school is helping to protect future profits. 

“I’ve eliminated a lot of trips across the field and a lot of tillage,” said Keifner. “[That includes] a lot of machinery bills, a lot of fuel bills and I don’t think I’ve given anything up in yield.”

During a time when farmers are getting larger equipment, he got smaller, just like his acreage. 

“The suburbs of Chicago have been growing,” said Keifner. “I’ve gone from 1,200 to 700 acres.”

It’s a change he’s adjusting to along with his rotations. He now plants half of his acres into non-GMO. 

He’s making the change mostly because the elevator nearby is giving him a premium, but even those payments are dropping. 

“I got $2 a bushel better on my soybeans a couple of years ago,” said Keifner. “Then, those payments went to $1.50. Now, it’s $1.25.”

While he may not be like other farmers, Keifner still faces the same weather challenges like the recent heavy rains. His area received roughly four inches of rain in one week. The region is saturated, but Keifner said it could be worse. 

“It seemed like there was more than a few people when we got hot and dry a month or two ago that tried to draw comparisons to 2012,” said Keifner. “So far, that hasn’t panned out.” 

A man who appreciates the unwritten rules of farming and believes in the basics will keep on farming his way.  

Keifner says he’s sticking with his rotations which are heavy corn this year. Ideally, he wants to have more hay.

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