Custom Farming

There’s never a lack of things to do on a farm — mowing, plowing, seeding, fertilizing — the list goes on and on. In fact, there are so many chores to be accomplished that many farmers hire outside contractors to do some of the work for them, a practice commonly referred to as “custom farm work.”

According to a recent Ohio County Journal article, a large number of Ohio farmers are hiring “custom farmers” to provide machinery operations or other farm work that they don’t have the proper equipment, time or expertise to accomplish themselves.

Custom-farming contractors often tailor services to different groups: farmers, hobby farmers and landowners, who are often the largest consumer group for custom work.

“A lot of people move out here on 10 acres and think, it’s going to take care of itself, it’s nature,” said Josh Riddle, a custom-farm operator in a recent Capital Press article. “It’s not nature, it was farm ground. It’s just how to help them be stewards of the land.”

Riddle is a fourth-generation farmer in Washington who began his own custom-farming operation nearly a decade ago. He provides a variety of services — everything from seeding fields to applying custom fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides.

According to the University Extension at the Iowa State University, enlisting the help of a custom operator like Riddle can be particularly beneficial to farmers with small acreages who can still be productive without investing in a full line of machinery and helpful to farmers who are employed beyond the farm or who are retired.

Rates for custom farm work are wide ranging because of a multitude of variables — the size and shape of fields, condition of the crop, the mix of labor and machinery used, etc.

To help Ohio farmers better calculate and plan for costs associated with custom farm work, The Ohio State University Department of Agricultural, Environmental and Development Economics recently published the Ohio Farm Custom Rates for 2012 report.

Based on a survey of more than 120 farmers, custom operators, farm managers and landowners throughout the state, the report provides rates for a variety of farm functions, including:
Soil preparation
Fertilizer application
Chemical and mechanical control of weeds or insects
Planting operations — till and no-till
Grain harvesting, storing, drying and hauling
Hay baling
Machinery rental and labor

Do you or someone you know utilize custom-farming contractors? If yes, what work do you or they farm out?

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