Pennsylvania Woodsman - A Grain Farmer's Perspective on Whitetails

Show Notes

On this week's episode of the Pennsylvania Woodsman, we are taking a slightly different course. With deer season right around the corner, we've been focused on preparation. From strategies to harvest your target, to meat preparation, we've got you covered for this fall. But everything revolves around filling an antlered deer tag these days. What about antlerless deer? Are enough being harvested in your area?

This week's guest is Dustin Kieffer from Mark M Kieffer and Son. Dustin is a third generation grain farmer in central Pennsylvania, farming around 3200 acres. After a quick back story on the operation, we dive into a controversial topic - too many deer. This episode does not have any motive or suggestion to the problem. It's simply to provide you the listener, a different perspective in the community. We discuss the changes in deer pressure over the previous decades, and how this operation is adjusting it's farming practices to the ever growing deer population in this region of the state.  We as deer hunters are not the only ones who appreciate deer. Some people depend on us harvesting them for their income!

Check out the Sportsmen's Empire Podcast Network for more relevant, outdoor content!

Show Transcript

You are listening to the Pennsylvania Woodsman, powered by Sportsman's Empire Podcast Network. This show is driven to provide relatable hunting and outdoor content in the keystone state and surrounding Northeast. On this show, you'll hear an array of perspectives from biologists and industry professionals to average Joes with a lifetime of knowledge, all centered around values, aiming to be better outdoors, men and women both in the field as well as home and daily life.

No clicks, no self-interest, just the light in the pursuit of creation. And now your host, the Pride of Pennsylvania, the man who shoots straight and won't steer you wrong. Johnny Apple. See himself. Mitchell Shirk. Mitchell Shirk. Mitchell Shirk.

Hey everybody. Thanks for tuning into this week's episode of the Pennsylvania Woodsman. And I must say I'm sick of summer. I thought it was over, but we are right back to this heat. It was freaking hot this Labor Day weekend. It was crazy, but it didn't [00:01:00] stop me from doing stuff. I just did a lot of sweating in the PO process.

Monday Labor Day, I went and I did a couple touch up things, filled up a water hole and hung a camera, made a mock scrap, did some things to get ready for my spot here, close to home. But then Sunday was the fun one. Sunday was the first day that I spent scouting for Bear. I went and scouted a piece of multiple pieces of public land in New Jersey for the opening of October Bear season.

And for those of you who don't know what that looks like they haven't had. A bear hunt for three years. Last year they, under emergency action, they had their segment B hunt, which is in December. And that also got postponed slightly. It was supposed to open on the opening day of their segment B firearm season, but it was postponed in court with anti hunters and was reopened late [00:02:00] on Tuesday afternoon of that week.

So a Tuesday afternoon into, through the rest of that week is when it had opened. But that was a tough hunt. It was the first time I'd ever been there, so I wanted to go in October. 'cause in my opinion, it's just way better time to connect on bears. The earlier the better is what I've learned from my own hunting experiences and networking with some other people who are good bear hunters.

Anyway. They are, they now have a bear management plan in place for the next five years. They're planning on having organized bear hunts, and I'm hoping to connect and participate in that. And I'd really like to shoot one with a bow the way it goes, this segment, a hunt that they have, I believe, opens October 9th.

It's a Monday and then it's, it it's open for one week with archery until Saturday, I believe the 14th. But halfway through that week is when a muzzle loader season opens up. It's a firearm season, and you can use basically an inline muzzle loader [00:03:00] or any legal muzzle loader like you'd have here in Pennsylvania.

But that's for three days. That's the end of the week. Thursday, Friday, Saturday, I am purchasing an archery license. I'm going with a bow. It is bow or bust for me on this week. Long hunt. And I did some scouting and I found some great stuff. The first spot I went to looked good and keep in mind the places that I was going I was a little bit spoiled, a little bit fortunate.

I I reached out to a couple people and I, I got the inside scoop on a couple of places that I should check out for bear. Specifically places that people had deer hunted in the past and said, used to be really good deer hunting, but there was so many bears that they feel that it impacted the quality of their deer hunting.

I checked it out and the first place I went to, not a lot of agriculture around it. It was mostly big woods with some swamps. Now there was people there, there was like camp, I don't know if it was a campground or what it was that I was hearing people in the, not, in the distance, [00:04:00] but there was bear sign there.

I could see that there was bear in the area. I found some tracks and swamps and beds and things like that, but most of it wasn't that fresh and there was nothing that was like, Ooh, this is, this looks really good. But anyway, I decided I had some cameras. I hung one at that spot and went to the second spot.

And the second spot was mind-boggling. I couldn't believe the things I was finding. I barely stepped foot in the woods. I was getting fresh bear scat. And I get to the edge of this lake and thiss grassland and there's just trails that any other time if you, if you glance at it, your deer hunter, you think, yeah, it's deer trail.

