Two weeks of CraZy!

What a whirlwind two weeks! Seems like my head is spinning and I’m still behind on my list of tasks to complete. Here’s a glimpse of what I’ve been up to!

Sunset in Winter

After my last post we jumped into the week with our annual safety meeting all about what to do in an emergency, where to meet, who to call and a whole host of other great things to remember around our operation. Our crew is our family and we never want a hangnail much less anything more serious to occur. I know it seems boring and tedious but during an emergency it’s hard to remember what to do as your adrenaline starts racing. I pray we never need these skills but I hope by reviewing them something will become second nature.

We have conducted our annual employee performance reviews. I can say with great confidence we have the best row crop crew in the business. They all work hard for the team and have vast knowledge of how to seed, weed, feed and harvest the crops we grow. When new technologies or techniques come around they are early adopters. It’s fun to work with great people. In fact between the different personalities they each keep us entertained too! I think we could have an entertaining reality farm TV show!!

Thanks to my peer group for guidance and feedback about these winter tasks.  We met in early January.  It is an awesome group of women to have my back!

Listening and Learning!

I worked hard to complete our year-end accrual balance sheets and get all the proper information to our Ag lender by the second week in January. This is a major job in my opinion. I have all sorts of check and double checks when it comes to preparing this information. I believe it’s important to always have the same year-end date to be able to compare “apples to apples” so to speak. This way the financial ratios help to tell the story of the strength or weakness of our operation. You can see trends and work to improve areas you need to improve.

It can be overwhelming to borrow the amount of funds needed to operate a row crop farm from year to year. It certainly takes some time to grow accustomed to the number of zeros involved. After 25 years I suppose I am numb to the amounts that once caused slight paralysis for my brain! But that total is always there in the back of my mind with each problematic weather event, drop in market prices or tariffs employed by our government.

Working on Financial Statements

Farmer educational meetings are all the rage during January and February. I had the privilege of moderating a session at the Soil and Water Educational Conference at Arkansas State University. Very interesting information and I always love when farmers talk about their experiences. It just makes it feel real to hear from them.

The highlight of the last two weeks were two collegiate visits for our son! He has decided to study agriculture but still is unsure of which college he would like to attend. I will say that the two colleges really put on a great recruiting effort. It has been fun to watch him think through his options and make a decision.

Dylan loves the farm!

It would be my nature to just push him in the direction I would want him to go. As a Mom it’s been tough to sit back and let him take the lead. But I am glad Greg and I have done just that. This is a decision that will affect the rest of his life and we have tried to offer all the tools and information for him to choose.  He is close to making a choice and I feel like I know the way he will go.  If I am correct, I think he is making the best choice for him and that makes my heart smile.  My college years were some of the best times of my life and I enjoyed every minute.  That’s all I want for him too!

Now I did have some serious fun during the last weekend of January!!  I am a huge Eric Church fan and he started his Double Down tour in January.  My Eric Church road trip friend and I traveled to St. Louis to see him on night 2 in that city.  We also have tickets to two more shows on this tour!!  His tour consists of two nights in each city, hence the name Double Down.  He has no opening acts and his concert is simply 4 hours of him singing.  He also has an extraordinary singer that is on his albums with him named Joanna Cotten.  She was born in Memphis but grew up in Forrest City so she is an Arkansan!  She has a voice that won’t quit and pairs well with Eric.  He writes all his own songs and even talks about hard subjects that resonate with good ole down to Earth hard-working folks like me.  One of my favorites on his new album is titled Drowning Man.

“We put the smoke in the stack; Put the seed in the ground; While Lady Liberty turns her back; and Uncle Sam just turns around.”

This verse hit home for me and many other farmers.  The 2018 crop season was a tough one.  Harvest was the most difficult I have ever experienced.  We began the year with over $10.00 per bushel soybeans and fell below $8.00 due to the trade war with China.  It really felt like Uncle Sam just turned around…

Is January a crazy time for your business or farming operation?  I would love to know what challenges you face this time of year.  I am looking up to have an exceptional 2019 crop year!  Who is with me?

Winter on a Rice Farm

My Winter Days – Part 2

It has been a whirlwind of a week in the farm office and we accomplished so much. January on the farm equals a very busy time. Now you might think that is an inaccurate statement because we have no crops growing in the field. Many people ask me if I even go to work in the winter. I answer with a big smile and say yes. Winter is when all of the planning for the next crop is done.

