Rodger Funk and Production Changes since the 60’s

(Rodger Funk) I’m Rodger Funk. We actually purchased this farm from my wife’s father in ’62. Of course everything was irrigated at that time and we kept irrigating an increase in irrigation. What really changed all of that in the middle ’60s, Kansas University sent in what they call the KU Geological Team. As I remember, I think there were three of them and they had an office here in town and a couple of them came to our Sunday School class even. I think they were here about three years to study where this Ogallala really came from, because nobody knew at that time, they all were so sure it was an underground river. After they finally finished, actually I think it was about three years they were here; they had a meeting at the Community College at the Science building, which was new at that time. I went into the meeting and there really weren’t very many people there, but they announced that it was geologic water and when it was gone, it was going to be gone. It wasn’t being replaced like we all thought it was. I always remember coming home from that meeting feeling really down, because I’d always thought too that the water inexhaustible and I knew that we had to change our farming style and I think it was about that time that I decided we needed to learn to farm dryland. Because we’d been farming just irrigated at that time. We started buying land that we could farm dryland and that set us off on the focus that we’re still on I guess. Well we divided the dryland into three parts, 1/3 of it is wheat and 1/3 of it is milo and 1/3 of it is summer fallow. We farmed two crops in three years and the way it is now, we do about 1,800 acres of each one. We’ve already farmed so much more ground. When we started a lot of people made a living on 160 acres of irrigated. Of course that’s pretty small stuff anymore. But the equipment’s so much different and we farm it so much different. Well, we’re all no till anymore, we use chemicals for everything. But, I used to spend all winter moldboard plowing to get ready to plant milo again the next year. Now, nobody moldboard plows. They still do some tillage, but moldboarding is completely out. But, we did it because the neighbors did it so we thought we should do it too. Of course the crop yields have increased fantastically. We raise more on dryland now than we used to raise on irrigated. When I first started farming, irrigated milo about 60 bushel was about as much as you could raise. We had the Hundred Bushel Milo Club; everybody was trying to raise a hundred bushel milo. But we didn’t have hybrids, it was all open pollinated and we didn’t fertilize. There was real ceiling of not much more than 60 bushel. But once we got hybrids and started fertilizing, that increased. Last year we averaged over a 100-bushel milo on dryland. We seem to be getting along all right with the dryland, I think that’s the future; it’s going to be the future, because there’s not going to be anything else. I think we’ll be farming more dryland all the time. Of course it’s a little bit hard on the economy that irrigation makes more wheels turn than dryland does, but for us it’s been fine.

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