No big deal. But when you look closely at the trails, they're bear trails. There's no deer tracks in them. It was bear tracks. They were wider. And I started walking some of these paths and it was ridiculous of the places they led me into some thick, nasty cover, crawl on my hands and knees. Loaded with bear scat at a lot of transition edges.

Took me into an overgrown meadow that [00:05:00] was like loaded with golden rod and, shrubs and stuff like that. And it was just trails and beds in that places where they were laying and rolling around. And then I ended up working my way up to the edge of the public private land. And on the private land there was there was corn.

And when I got to that edge, I chased a bear. There was a, that was a, I, all I saw was a mature bear running away from me. And so right behind it I looked and outta the corn, here comes a couple cubs. So it was a South Cubs and I believe there was definitely two cubs. There might have actually been three cubs with her.

I think it was hazy and I was, looking through brush at the same time. 'cause I was like on the edge of the property. I was on the transition there and they ran into the woods. I heard the mother chomping her teeth and barking at 'em like they do to call 'em at, from danger.

So I was standing there thinking, wow, this was really cool. I actually got my phone out in time to video some of the cubs. Run into the brush, right? [00:06:00] And I'm sitting there and I'm looking at my phone, looking at, I'm thinking about access and the places I've been, I'm looking at my pins and I look up, and it was probably not even five minutes later, I looked and here comes the sow.

She comes back out of the woods and she turns and she's coming right to me and she has her ears pinned and she looks like she's not happy. And that was the first time that I was ever nervous in the Bear woods. I've been, I've bear hunted since I'm 12 years old. I've trailed wounded bear.

I've been on my hands and knees in some places, been around some big ones, and it never bothered me. But I always said if I ever ran into a situation with the sound cubs, that could potentially be a little frightening, and that was frightening. She she was coming right to me, and of course, I'm in the state of New Jersey, who, in my opinion, has some of the worst firearm laws that you could possibly imagine.

So I can't be carrying a pistol, and I, all I have is my pocket knife. So I got my pocket knife [00:07:00] thinking, this is the only hope I have if a bear attacks me. So I screamed at her and she put the brakes on and looked at me, and I screamed at her again, and she just turned around and she went back into woods.

Looking back on it now, She probably didn't know what I was when I came into the corn. She probably just heard a noise, ran off, called the Cubs, and then came back out once she had the Cubs to see what was going on. But I honestly thought that she was, there's a million things going through my mind.

One was the fact that, New Jersey has a growing bear population that hasn't been hunted. They're really not afraid of people. So just one more thing for her to not be afraid of me. And then of course, she's got cubs, if, I thought, God forbid there's another cub in the corn yet that she didn't get.

But anyway, it all worked out. I was like paranoid the rest of the time, but I still did a little bit of scouting, put a couple pins on. I I stuck a camera out. So I'm hoping to do one more scouting [00:08:00] mission, at least before I go for opening day. I'm planning on going down and hunting opening day.

It'd be nice if I could find, a few other spots just in case something happens with that one. But yeah, real exciting. Leading into this week's show, I wanted to take a little bit of a different course of action in our episodes. We're always doing a lot of things when it comes to preparing for hunting, season strategies, stories.

We did a lot of meat preparation stuff this year. So with that, I wanted to give a different perspective This week on our episode I have with me one of my one of my clients that I work with, Dustin Keefer from Mark m Keefer and Sun Farm in Central Pennsylvania. They're a grain operation farm, about 3,200 plus acres of and like I said, solely grain farmers.

And we're gonna talk about something pretty controversial. Too many deer. And I know there's so many places that would say that's not the [00:09:00] case. And farmers are complainers that, any amount of deer is too many. And I wanted to bring Dustin into the picture. I've had these conversations with him and mean, some of the biggest things we talk about are the things that are out of our control.

It's the lack of moisture and drought stricken soils, and deer pressure and groundhog pressure and tree lines. And a lot of those things are some of the biggest yield impacts. But the first result for this operation is not we're just gonna shoot a pile of deer. That's not the case.

It's quite interesting to see all the things that they are trying to do in order to maintain or increase their profitability as an operation, diversify their operation and combat. The ever-growing deer population in their area that would be fixed simply by shooting more deer.

But, the, that's not the easiest method. And they also have a mind that they enjoy hunting too. They enjoy wildlife, [00:10:00] they wanna work together with landowners in the surrounding neighborhood and not just eradicate deer. They're trying to work. But I'm bringing this up because in my opinion, to the places that go, I've said this before, there are some places in this state that have way too many deer that need and it's not a shoot a two or three dough a year, and it's fixed.

