Saturday, April 16, 2016

Flat Aggie Visits O'Neal Farms

Here at O'Neal Farms, we are always excited to have visitors. This month's visitor was extra special though! Flat Aggie came all the way down to White Deer, Texas to visit us and spend some time learning about our farm. We so enjoyed her visit, and I'm happy to share the details of what all we did while she was here!

Flat Aggie learned two big lessons while she was here in Texas. First, farmers use different land for different purposes based on the topography, or how the land is formed. Second, she helped use prepare the planter we’ll be using soon to plant our corn and cotton.

The first stop on Flat Aggie’s tour of O’Neal Farms was at one of our wheat fields. She was amazed by how flat the field was! I told her the Texas Panhandle is so flat you can see for miles and miles. Because it is so flat, it tends to be really windy so we try to capture the energy created by the wind with wind turbines. If you look really closely at the background of this photo, you can see the wind turbines a few miles away from our field. It was very windy when Flat Aggie visited us. She almost blew away!

We use this field to grow crops because it is flat. This allows us to use the ground without worrying about causing soil erosion. Erosion can be caused by wind, which is why we like to keep our fields growing with crops when we can because the plants’ roots hold onto the soil, or by water from rain. If we planted crops on hilly ground, we would lose much of our soil to erosion from water. When it rains here in Texas, it usually pours down quickly. The old-timers call our rainstorms “gully washers” because the rain comes down so fast that it washes gullies into the ground if farmers aren’t careful to protect their land. That’s why we are very careful to use flat ground for farming and the hillier ground for grazing our cows.

Speaking of cows, we went to the cow pasture right beside the wheat field to show Flat Aggie what I meant by different topographies. As you can see in this photo, there are a few more hills in this pasture compared to the wheat field. That’s why we use it for our cows to eat the grass. The grass that grows in these pastures is native, or original, to our area and has been growing here for hundreds and hundreds of years! Since the grass has been here so long, it does an excellent job of holding onto the soil with its roots, keeping the soil from eroding when the wind blows or when we get rain.

Flat Aggie chose a perfect time to visit us because we have a bunch of baby cows, or calves, running around on the farm. FA got to say hi to the calves and a few of their moms at the hay feeder. The calves were tired so they were taking naps in the soft hay on the ground. Once they saw FA though, they wanted to meet her. Cows and calves are naturally curious animals.

After saying hi to the cows and calves, Flat Aggie helped us check over the planter we will be using to plant our corn and cotton in the next few weeks. We are very lucky to have tractors and big planters to help us on the farm. Otherwise we would need many, many more people to help us on the farm. We use a 24-row planter. Each row is 30 inches apart. That means we can plant 60 feet of crops at a single time! That’s a lot of corn and cotton!

Our planter makes planting our crops a fun and easy process. We load all of the seed into the main tank and then the seed is pushed to each row box through a series of tubes. Flat Aggie is checking a row box here. From the row box, the seed is placed in a furrow in the ground created by a couple of shovels. Once the seed is placed in the ground, another set of shovels cover the seed back up. Seed has to be surrounded by soil to grow the best, and we want to make sure every seed has the best chance to grow. Our planter helps us do that.

That was all Flat Aggie had time to do at our farm this visit. We stay busy year-round here in Texas with our crops and our cattle. We were so happy Flat Aggie came to visit us when she did! Soon we will be busy with planting that it would have been more difficult to give her a good tour of the farm! If Flat Aggie ever finds herself back down in Texas, we would love for her to stop by again! Hopefully she enjoyed her visit enough to come back again.

Are you a farmer or a teacher who wants to learn more about the Flat Aggie project? Check out more from Nicole at Tales of a Kansas Farm Mom. It is such a fun project to teach kids about agriculture from real farmers!

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