Planning for a new crop is similar to making new year resolutions – lots of review of the old crop to see what worked and what did not and then setting goals and dreams for the new crop. Long days sitting together with my Dad and husband reviewing and discussing. We keep extremely detailed crop budgets. Each winter we make adjustments to those budgets based on the current conditions. We always learn things from taking a deep dive into our numbers. It gives us ideas and insight into what we might do to save money or do a better job of each crop.

UA Budgets are a great place to learn

The University of Arkansas provides detailed crop budgets for many different crops and growing systems. These can be a good place to start if you need a guideline for your own budgets. Every farm operation is so very different. Between crop mix, soil types, number of employees and the list goes on and on -no two operations will have the exact same budget. I don’t believe there is a perfect way to plan it all out even so far ahead of planting. The weather is a factor that we depend on above all else. The perfectly laid plans can be interrupted and completely destroyed in a matter of days or even hours of heavy rain or low temperatures for example. We have to be ready to change plans and adjust budgets at any time especially during planting season. But I do believe that the best plans can only be made from the history in your own records and operation. The advantage a farmer has is that you know your operation better than anyone else.

Accrual balance sheets also help tremendously in reviewing the strengths and weaknesses of our operation from year to year. Many times my gut feeling about the answers I will find in the preparation of the balance sheets are confirmed. However there are times when they reveal clear pictures of management decisions that must be made. This is probably true of any business and not just farming. If you run a business this is a great way to learn more. I prepare all of this internally but good accountants are always there to give you guidance. I think it is best to find an accountant that is willing to teach as well as do the work. If you don’t understand the numbers you cannot highlight your business’s strengths and improve the weaknesses.

Working the numbers

I love numbers and these tasks are some of my favorite to do- well until the field work begins. Isn’t that why every farmer farms? The love of the outdoors. The smell of freshly turned soil. The ability to watch God’s hand in the renewal of food for the world. The warm sunshine on your back as you count the seeds in the row checking planting rates. The 2018 harvest season was a difficult one for row crop farmers across our country. Rains prolonged harvest for weeks and months. The rain is continuing into January which is keeping the tractors from rolling to prepare soil for 2019. Everyone is a little nervous about how this next year will go. Prices are low, the trade war with China continues and the field preparations are far behind schedule, but we have hope. The cycle will continue -that is one thing we know for certain.

Let’s chat: What are your winter farm activities? Do you love them or hate them? What did you learn from 2018 crop year that will change your operation for the better in 2019?

Winter on a Rice Farm

My Winter Days – Part 1

It’s winter and there aren’t any crops in the field. What does a row crop farmer do all winter? Go hunting? Stay home with family? Travel to warmer destinations? Well all those sound great –but unfortunately there is a huge amount of work to do in the winter months to prepare for spring!

We did take some time off during the Christmas and New Year holidays to enjoy family and rest, relax and restore. Personally I spend time reflecting on the past year and reading and writing hopes and dreams for the new year during this time off. Who doesn’t love a new planner to organize as well?? But as of January 2 it is full time on the job. I guess you could say its just a 40 hour week this time of year! I try to arrive at the office around 7:30 – 8:00 a.m. and make myself leave by no later than 5:00p.m. I do work quite a bit on Saturdays so that ruins my 40 hour week! The office is just much less hectic and I am able to get so much more done. On week days, arriving a little later allows me some time at home in the mornings to just “do my thing” and then extra time at night to READ! Reading is something I love to do and I have a goal to read 24 books in 2019!

Sunrise over harvested rice

Winter does feel a little lazy and I LOVE standard time. I think we should do away with daylight savings time and just go with the sun!! Of course I suppose that’s what farmers do anyway so it is no wonder I might feel this way. I am usually up by 5:00 a.m. and have a morning routine I try to keep year round. Harvest time is more difficult but I excel at it in winter! Now that we have a new puppy it does involve a little extra time to take care of Blitz but he is just the cutest so I don’t mind! The darkness and the peacefulness of the morning is something I thrive upon to make a fresh start to the day.