I'm talking, there needs to be dozens of deer shot in conjunction with quality habitat work done in the surrounding landscape. And that's one of the things we talk about. But this episode this week, it's really not, F there, there's really no finger pointing. There's no end game, there's no solutions, nothing like that.

This is solely just to give you an idea of what it's like being a grain farmer, how they're dealing with this what's been going on in the past, three generations in Mark Am Keefer and Sons through the lens of wildlife and [00:11:00] let, letting us think about another perspective.

'cause everybody thinks, and hunter, I shouldn't say that, everybody, but a lot of people think that because we are hunters and we pay for licenses, what we want is what's most important. But the whitetailed deer and gang populations in general they affect a lot more than just us. And I think it's important for there to be a balance, and I think putting different perspective, allowing you to maybe learn something from a grain operation might be worthwhile going into this season.

Hopefully if you're in an area where there's a lot of deer, but you're on your fence of whether you should shoot more, maybe this will help, you'll help a farmer out give you some different thoughts. So with that, let's let's get into this episode. Before we do, quick shout out for for our partners here.

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I had a water hole mock scrap combination. I wanted to get the perfect picture that I had both of that in frame and the ground mount ground mounts work perfectly. I also got some of their hang on tree stands in place as well as their ladders. I'm anxious to try them out. They're sturdy.

They were easy to set up. They've been quiet in the process as far as climbing in and out of them. Really excited to check out radox hunting and then also hunt worth. Guys, if you're looking to get, stock up on new clothing, if you're looking to go through your inventory and figure out what you do and don't need, condense the years of hunting clothing that you've got, one outfit for day for all the different weather scenarios you can find, get something from hunt worth that's going to be versatile.

It's gonna be quiet, keep you warm, cool, dry, whatever. It's, there's very versatile things within there. I really like the disruption pattern. They're they're [00:13:00] digital camouflage, but I've been really happy to use that. I'm anxious to use it into the fall. Really like their Lodi pack too.

I was using it this weekend when I was scouting. Comfortable, really distributes weight across my back nicely. So check out hunt worth. And with that, let's get to this episode. Joining me today on today's show, I'm sitting here with my friend Dustin Keefer. We're sitting here after doing a crop tour of your stuff.

So thanks for making this happen. We had to find the non-busy time of year to do this. Yeah, definitely. Yeah. It's a pleasure to be able to sit down and and chat about this. Absolutely. And it's better to do it in person. We were talking about that 'cause you like to listen to a bunch of podcasts.

I do. We were talking about it's so much nicer when it's in person and you got that because you just can't replace that with that phone conversation. Yeah. The podcasters, the guys that, the elite that are insist on doing it in person, it's just at another level than the ones that are done via Zoom or, via Yeah.

It's not the fly-by-night podcast like this one. Nah, no, this is good, man. [00:14:00] Oh man. This is gonna be a little bit of a unique conversation compared to what we're normally used to, just because we're gonna talk about wildlife and hunting for sure. But I wanted, W with what I do as an agronomist, I wanted to try to incorporate a conversation that un that helps people understand a little bit more about agriculture, what we do, and some of the issues that we face with your operation.

And just geographically speaking, because there are there's so much overabundance of crop damage and wildlife damage. And seeing it through the lens of somebody like yourself, I think gives people good perspective. That's a pretty good segue into let's you introduce yourself and who you are and what we're doing here.

Yeah. Yeah. Thanks Mitchell. Yeah, my name's Dustin Keefer. So I farm with my family in lower Northumberland County and I'm a fourth generation grain farmer and I moved back to the farm in 2013. So I've been, full-time grain farming now for about 10 years. [00:15:00] And I guess really what we're here to talk about is, the real marked increase in wildlife pressure and deer pressure that we've been seeing, for a long time, probably for, 20 plus years we've been just a consistent corn and soybean rotation.

And it's really been the last couple years that we've seen, wildlife pressure, deer pressure really begin to become a big problem. Taking down corn and soybean yields that we has caused us to have to think outside the box and look at alternate ways on how we farm to, to manage that.

Because the economic damages is quite significant in places it is. And it's one of those things that a lot of people don't quite understand. 'cause I think people just think you shoot deer in the fall and, there's, they're gonna feed on some, but it's all manageable, but dollars and cents counts, especially when we're talking about the level of input costs that we have right now.

Tell me a little bit more about. Like this operation. 'cause there's a lot of history in your family farm here and a lot of generations and you've taken the reins over over time. Yeah. My great-grandfather bought the home farm here in, in Reebok, in lower Northumberland County [00:16:00] in 1942.

My great-grandfather and then my grandfather farmed throughout the fifties and the sixties and the seventies with my dad coming on board. And somewhere in, in the mid seventies we made a, they made a conscious decision or shift to go to grain production, to move away from the more nostalgic old style farm that had a little bit of everything.

