Crops, Facing Fears, Farm, Women in Agriculture

A Healthy Level of Fear

Last week, we planted our soybean test plot.

For most, this isn’t a significant achievement. For me, however, it’s a day I look forward to with equal amounts of worry and thrill. My job is always the same as we set out to accomplish this task: keep the seed from running out of the drill.

If you’re not familiar with test plots, here’s a quick primer. Farmers plant an assortment of corn or soybean varieties in succession, all in the same field. Just like a junior high science experiment, each variety gets the same care. At the end of the growing season, the varieties are harvested and the yields are calculated. A winner is declared, and many farmers will base next year’s planting decisions off of how the varieties stood up to the competition.

As we work to plant the plot, the seed drill or planter is cleaned out between each variety, and the next variety fills it up. The tractor works up and down the field until each variety is planted. In the case of our bean plot, we worked to plant 16 different varieties.

So, about my job: keeping the seed from running out. We fill the drill with a bag of seed, and as it works it way through the seed drill and into the ground, the seed continues flowing down. One side of the drill may empty quicker than the other, but the goal is to reach the end of the field with seed still available, so that particular stand of soybeans has the best potential possible for growth and yield.

Why would I be nervous? Why would I feel a little like I’m stepping I’m about to step on a rollercoaster? Well, this is where I work:


(Side note: it’s not shown in the picture, but there is a railing behind me that I can hold on, and the platform I’m standing on is similar to a box. While this isn’t recommended for daily riding on the machine; for a short period of time, we do it as safely as possible.)

Pardon the blurry image. Greg took that from inside the tractor, through the dusty window. His job is a little safer; he sits in the tractor seat, buckled in, while GPS auto steer literally drives the machine across the ground at a speed of approximately 8 mph. Meanwhile, I hang on to the drill for dear life, moving seed across the drill as parts start to empty out.

Ok, I admit, I’m being a little dramatic. The task at hand is safe for both of us. Nonetheless, the first couple of times across the field, I do have that small pit in my stomach. It’s a little nerve-wracking and a little exciting, all at the same time. Just like climbing on a rollercoaster.

I realized this year as we worked across the field that there’s such a thing as a healthy level of fear. It’s ok to be slightly scared of doing something new or different, but the trick is to face that fear head on with courage that overshadows whatever you’re scared of at the moment. Fear will always be there, and in manageable doses, it can move you forward.

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So, how did planting the plot go? Everyone survived, and we didn’t run out of seed. We’ve had a nice shower and some sunshine. Soon, we’ll be watching the seeds emerge through the soil, and that anxiety about riding on the back of the drill will be a distant memory until next year.

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