April 14, 2005
Mark Welling, Montevideo, Minn., is a fulltime corn and soybean grower. He farms about 1,200 acres of corn and works with two uncles, Ken and Rick Olson, who each grow approximately 1,200 acres of corn and soybeans, too.
So what is Welling doing growing 80-100 acres of navy beans every year?
Making money - most years, perhaps.
"It is usually one of our best cash crops," says Mark, who has been growing approximately the same number of acres of dry beans for the past 15 years. Welling grows only 80-100 acres of dry beans because dry beans are only suited to lighter ground, and he maintains a four-year-rotation.
"I also don't like to grow any more dry beans than I can afford to lose," he says. But because he doesn't have any special dry bean equipment, growing 80-100 acres in rotation with more than 1,000 acres of corn and soybeans is profitable. He uses the same planter, sprayer, cultivator and tillage equipment for all three crops. He has his beans custom combined.
Welling drives the grain truck during dry bean harvest. That way he is in the field to make decisions about when to shut down harvest and how to adjust the combines to minimize field loss and threshing damage.
"I ride in the combine to keep on top of it," he says.
Having a few acres of dry beans also fits Welling's approach to farming. Not content to grow just corn and soybeans, he also puts up small bales of wheat straw and hay for horses. He sells most of it direct or through a horse supply auction in nearby Hutchinson.
"We put the bales in 50 bale lots, which is just enough to fit in a pickup," he explains.
Welling also makes use of livestock facilities and pasture on his family's farm by buying six to eight beef calves each year. He fattens them and then sells beef sides and quarters direct to neighbors, relatives and friends.
Welling works off the farm, too. He helps out a company that digs graves and, in the winter, operates a Minnesota Department of Transportation snowplow. He serves on the county Farm Service Agency Board and for the past six years has been a member of the Minnesota Dry Bean Council.
When he's not on the farm or at one of his several jobs, you'll find Welling at the local school attending his children's activities. He and his wife, Brenda, have three children, ages 13, 10 and 6. Brenda works as a deputy district court administrator.
In his spare time, Welling restores antique tractors. He and his sons are currently working on his grandfather's 1952 Minneapolis Moline. The local threshing show is going to feature Molines this summer.
"I like to keep busy," Welling says. "It keeps me young."
Mark Welling says the following bean salad recipe, made by a Florida relative, is one of his favorites.
2-15 oz cans whole kernel corn
2-15 oz cans black eyed peas
2-15 oz cans black beans
1 chopped onion
3 diced tomatoes (Roma)
1 cup chopped parsley
1 chopped green pepper
1 chopped yellow pepper
1 chopped red pepper
1 16 oz jar salsa (thick)
1 cup olive oil
1/2 cup vinegar (cider)
Salt and pepper to taste
Mix all ingredients and place in refrigerator for 24 hours prior to serving.
Coping with corn
Managing corn residue is one of the toughest things about growing navies after corn, Mark Welling says.
There are two challenges -- breaking up the stalks so the planter runs without bunching up the residue and knocking the dirt out of the root balls so that at harvest, when an old corn root ball goes through the combine, it doesn't smear the bean seed coats with dirt.
Here's what Welling does:
* Chops corn stalks.
* Runs a ripper 9-12 inches deep in the fall to take out the compaction layer and improve internal soil drainage.
* Levels the field in the spring with a field cultivator.
* Applies Sonalan with broadcast sprayer.
* Incorporates the chemical with a field cultivator twice, once right before planting. A coil packer is attached to the cultivator. It helps firm up the soil to create better seed-to-soil contact.
* Vigorously controls volunteers and weeds. He applies Sonalan to the soil and then follows up with Raptor/Basagran. He rotary hoes and cultivates once and goes through the field with hand labor, if necessary.
* Sprays for insects and white mold when conditions reach economic thresholds.