Energize Pre-workout (aka Unicorn Juice) and my Devotional books

I typically drink my favorite pre-workout (Beachbody Energize) while I read a devotional. I just finished 100 Days to Brave by Annie F. Downs and I highly recommend it. Then I review my day in my planner and write down my intentions for the day. These may be tasks to accomplish, people I need to contact, prayers I want to remember and so forth. I also make a list of 5 things I am grateful for from the previous day. This keeps me paying attention during the day so I look for the small blessings in life that make it wonderful. For example, the sunrise pictured above. I feel so fortunate to be able to sit in my driveway each morning and watch as the glorious sun rises to start our day. Next, I exercise for 30-40 minutes. Exercise is an important part of my day and life. It keeps me feeling strong and healthy and gives me energy. I can certainly tell when I am am not consistent. Then I hit the shower and head to the office -my commute is tough – 3 minutes tops!

The winter involves lots of office time and meetings. It is even called the “meeting season” for farmers. I have already been to one this week, Arkansas Rice, and will be heading to my winter peer group meeting tomorrow. I can’t wait to hear about each operation’s triumphs and struggles and run a few ideas by them as well. I will be back to share more of my winter days with you. Balance sheets and marketing plans, choosing seed to plant and adjusting our fertilizer recommendations to our fields and so much more to get ready for another crop. Plus a trip to Japan to visit our soybean buyers, but that isn’t for a few weeks. In the meantime, I would love to hear about your morning routine and you MUST comment about your favorites books for me to read in 2019. I have a short list but need some great ones to keep me motivated. For fun, I enjoy reading mystery and suspense novels and I am a sucker for a good motivational book! I hope to hear from you.

FarmHer TV Premiere

That day when you watch yourself on national television!  WOW!

I had the opportunity to film an episode of the FarmHer program series last May.  I accepted it because this aligns with my passion to spread the good news about agriculture and especially the rice industry.  Nerves were high on the cloudy day last spring when Marji Guyler-Alaniz and the FarmHer crew visited our farm to film the episode.  Marji is the creator of FarmHer and spends her time promoting women in agriculture.  The FarmHer TV show and brand has grown over the past few years.  You can find more information about FarmHer and read her blog post about me HERE.  They have some really cool merchandise as well to show off your support for all farm HERS!!

Marji Guyler-Alaniz of FarmHer

Marji had never visited a rice farm before so it was really neat to be the first one.  Sometimes these are the most difficult visits for me.  It is difficult to explain the tasks that seem so mundane for us to someone who has never seen them.  Explaining about the levee system is always a challenge.  Read my post about rice levees to understand more about the process here.  You can watch the TV show Sunday, November 4th at 8:30 pm central on RFDTV.  Check your local listings for the channel!

I hope to get back on a more routine schedule of posting.  I have lots to share from this fall!  I have spoken to the Arkansas Bankers Association and was a panelist on the Future of Food at the World Woman Summit.  Two opportunities that allowed me to share my love of all things ag and RICE!!  It has also been a challenging fall for harvest.  I’d like to talk some about the quality issues we have had and how the China tariffs are effecting all farmers.  See you soon!


Labor Day Lessons


As I sit at my desk waiting on the combines to begin to roll for the day I Googled Labor Day and its meaning.  According to the US Department of Labor: “Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.”  Wow!  An entire day to celebrate the workers in our country and to celebrate the contributions of strength, prosperity and well-being of our country.  This is an awesome day!  Without those workers who had struggled before us where would our country be today?

Rice field at harvest

I find my thoughts wandering to the people on our farm who have come and gone.  In four generations there have been many people who contributed their time, talents, and efforts to producing a crop on this land.  There are even a few who spent a lifetime here with my family working for the common goal of feeding the world one acre at a time.  I remember the names and faces of men who were always here with my Dad, like uncles, brothers or cousins of extended family.  They watched me grow up and become their peer as I chose to come back to the farm.  Sun up to sundown, rain or shine, holidays or regular Mondays we work side by side.  The camaraderie of working together to seed a crop and then on days, like today, harvest those seeds for a meal that you may serve your family in the coming weeks.

Men who taught me simple things on the farm such as when you take a person to a tractor always wait until it starts if they need help; always check your tire pressure and how to check the oil; to step OVER a rice levee and not put a big footprint on top for rain water to collect; when you pick up parts take the old one with you to compare;  and that many times you need the assembly and not just one part; to keep my hands in my pockets around any machinery and a good one for everyone – give the farm equipment the road when you see them.  Many of these lessons I have learned and are second nature to me now.  I am thankful to have had the good fortune to grow up around and work with today some of the finest farm family workers on the planet!

