What is in this article?:
- Built From Scratch | Top Corn Yields from Desert Ground
- Good management begets good yield
Good management begets good yield
With water and good people, Evans soon realized, the farm had good potential. He wanted to push it to the max. Although he did not set out to make one of the nation’s top corn yielding farms, good management made it just that.
Over the past decade, it often placed high in the National Corn Growers Association yield contest. Although the farm has never won the national contest, it regularly places highly.
Last year it came in third nationally with 315.7 bu./acre in the No-Till/Strip-Till Irrigated category. In 2010, it was also third, with 335.93 bu./acre. In 2003, the farm came in second nationally, with 305.63 bu./acre. It has also done well in the state yield contest several times. Average corn yield across the farm runs in the 220-bu. neighborhood.
“We try to maximize every acre, to push each acre to its full potential. That’s because we’re in the business of trying to make a profit, and that’s the only reason.”
With high yields like that, it’s natural to think the soil possesses some sort of magic that, added with water, produces top crops. Not so, Evans says.
“These are not what most people would call good soils. They are high pH. They’re not bad soils–they’re just not great. It is a very nice farm, no argument there. What we’ve found is that if you have water and the right amount of fertilizer, you can make bad soil look pretty good,” he says.
They strip-till on 30-in. rows, planting for a population of 34,000 corn plants per acre. Fields tend to be low in organic matter, so they compost them.
“Our biggest problem in the fields is rocks. We run a mechanial rock picker, particularly on new alfalfa fields,” says Crop Manager Vaughn Cook, who joined the company seven years ago from southern Idaho.
“We face challenges. The rockiness costs us a lot of money to deal with. The weather is a big challenge, of course. I’ve always like reduced tillage. The strip-till works very well for us. It’s good for the land and we try to be good stewards. A lot of people say that but we really do. We try to balance being good stewards of the land and staying in business,” Cook says.
Through the years, Evans worked hard to build a good team. Cook is one key team member. Another is Simon Martinez, point man on the team. He too, has been here from the beginning, first serving as construction foreman developing the farm, now its operations manager and overseeing personnel. Martinez even worked for the engineering firm that built the reservoir dam, meaning he was in the area before the farm’s birth.
“It’s wonderful to have had this experience. To be able to literally bring this to life and see it become successful and play a role in feeding the world has just been a blessed thing,” Martinez says.
“We built on people,” Evans says. “We bring in people to manage our weaknesses. There are some things I don’t do well, so I find someone who does. The whole farm has to be a team. I don’t care that much about equipment–I care about who’s operating it. I’m not interested in high-tech for the sake of being high-tech. I’m interested in what it does.
“What we have here is a neat group of people. When we do something it’s because they’ve agreed to it. Our people are good at what they do and we never hesitate to send them to additional training when it’s appropriate.”
Ute Mountain Farm and Ranch Enterprises employs 18 full-time workers along with four or five seasonal employees. It produces 1,400 acres of corn, 1,000 acres of wheat, 700 acres of sunflowers and 4,500 acres of alfalfa.
“It’s owned by the tribe, of course, and we are training tribal members to be prepared to step into management roles,” Evans says.