I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I think the annual Farm-City Field Day is the greatest day of the summer!
I know some might think such an assessment of an event of that nature calls for psychological examination, but apparently not the 600 to 700 others who gathered Thursday on the Gail and Sherman Peyton farm for the 54th consecutive celebration of the bucolic life.
Keenan Bishop, county extension agriculture agent and the spokesman for the event and the day, said as much.
“Was I pleased?” he asked, echoing my question. “The day suited me – and more. We had an excellent host, a plethora of volunteers, great weather – it was very good.”
Yes it was.
The Peytons’ farm is located on Colston Lane in the Switzer district. It’s a lovely place with gently rolling land covering more than 200 acres. The five stops on the tractor-drawn wagon tour were informative, even for those who may not have known Roundup was used for killing weeds in places other than cracks in the sidewalk or had ever heard of “A.I.”
Bishop explained that Field Day organizers, in conjunction with the University of Kentucky’s College of Agriculture and other farm-related entities, mix things the farmer is doing with other stops to make for an interesting and varied tour.
The Peytons run cattle on their farm and proper management of the herd and individuals is important. The first stop focused on developing a good breeding herd of heifers that are able to calve with ease and the use of artificial insemination to control calving time.
Ryan Miller from Genetics Plus was the speaker. He talked about how is company offers sperm “sticks” from bulls with different characteristics. A.I. is a program that allows the farmer to be in control of his breeding operation rather than a live bull in the field.
The second stop was most interesting as UK Forage Specialist Ray Smith talked about a new variety of alfalfa that’s called “Roundup Ready.” This alfalfa has been engineered so that the plants are not harmed by Roundup, a broad-spectrum systemic herbicide that typically kills any leafy plant it touches.
The test plot graphically demonstrated the difference in weed control in the alfalfa that was Roundup ready and the alfalfa that wasn’t. And the difference was no weeds and lots of weeds.
“That strip down there,” said Smith, “will have to be bushhogged, it can’t be harvested, you can’t even see the alfalfa.”
Ed Combess, manager of Southern States, said the Roundup Ready alfalfa seed cost about $150 more for a 50-pound bag but you make your money back on the first cutting in the first year.
The technology was developed by Monsanto.
“The only downside,” Smith said, “is you can’t come back with (soy) beans in the field without first killing the alfalfa.”
Those tired of fighting weeds in the alfalfa field should acquaint themselves with Roundup Ready Alfalfa.
Wildlife food plots
Chris Grasch, a biologist with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, spoke about working with landowners looking to develop a plot of ground that’s attractive to wildlife.
“I typically meet with the landowner and we walk or ride over the area. Based on that I run the data through some programs we have and come up with a plan.”
Grasch is working with the Peytons to develop a four-acre plot that’s attractive to rabbits and quail.
“First we spray the entire field with glycosphate (the active ingredient in the Roundup we just heard about over at alfalfa). This kills everything that’s growing,” he said.
After the proper period of time, the seed is then drilled into the field with a grain drill featuring special setting because of the “fluffy” nature of the seed. The drill cuts a furrow, drops in the seed and then a little wheel comes along to mash it down for good seed-to-soil contact.
“We plant the whole field accurately in one pass,” Grasch explained.
Since the grass planted on wildlife plots is very slow growing, it typically doesn’t look good the first year.
“It’s developing roots. It will look better next July.”
Grasch reminded Field Day-goers that his department is funded solely through money received from the purchase of hunting and fishing licenses. “So,” he said, “On your way back to town buy your hunting and fishing licenses.”
Managing pond weeds
Anyone who’s ever owned or had dealings with a farm pond has developed a special dislike for weeds and pond scum. Bill Wurts, an aquaculture specialist from Kentucky State University, said analysis and management of the pond from the beginning is the best way to control weeds.
“If you have weeds,” he said, “there’s something going on that is causing a problem. There are three things that cause weeds to grow: light, fertilizer and water.
“Now we know we have plenty of water because it’s a pond so it’s the other two we need to look at.”
He said ponds need to be at, at the minimum, three feet deep when you’re six feet from the bank. The depth of the water blocks the weed growth. New ponds need to be constructed that way; old ponds need to be dredged to make them fit the minimum.
He said excessive fertilizer gets into the pond when cattle are allowed to drink from and/or get into the pond. Excessive fertilizer also results as a runoff from fields.
“Fence the cows out of the pond and make sure there’s a 50-100-foot grass strip between the pond and cultivated fields.”
He said if you’re having a problem with weeds or pond scum, it’s important to identify the offensive plants. “There’s a right and wrong herbicide for every weed. No one kills all.”
The final stop before lunch found Ben Lyle, a forester with the Kentucky Department of Forestry, and Billy Thomas, a UK Forestry Specialist, talking about managing the woodlot on the farm for maximum return.
Like everything else from the heifers to the pond, the presenters talked about formulating a plan, with which they’re delighted to provide information and help.
“Decide what you want to do with the trees,” Thomas said. “Are they a ‘rainy day bank account’ or are you managing them for maximum yield at the proper time. You have to decide and then we can help.”
Lyle talked about problems with invasives – plants and bugs. He said it was important to identify the culprit before formulating a plan of control.
“There are literally hundreds of invasive plants out there,” Lyle said. “You must have good information to control them.”
This year it was beef, not fish
A central part of the Farm-City Field Day has always been gathering around some food, usually in a shaded woods, sometimes in a barn but always teeming with fellowship.
Field Day founder and longtime ag agent Paul Gray used to pride himself on “hiding the fish fry” in order to encourage folks to “take the tour,” as he said.
Roger Sparrow broke with the fish fry tradition and made the main course beef in the form of a ribeye steak sandwich and hamburgers. “We don’t have a lot of commercial fish production in this county,” Sparrow said, “but we have a whole lot of beef.”
Whatever the meat offered, it’s incidental to the opportunity to visit with folks you may only see at the Field Day. The word “fellowship” came up a lot, in fact, as I asked folks why they came and what they enjoyed.
I’d have to say I agree that’s a vital part of making the Farm-City Field Day the greatest day of the summer!