My husband Greg and me last fall during harvest

As you celebrate today as the last hurrah of summer I ask you to think of the farm families who spent their days and nights producing the meal on your plate.  Each bite you take was cared for and provided for your nourishment by someone who loves their job!  A person who takes great pride in providing the safest, most affordable food supply in the world.

Click here for video of a combine and grain cart harvesting

So as the engines on the combines turn over and roar, the puff of smoke exits the exhaust on the tractor pulling the grain cart and the 18 wheels creep forward on the truck to collect the grain I smile.  Holiday or not I am smack dab in the middle of exactly where I want to be.  I get a front row view of the results of all the labor put into this crop and each rice kernel that will show up in a box of cereal or in your next stir fry.  Three times a day (and a few snacks in between!) you need a farmer – be sure to thank them!



Harvest has started…well kinda…


Rough rice – from seed to harvest

We planted the seeds in the spring and cared for them all summer.  The past few weeks I have prepared the office and the grain bin complex for incoming grain.  Our crew at the bins has completed repairs and swept the concrete so much they are bored stiff.  Our crew in the field has turned wrenches and checked wear spots on combines, headers, and grain carts.  The truck drivers have inspected the trucks, changed the oil and filled up the fuel.  So when the combine pulls out of the shop headed to the field EVERYONE has a sense of excitement!  Here we go!!

View of a mature rice field from the combine

Rice harvest has officially started!!  Well kinda…  Getting started is always slow.  We completed one field late yesterday. It was a new variety called ARoma17 from the University of Arkansas.  Maybe you guessed it from the name but it is an aromatic variety developed to compete with the increasing demand for jasmine type rice in the US.  This is a picture of the field earlier in the season with University folks John Carlin, my dad Marvin Hare, Dr. Nathan Slaton and my husband, Greg, discussing the condition of the field and prospects of the ARoma17 variety for the future.  The harvest dry yield was better than expected!

The next fields aren’t quite ready yet meaning the moisture of the grain is too high to harvest.  This indicates that the kernels of rice are still a little green and not fully the beautiful golden brown we like to see.  But sometimes the decision to harvest or not isn’t as easy as it may seem.

We have many weeks of rice harvest ahead of us.  The earlier we can get it out of the field and out of the weather and into grain storage the better it is for the rice.  Heavy rains or winds could blow the rice kernels on the ground and be lost.  The flip side is to harvest it too early and suffer yield loss from lighter, immature kernels, problems in storage and higher costs to dry the kernels to optimum moisture content.  So like many of the decisions in farming its a toss-up!

Patiently waiting on the turn row

For today we have decided to wait.  The combine gets parked on the turn row or what we call the road around a field.  It looks lonely there just sitting.  We will wait a day or two and see if it will help dry the kernels to a lower moisture content and allow the rice to mature.  I know from experience that quickly it will all hit and everything will be ready at once.  But in the mean time I think we may start corn harvest!!  So back to being excited about harvest!  I will keep you posted!



My Tribe in Ag

Farmers are very independent.  Good thing I chose this profession because I am an extremely independent person.  I am sure Greg would agree there is good and bad to that quality!  So much of our business is basically “just us” with our decisions.  I would dare say most farmers got into farming for the science of it.  Being outdoors, planting the seed, caring for it over the season, then harvesting and hopefully earning the rewards of a job well done.  Then it is hunting season, right?  Well yes, but there is so much to do between harvest and planting and these tasks aren’t any farmer’s favorite.  Year end financial statements, marketing the remaining amount of the crop, analyzing equipment needs, reviewing the prior crop and planning for the next.  The list goes on and on and this is why so many farmers spend many hours in front of a computer or discussing issues with their partners during the winter months.  Because most farms are dynamic in their ownership, location, mix of crops etc no two are exactly alike or can be compared.  At times we feel out there on our own in finding enough information to make informed decisions.  To add to the problem, there is the competitive nature of the independent entrepreneur.

Many years ago I attended a class hosted by Texas A&M called The Executive Program for Agricultural Producers.  It is by far the best educational series about farm management I have attended since college.  It was full of practical information to operate our farm.  I would recommend it to anyone farming or ranching with any size operation.  Learn more about the program here.

