Wisconsin Farm Integrates Tech Into Variety of Crops

January 9, 2018 05:00 PM
 
Randy Hughes

Ten years ago, Janesville, Wis., producer Randy Hughes said his two children hadn’t expressed interest in becoming farmers. “But I work on them a little bit every day,” quipped Hughes, then a finalist for the 2007 Top Producer of the Year award.

Now, both his son, Willie, 31, and his daughter, Julianne Burns, 28, are back on the operation serving integral roles in the day-to-day operations of the business. Julianne says she doesn’t necessarily consider herself a farmer—she’s simply helping in the best way she can.

“I taught for three years,” Julianne says. “I realized I craved being a part of my family’s team more than I craved the farming, the dirt, the machinery and the crop.”

Journey to the Top Badge

The operation spans roughly 5,000 acres of non-GMO crops, including both organic and conventional production practices. Crops include blue corn, white corn, yellow corn, winter wheat, rye and soybeans, as well as green peas, green beans and sweet corn. Willie is experimenting with cover crops including vetch, oats and radishes.

Structural Successes. Julianne is proud of her work developing extensive protocols to ensure team members are safe no matter where they happen to be working.

“I went through and got an address or a coordinate or a street intersection of every single field that we have,” she recalls. She then created a book of that information and placed copies in the cab of each piece of farm equipment. If someone becomes ill, another team member can quickly direct emergency responders to the location.

One of her favorite roles is landlord relations. She takes sweet corn door to door, hears stories about their families and her own dad and grandfathers, and learns from them. Julianne also helps them work though USDA paperwork.

The operation also is working on a company handbook using information they collected while attending The Executive Program for Agricultural Producers (TEPAP).

Integrated Technology. Willie returned to the operation after graduating from college and began helping with planting, harvesting and other in-field activities. He continues to oversee field operations while farming acreage on his own and managing organics marketing.

He has led the integration of new technology including a drone for scouting crop health, BaseStation3 for remote management of center-pivot irrigation spans and FarmLogs software for field management.

Julianne has found success plugging into the areas where she can do the most good, a reflection of how the business has developed.

“He grew into a real operation,” Julianne says of her dad.

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