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For most Iowa farmers, winter isn’t a season off

Author: Kristy

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This Dec. 20, 2013 photo shows Craig Anderson with his cattle in Merrill, Iowa. While Plymouth County farms may look empty and still without crops growing in the fields, farmers say their winter schedules are bustling with activity. He said raising cattle is a job that operates all year. (AP Photo/LeMars Daily Sentinel, Bennet Goldstein)

LEMARS, Iowa (AP) — While Plymouth County farms may look empty and still without crops growing in the fields, farmers say their winter schedules are bustling with activity.

Dan Albert said he hears people joke about the meaning of the label “four-by-four,” which is often printed on the sides of some farmers’ pickup trucks. Four-by-four refers to four-wheel drive, Albert said.

Sometimes the public projects another meaning onto the label. “When farmers drive them, that means to the public you work four weeks in the spring and four weeks in the fall,” he said. “So we get harassed about that a lot.”

Albert, a farmer and past president of the Plymouth County Farm Bureau, said being a farmer is a full-time job, contrary to the four-by-four stereotype.

“You can always find something to do on a farm if you look hard enough,” he said.

Albert and his cousin currently farm grain during the growing season, and haul grain and machinery for people during the winter. “I have to have a sideline business. A lot of people do.”

Albert said he started harvesting his crop the last week of September and completed combining his fields by mid-­November.

He said farming has several seasons. Each month brings a new task that must be completed every year to run a farm smoothly.

After harvest, farmers often focus on bookkeeping and preparing their tax forms for the year. “You need to get all your bookwork done, and then have a pre-tax appointment so you can know where you are on taxes,” Albert said. “Farmers can buy ahead for their inputs next year and take it off this year’s income tax.”

Submitting tax forms involves crop planning for the next year, he added. That involves going to dealers and buying supplies ahead of time.

If there is a time where things slow down for grain farmers, it is January.

“Yes, there are slower times,” Albert said. “And that’s when you do everything else.”

For instance, in January, farmers are in the full swing of pricing the next year’s crop, he said, using a report from the previous year’s grain marketing cycle. “It’s a big gamble how you price things,” he said.

January also is when farmers start hauling grain out of bins, he said. They often sell corn and soybeans to merchandisers and ethanol plants.

Farmers who have heated shops also perform maintenance on their equipment for the upcoming spring planting season. “We seem to stay busy,” Albert said.

He said during his free time he cares for and rides horses.

“My downtime isn’t spent sitting around,” Albert said.

Livestock farmers also work during the winter months.

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