I headed out to Austin, TX where the class was held that year not knowing any other participants.  I have done this type of thing several times in my life.  I actually attended a 3 week long high school scholar experience after my junior year in high school in Newton, PA.  It was good to get this country girl out of the sticks and into an urban area.  I learned so much then too – but I digress!  After a day or so at TEPAP class I was happy to team up with a couple of women who were there for the 2nd session.  Thankfully one of them was very outgoing (I find it hard to reach out to strangers but once I get to know you watch out!) and invited me to eat with them.  They shared with me their idea of forming an all women agricultural peer group.  They envisioned this group meeting twice a year to learn about each other’s operation in differing areas of the country.  We would also get down deep in the weeds (HA!) about any topic we needed to discuss in our operations.  We would share ideas and give support to one another as we managed and transitioned our operations.  There would be complete disclosure and confidentiality for all members and operations in the group.

Now this idea was certainly one I had never heard of before, especially in southern agriculture where, bless your heart, we would never talk about such things with anyone much less a stranger.  I pondered their idea and finished the class that week.  During the sessions I felt intimidated by the level of professionalism and intelligence in the room.  There were some outstanding operations being represented.  Ideas were flowing and I took note after note to remember this awesome experience.  One thing I had decided before the class was over was that I did not want to leave there and stop learning and growing in my profession and as a person.

Summer of 2018 in Ohio

Fortunately, the group did come together and I agreed to be a member.  We began meeting as a group in 2014. The core group has changed a bit but we have finally settled on a great mix of people and operations.  Each summer we visit an operation and we learn about the host farm and the agriculture in that area.  Our winter meeting is more business focused and is at a mutually agreed upon site.  We also meet once a month by Zoom call to stay updated on each other.  We are from Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri and Ohio and grow crops such as alfalfa, barley, corn, cotton, peanuts, rice, soybeans and wheat to cattle and even some specialty crops.  We active in our communities, our families, and our respective crop specific industries.  We are cutting edge and all trying to be the very best at what we do.

Summer of 2017 in Arkansas

The best part of this group is we are non competitive and willing to share what has worked and most importantly what has not worked on our farms.  At this point we are peers and friends and share plain old life things as well.  We laugh and we cry and we pray for each other and then we laugh some more.  We offer solutions and look forward to hearing about the progress someone has made on a particular problem or issue.  We support one another and are truly interested in the success of each operation and each person.

After dinner at 2018 winter meeting

I am proud of every one of these women and they are my tribe.  They speak the language of agriculture and they get it, they get ME.  They have my back and cheer for my success.  If you have not found a group like this in your life keep searching.  There are more women out there who want to support you than tear you down.  If you are surrounded by people who only tear you down I hope you walk away and find support and love and laughs and prayers.  The hardest part is being vulnerable enough to let them in on the whole story so they can support you.  Sometimes that isn’t easy but it is worth it!


Corn Growing and Soil Moisture Sensors


Under the corn canopy

It is a gorgeous Sunday morning here in Arkansas!  We have had a very hot and humid week and a storm blew through last night with cooler temperatures and a nice north wind blowing.  Not great for getting herbicide treatments out that are falling farther and farther behind due to wet weather and wind but feels nice!  I have enjoyed a cup of coffee on the porch with my morning devotional.

Crazy enough this is my time of year to work on projects at our house.  I am the busiest in fall during harvest and the winter as we have year-end financials and planning for the next crop.  Since my days of scouting the fields are just a line on my résumé it frees me up to take care of some of the things we need around the house.  So I have worked with a landscaper to help our very overgrown bushes.  As farmers we don’t “do flowers and shrubs” so it was a mess!  Now on to the upstairs bath that needs a facelift.  We had spent the minimal on it years ago when Dylan moved to his room up there.  The old cast iron tub is in need of refinishing and we will lay some tile instead of the cheap tub surround we have now.  Thankfully, I have a sweet friend who is helping subcontract the work!  Next week I will travel to Ohio to meet with my agri women’s peer group!  It is a great way for us to learn and improve our farms.  More on that next week!

For today I want to show you a little about our corn crop and how much it has grown in the last few weeks.  You may remember the photo below in the sunset taken on April 30.  This is one of my favorite pictures this season.  I am so glad I have it because the owner of that old cotton gin has torn it down.  It has been there my entire life and such an iconic building but I understand it hasn’t been used in many decades and things change.

April 30, 2018

The following pictures are of the same field on May 24 and then June 1.

