Saturday, August 10, 2013

Farmer Profile - Todd and Heather Strader

     This month we are pleased to introduce you to TH Farms LLC, owned and operated by Todd and Heather Strader.  Todd and Heather were both raised in the Colfax, Washington area.  After college they had careers away from the farm, but decided to return home, and go into farming with their families.  Young farmers are a rare breed, and much needed for the future of our food security here in the USA.  We are proud of Todd for taking on the business of farming, and for his success in the four years that he has been at it.

Todd Strader and his son, Grant (future farmer!)
 Your name, family names and interests
     Todd, Heather, Grant and Ava

 Where do you live, your farm name?
     TH FARMS LLC / Colfax WA

 How long have you been farming?
     4 Years

 Why did you become a farmer?
     Prior to farming, I was an FBI Special Agent.  I worked all over the US but mostly in Washington D.C. and Albuquerque, New Mexico.  My wife and I grew tired of living in big cities and wanted to raise our kids where and how we were raised, farming wheat in the Palouse!

What crops do you grow?    
     Wheat, Barley, Garbanzo Beans

 What type of farm do you operate?
     Our farm is dryland, meaning that we don't irrigate.  We use the direct seed method, meaning we don't till the soil.

Todd, combining (harvesting) his wheat
 Tell us about your operation. 
     My wife and I farm throughout Whitman County, Washington in varied micro-climates and rainfall zones.  We raise wheat, barley, and garbanzo beans.   We are sixth generation farmers, our kids are seventh direct generation on the same farm, which was homesteaded in 1877.  It is located due south of Colfax, Washington.  We also raise sheep and cattle for fun and for our kids.

 Do you use any sustainable practices?  Please tell about them.
     We direct seed using a Horsch Anderson, 35’ No-Till drill.  This drill applies 2 separate types of fertilizer as well as the seed all in one pass!  This allows the least amount of tillage to be used, reduces compaction and maintains the soil health, and so preserving and enhancing our soils for the next generation of farmers! 

Something interesting, cutting-edge, fascinating, you would like readers to know?
     All of our fertilizer and herbicides are applied using GPS technology which automatically turns the fertilizer and herbicide on and off automatically in order to reduce the amount of chemicals used.  The computer system in the tractor maintains a GPS/Satellite map, showing where we have and have not sprayed, and adjusts the amount and rate of fertilizer/herbicide to be applied. Our tractor is also equipped with “Auto Steer” which controls the steering while working in the field.

Wheat harvest - cut on the left, uncut on the right
     The seedbox on our seeder has scales on it so that we can accurately meter how much seed we are putting out, and we can change our seed rate on the fly!

What are the biggest challenges you face as a farmer?
     The biggest challenges I face as a farmer is the volatility of the wheat/garbanzo bean markets and weather.  No matter how hard we work, our success and outcome as a farmer is determined by outside forces including international politics, US monetary policy, and other commodity prices such as fuel prices which we use to power our equipment, and use to make fertilizer, as well as gold and silver prices.  Sometimes the wheat market can swing 3-6% in one day due to these factors.

Dumping the wheat kernels from the hopper into the grain truck,
which will haul it to market.
Note there are two other big grain trucks waiting to be filled.
You can't see her, but that's a girl driving that big John Deere tractor!
What are farming's biggest rewards for you?
     The biggest reward for me as a farmer is harvest-time.  Harvest is when we cut all of our wheat and garbanzo beans which we have been working for a full year to cultivate, plant and care for and is the fruit of all of our labor.  A successful harvest is very rewarding!

 Do you participate in any civic or industry organizations?
     I am a volunteer firefighter with the Onecho Fire Department.

 Are there any stories about farming that you’d like to share?
     My son's first tractor ride was when he was about 2 months old.  Our tractors are climate-controlled, very quiet and dust-free in the cab, so don't be alarmed!  My daughter is almost 2 and our son is 3, and they both love to drive in the tractors and trucks with their dad!
     Also, I am a pilot, and I love to fly over our fields to check them for issues, weed problems and the overall health of the land and our crop.

Heather, Grant and Ava, framed in Farmer Todd's tractor tire!

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