(Posted Tue. Dec 11th, 2012)

The National Corn Growers Association concludes the second season of Field Notes, a series that takes readers behind the farm gate to follow the year in the life of American farm families. While these growers come from diverse geographic areas and run unique operations, they share a common love for U.S. agriculture and the basic values that underpin life in farming communities.

Field Notes caught up with Don Rutledge, a Colorado farmer who also raises cattle and hogs. Through the year, he updated listeners on his operation, providing insight into issues including irrigation, cattle ranching during a drought and on educational activities acquainting residents of the Front Range with farming in their state.

Looking back on 2012, Rutledge finds a number of high points even in a year that brought a record drought to much of the Corn Belt.

“Our biggest challenge was keeping the sprinklers going,” he explained. “We turned them on about the first of June and didn’t turn them off until the end of September, which is about 30 days longer than we ever have. But given corn prices, we still came out on top of things.”

Fortunate to have an irrigation infrastructure that keeps the crop growing in drought years, he noted that 2012 differed from other hot years in one way.

“We were pretty fortunate in a way,” said Rutledge. “We had hot days, but it did cool down at night. The cooler nights made the irrigation more effective, because it cut down on evaporation. In other years, we have seen heat that stuck around during the nights too.”

Reflecting on the year for farming in general, he reiterates the importance of activities that bring consumers to the farm and foster conversations about food and farming.

“This year, Colorado started something new when it brought the people from the Front Range out here for a new bike ride called Pedal the Plains,” said Rutledge. “Thousands of people participated, even the governor, and it was a huge success. My neighbors and I fed the riders and took them out to see harvest. We answered their questions about what we do and how we do it. It’s about getting people onto farms so that they can see where their food comes from for themselves.”

To listen to the audio interview, click here.

Stay tuned over the coming weeks as Field Notes checks in one final time with the growers who have opened their farms, families and communities up this year and meet the true faces of modern American agriculture.