May 24, 2018

June 1, 2018






You can see how much taller the corn is just a week later.  It won’t be long until the tassel is coming out the top of the plant.  This is a very important time for corn development.  It is needs plenty of moisture and no stress to make the best ear of corn it can make.  To better test irrigation needs we installed a soil moisture sensor last week. We had one in a field last year and it was amazing to see how often we needed to irrigate.  In Arkansas, we cannot make a corn crop without irrigation.  Proper timing of that irrigation is crucial.

We have been working with our county extension agent, Matthew Davis and Mike Hamilton who is an irrigation instructor with the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service.  With their help we have learned about the details of our irrigation.  Of course we have irrigated for decades but we are trying to refine our efforts.  Water savings is a very important part of our farm’s culture and sustainability so we want to be able to irrigate while being as efficient with our water use as possible.  We are fortunate that our farm is in an area where there is a good supply of ground water.  However, we have gone to great lengths to try to recycle water for irrigation.  It is our hope that the generations that farm in our family’s future still have available water for irrigation.

Last week we installed a soil moisture sensor that is connected to a battery powered by a solar panel to be able to send a cell signal for information to be seen online at any time.  The actual sensors are not too expensive but adding the convenience of the internet adds quite a bit of cost.  But man is it nice to be able to pull up the information on my phone and monitor conditions!  We would not have the units in every field but several spread out in different locations and crops would be so nice.  There are different technologies of sensors.  The ones we have at this site are Watermark.  I will be installing several this week that will need manual monitoring and charting.  These should help give us an idea of the proper irrigation timing but we won’t be able to check it from our phones.  This is what you do when you don’t have the money in the budget!!

To install you use a slide hammer to make a hole for the sensor to go down into the soil.  We installed 4; 1 each at 6″, 12″, 18″ and 30″ deep in the soil directly in the row of corn plants being careful not to disturb any plants or any more soil than necessary.

Slide hammer at work

After the hole is made to the correct depth for that sensor, then the pipe with the sensor installed onto the bottom is inserted into the hole.

Installing sensor

The red gasket or ring you see around the PVC pipe is placed at the depth we want to insert the pipe as a guide.  It remains in place to help seal the soil so rain and irrigation water does not just seep to the sensor and cause incorrect readings.

Wiring sensors

Each sensor is wired to the monitor to read and be able to send information over the cellular data system.  Below you can see 3 of the 4 sensors installed in the row.

Soil moisture sensors in the row.

The graph below shows each sensor on a bar graph.  You can see the 6″ depth sensor was approaching our “need to irrigate” red line and then it rained last night.  The graph for the 6″ sensor goes back down so we have a few days until this field will need irrigation.  You can see just how fast the soil was drying out before the rain.  Isn’t this just the coolest thing?  I do get excited about weird stuff for a girl!! Hopefully the weather will allow just enough time for our next nitrogen application and then we will irrigate.

Soil Moisture Graph


Thanks to Mike Hamilton (left) and Matthew Davis (right) for all their patience and instruction.  I am sure I will be asking tons of questions as we go throughout the season.  Please leave your questions in the comments and I can have them answer because I am certainly not the expert when it comes to the sensors!

Mike Hamilton and Matthew Davis


Why do you have levees in a rice field?

We finished up planting all of our rice just as it has stopped raining in our area.  There have been few scattered showers but nothing to speak of on our farm.  The soil is too dry to plant soybeans so we are doing what we need to do which is lay polypipe to irrigate our corn and flush water over the rice fields.  I will talk more about the corn irrigation in a later post but today I want to answer the most common question we get from people is why do you have levees in the rice fields?

It’s all about the water!  Rice grows in a flooded environment and to be the most efficient we need the levees to hold the water at a consistent depth throughout the field.  Because the Earth is not flat, we must build (or pull) a levee along the contours of elevation in the field.

You can look at a topographic map of the State of Arkansas here.  Although the eastern side of the state appears flat compared to the western side we still have enough slope to need levees to achieve the shallow flood required for rice production.  Thankfully we do have a hard-pan of soil just a few inches down that provides a barrier of sorts for the soil to hold the water.  And in addition to that, the most efficient fields have a heavy clay soil which also holds water very well.  This can be good and bad for us because those soils hold the spring rain water longer and make it difficult to get it planted and harvested in the fall.  But they are the very best for growing rice!  Go figure!! Anyway, this is why we traditionally grow rice in my area of the state.

