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Opinion: It’s not the years, it’s the mileage

Local columnist

Modern farming involves a lot of driving.

There’s the drive to and from the field, which is likely to vary from no miles to fifty miles, depending on the spread of your operation. I’m not saying there aren’t further fields, but I’m going with confidence intervals, not absolutes today.

Then there’s the driving in the field. Back and forth and back and forth, or maybe around and around in a circle, or in certain cases, the patented D-Pattern. This is not only a lot of miles, but is done at a rather slow pace. I ran some quick estimations and by those figures, the average non-row-crop operation in the raising of a crop of wheat, on a quarter-section circle…might as well be a fifty miles.

Fifty miles. That’s not too far, right? An hour of driving time on the highway, sometimes less. But about the fastest operation, 35 feet at a time, is planting, and if you’ve got the latest double discs, no problems, a smooth field, and you don’t stop for anything, that’s 6 hours. Disking is slower, call it 6mph, that’s 8 hours and change, and likely to need done more than once a year. Harvest is the kicker, and you hope to go really slow. On a not so great year, you run the combine at 3mph most of the time (sometimes it’s faster, but we don’t want to remember those years.) At that speed, 16 hours, or one average workday is about right. On a significantly better year, you strain the slowness of the hydrostatic drive and cut along at a half a mile per hour. (Ah, the good days.) That’s a hundred hours. That’s nearly a whole week of work!

It’s not much of a stretch to figure a good five-thousand miles per year per farm-family member, just driving around on the place. Once you get old enough to drive to town, that about triples your mileage.

When the ranch is a hundred miles from the farm and the farm is ten miles from the house, and town is twenty miles, and the John Deere house is thirty, it adds up quick.

I’d be willing to bet that a busy farm kid puts in over a 100,000 miles before they are old enough to get that license that lets you drive off the place.

Audra Brown prefers to measure the days in meals, but it never adds up. Contact her at: [email protected]. Find out about her new books on the web at: