Area farmers get early start on harvest

A farmer works in a field off Illinois Route 251 and Scott Avenue in Hillcrest.

‘I’m hoping to be done around Halloween, and that’d be phenomenal’

ROCHELLE — Dean Svela’s father is 96 years old. 

He’s seen a lot of change in the farming industry. When he gets in the combine with his son, he’s blown away by the things that can be done with technology. 

“The long days aren’t what they used to be,” Svela, the Steward-area corn, soybean and cattle farmer, said. “When I was younger and my dad farmed, guys like him worked very hard for what they got. Machinery today enables us to not work physically as hard. The stress is still there. Things cost less back then, but you busted your hump. Now it’s the opposite.” 

Area farmers like Svela have gotten an early start on harvest this year. He said he started eight days earlier than he did last year. He said the season has been going “smoothly,” but he hasn’t seen much of a break with the dry and warm weather. There haven’t been breaks for rain. 

Svela said breaks can be nice and allow for time to fix things. 

“It’s the same routine every day, like the movie Groundhog Day,” Svela said. “Your alarm goes off and you get up and do the same thing.”

Usually, farmers hope to have their harvest wrapped up by Thanksgiving. Svela said if dry weather continues with no rain delays, he could be done by the end of the month. 

“I’m hoping to be done around Halloween, and that’d be phenomenal,” Svela said. 

The dry weather has impacted harvest yields, Svela said. He thinks the year started strong, but the dryness “took the top off” of crops near the end of the growing season. He said yields have been “all over the board” and lower than the expectations he had at the beginning of the season. 

“Just adequate rain would have made them phenomenal after how the year started,” Svela said. “Some fields are great, some are below average. With soybeans, there can be a 20-bushel difference between one end of the field and another.”

Svela hopes harvest will continue to move along. Rain now wouldn’t help the crop. His fear is a storm with substantial winds that could hurt the more frail crops. That would make for a long season, he said. 

Ogle County Farm Bureau Manager Ron Kern said farmers have a good start on harvesting beans and estimates they’re past 50 percent done. He’s seen corn starting to be harvested in the past few days. 

He said rain is needed and would come in handy as preparations begin for next spring. Lack of moisture in fields has been an issue since last October, Kern said. If rain doesn’t come before next spring, county farmers will be “really short,” he said. 

Kern agreed with Svela’s sentiments about the dry weather’s impact on crops, but believes the year will be a good one for some. 

“I think towards the end, the dryness took some yield off,” Kern said. “I haven’t heard anything on corn yields. Beans were average to a little above average and they were happy. Rain would’ve helped more. “I have a feeling we’ll be close to average with yields. And that’s overall. Some will be above or below average.”

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