Ok, so back to the levees- why are they crooked and why are some straight?  Remember the levee is following the contour at a certain elevation.  So when the levee is crooked that elevation is meandering around the field and when it is straight the landowner has precision leveled the field.  This means they have moved the soil around so that the elevation falls at a consistent rate throughout the field.  For example, the topo map would have all parallel lines in a precision level field and that’s what the levees follow!  The closer together the levees are the steeper the fall and the further apart they are means the field is flatter.

Hillside with curvy levees

Do you build the levees after you plant the field or before?  The answer for us here in NE Arkansas is after.  In other growing regions they leave the levees up permanently.  We rotate our crops between rice and soybeans mainly so we tear them down after the crop to be able to plant soybeans the following year.  To find the levees position you must know the elevation.  There are several methods to do this but I

Precision leveled field with straight levees

will explain the method we use on our farm.  The tractor that is planting maps out the elevation of the field while planting.  It is a good time to map it since that tractor will cover the entire field and be able to make a good map.  We space our levees a certain elevation apart and when you enter your desired fall in elevation into our software program it “draws” the levees out.  This program is then used to drive the tractor in the correct locations to build the actual levees.  Technology has made us much more efficient in this process.  Fewer passes with equipment in the field which equates to fewer people needed for the job and no problems finding the elevations.

Screen in the tractor that drives the correct elevations to build the levees

There are also many implements that can be used to build, pack and seed the levees.  Yes seed!  Even though we have planted the field we want to make sure the levees make rice too!  By adding more rice seed as the levee building equipment passes over the levees we can insure rice production on the levees.  Every acres counts!  Here are a couple of implements we use in our heavy clay soils to build the best levees.

Levee squeeze

Levee packer and seeder








On top of the levee packer is a red box that holds the rice seed.  As the tractor drives down the levee, seed is distributed out over the levee.

As I was finishing this post we received a nice rain on most of the farm.  Thank you Lord!  What a gift for us at this time of year!  We are now able to turn off most irrigation wells and save on the cost of watering.  Our crew will be working to make sure we do not have standing water for too long in any of the fields at this point.  Then we can get back to planting soybeans and hopefully end our planting season.

Rice Planting Complete and Spotlight: My Friend Lindley

Planting is still in full force with our tractors scattered all over the farm.  Our heavy clay good rice soils dried out and we finished planting our rice today!  I am excited to be down to only soybeans left to plant.  So far the spring has had its ups and downs but we seem to be moving along at a good pace.  This week I was featured on the Kellogg’s blog for Mother’s Day.  This was such an honor for me!  I have had the opportunity to meet and work with many of the great people at Kellogg through my work in sustainability.  You can read the post here.

I believe women today are opening new doors and achieving goals our mothers never even dreamed possible.  Plus we may also be wives; (and farm wives at that) and mothers too.  I have a little trouble with the “pinterest effect” on women today too.  Our lives aren’t perfect; our meals are not gourmet; our decor is not all like a Joanna Gaines’ home; and we do have piles of dirty laundry!  Life is hard work no matter your job or gender or family composition!!  I have had people say to me “I don’t know how you do it all!” and my reply is I DON’T!!  I have help, including paid help, family support and a really good calendar!  In this light I want to lift up some of my peers and showcase all the different personalities, jobs, tips, and accomplishments of my friends in agriculture.  My hope is that by lifting these women it will help others to rise to see themselves in a job that is focused on agriculture.

LINDLEY GILLIAUM – Agriculture Grant Coordinator/Senior Instructor ASUN

Lindley Gilliaum with her daughter

I have known Lindley since forever!  We love the same hometown and the same industry.  I have watched her career for years as she progressed from field work to education.  She has found her stride in this newest job and I can tell she truly loves the challenge she has been given.  And may I say she is knocking it out of the park!

Lindley is a life long resident of Newport, Arkansas and graduated from Arkansas State University in Jonesboro with a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture.  During her senior summer of college she interned for Lawhon Farm Services in McCrory, Arkansas as a field scout/consultant.  For those of you who may be unfamiliar with what that job entails – it means to walk the fields and examine for weeds, diseases, growth stages of the crop, irrigation needs and other things depending on the crop and the time of year and report them to the farmer.  It is tough work and up until the time Lindley interned this was traditionally a job held by men.    After college she worked as an independent crop consultant, was employed by Greenway John Deere Equipment Company and then as a yield specialist for Dulaney Seed in Clarkdale, Mississippi.  All of these jobs led up to where she is now as the Agriculture Grant Coordinator and Senior Instructor for the all new Ag Technology Program at Arkansas State University – Newport.

ASUN Ag Technology Mobile Trailer

She started the program from the ground up beginning with approval, funding, curriculum and gaining the support of area farmers to be invested in what the end product would be – knowledgeable employees that could bring a great skill set to a farm, granary, spray company or ag retailer. This two year program will allow the students to gain extensive knowledge and skill sets in: agronomy, equipment operations, mechanics, chemicals, spraying, modern software technology.  The program is in its first year and Lindley hopes to be able to grow enrollment as well as class offerings and scholarship or sponsorship opportunities. It is the only program of its kind in Arkansas so check it out here.


Lindley is currently pursuing her Masters in Plant and Soil Science at ASU and should graduate in December.  She is doing very well in her studies as is evidenced by her 3.5 GPA!  Trust me – this course of study is not easy and especially with a full-time job and a feisty five-year old daughter to raise! This beautiful girl full of independence and a strong will (wonder where she gets that?) is her Mom’s biggest cheerleader.  Often encouraging her to “do her best” and to keep chasing her dreams.  Lindley’s favorite quote is one from her daughter.  One night while Lindley was stressed over graduate school homework she told her Mom “You never know if you never try.”  We can all learn more from children if we just listen.

Lindley with ASU Dean of Agriculture Dr. Tim Burcham

The fact Lindley is living the example for her daughter will only lift her to higher goals and dreams than her mother could ever imagine.  As we go about our everyday, it may seem routine or boring but our children are watching us every second.  Lindley is being the role model her daughter and other young girls and women need all the while reaching for her own dreams.  Slam dunk!  I look forward to sitting on the sidelines and watching this precious girl grow into a successful woman!

Lindley points to two people in her life that have been huge influencers and mentors.  Her first boss who gave her the opportunity to step into a man’s world as a crop consultant.  He is still an active supporter in her life and actually sits on the steering committee at ASUN that has helped develop the program she administers.  Another is a professor from her first college days and he is now an instructor for her in grad school and a peer in education.  She says she wished she could tell her younger self to never give up and to never doubt her own capabilities.  Lindley realizes now that she is capable of accomplishing whatever she sets her mind to do.  I believe she has proven that over and over in her life.

Checking seed placement

Lindley enjoys chatting with others to learn all she can from their own experiences.  These conversations have helped her to be more knowledgeable about farms and other businesses.  She loves the weekly publication the Delta Farm Press – a staple in any farm or ag business in the south.  Not only does it contain valuable information for agriculture but is based in Mississippi where she worked for many years.  This keeps her close to that area and caught up on all the news from her old stomping grounds!  She confidently says the Bible is her #1 personal development book!  She also recommends The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz.

When asked about what life hacks routines-or things she does to just stay sane in today’s crazy busy world she says she is just keeping her head above water.  Every morning may be different from the day before but a few minutes alone in her car before work can be the difference that makes the day calmer.  A little pep talk to herself gets her on track and ready to conquer what ever the day may have in store for her.  She also LOVES to run on a treadmill and listen to good music.  Some of her favorites in her playlist are Midnight Special – CCR; Glory Days – Bruce Springteen; Doc McStuffins – she does have a five-year old; and her favorite song to run to is the Eye of the Tiger from Rocky.

I will be asking a few of the same questions of all the women I feature.

Lindley and Jimbo her biggest fan


What app could you not live without?  Facebook – I post many pictures of my family, but it is after all, making memories that counts.  *I agree with that wholeheartedly!

  • White rice or Brown rice?  White
  • Daily newspaper?  No
  • iPhone or Android?  Android
  • Coffee?  YES

It is exciting to see this new program led by Lindley.  Be sure to watch the Ag Technology Program at ASUN to see where it goes from here.  We need trained people for farm and other ag related jobs so I am excited to see how this it will impact our workforce!

We will be working hard to get soybeans planted but I really think we need a good soaking rain to flush the rice, incorporate the nitrogen on the corn and probably germinate soybeans. The weather is our constant companion!