They had the truck patch of vegetables and the, the chickens and the beef and the pigs. Yeah. Dairy was never part of your operation. No, there was never part of the operation. So there in the mid seventies, they made a conscious decision to get into grain and had been really ever since predominantly corn and soybeans, wheat was a part of the rotation for a lot of years in the eighties.

But I think somewhere around 1991 or 1992 was the last, or excuse me, 2000. I'm almost a decade off. 2000 was the last wheat that we had grown. Oh, okay. I didn't realize that. Yeah. Yeah. We took a break from wheat now for, probably almost 20 years. We we've been working together now, but wheat's been something [00:17:00] we've brought back into our rotation probably four years ago.

Okay. Give everybody an idea like what the size of your operation is. 'cause a lot of people just think, home farm, family farm And stuff like that. And, there's ground you guys own, but you're grain farmers, so you're renting ground. Yep. And there's a little bit different level there.

Yeah, sure. We farm around a little more 3000 acres in lower Northumberland County, so Yeah. And it's a big chunk of ground. There's a lot of moving parts with that. Yeah. And what is unique about the geography? Where we're at in, in central PA is it's all small fields. Yeah. Okay. So you, you bump into other growers, from other states and the the efficiency of scale is way different.

Small fields to, to some farmers or growers is 30 or 40 acres or 75 acres, they're used to really big blocks, shooting from the cuff here, average field size for growers in central pa. Farming the shale hills that we're used to is probably five to five to 10 acres.

It's probably a pretty big size field. Absolutely. And then, one of the things I was thinking, so [00:18:00] you're, you've been back for 10 years, I think you said, and multiple generations here. And I'm sure the main question I wanted to ask you was, when you think about generational gaps and changes and stuff, a new generation, regardless of the aspect of life, is always gonna bring something new to the table, a different view, different point of view.

So I ask you that question, like when you come what's been your outlook? But I wanna preface it that by saying the conversations you've had with your father and family throughout the years do you have an idea of the view on farming? In this area from a generational standpoint, like how that's changed from your grandfather to your dad to now is were there any trends in that time that really stand out to you?

Yeah, just to go back to what I said just a minute ago, pat, my, my grandfather really spearheaded that change in the seventies to focus on grain. Yeah. Selling cattle, getting out of, out of chickens, getting out of poultry and focusing on, on one, one [00:19:00] enterprise, and I think it was in 1991 or 1992 when my dad was, when, being involved in it was the decision to go no-till.

That was probably one of the biggest pivotal decisions that, that we made as an operation was to get away from heavy tillage. Which It was huge for a ground quality standpoint from the soil health, from the stewardship of the ground. 'cause we have highly erodible, light soils.

Very, so to move away from the heavy tillage of the plow the disc and all those passes and moving towards a no-till system where we're not disturbing the soil was a really big change done in the early nineties. And that was a big change that, at that point, I'm assuming your dad had a lot of hand in, in taking over, making some of those big decisions.

Absolutely. Yep. And, then following that up to now you there's been a lot of big changes that have happened on this operation. Yeah. Since you've taken the reins over and give some ideas of how that transition's happened now with you and the new generation.

Yeah. So probably one of the, if I [00:20:00] had to sum it up in the last couple years, five to seven years the focus has been, diversification, risk management, and that has taken shape in, in the form of added crops. We're moving away from that corn soybean rotation that, for us carried so much more risk in terms of presence of drought.

We're always with the light soils that we have, the joke is, but it's not really a joke, is that you're never more than four or five days away from the drought. You absolutely, you need constant rain throughout July and August, in those critical pollination and grain fill periods.

So by bringing in multiple crops that look for that key weather at different times of the year, maybe some of it's false seeded small grains like barley and wheat or other spring crops now spread that risk out. It's similar to. The idea of diversifying your 4 0 1 K portfolio.

Yeah. You wouldn't wanna put all your investment in one stock, so you try to spread it out. Yeah. And from a from a, I lost my train of [00:21:00] thought here. You're, excuse me. Yeah. I lost my train of thought. I had a question. I had a question I was gonna ask you and forgot it. Oh, so one of the biggest things that we talk about shifting gears here when we're talking about management we talk a lot about the things that are out of our control.

You brought up moisture. Moisture is one of those things where we have very limited control. You talked about no-till. No-till is a practice that reduces the, reduces erosion purposes. It also retains moisture a little bit better, but there's for sure. But there's a ceiling in what your moisture holding capacity is in your soil.

The big one that we've talked about since I started working with you is wildlife, and we talk about water, wildlife pressure. We talk about tree lines, all things that have major limiting factors as far as maximizing yield, potential profitability. And that has changed. So as time has grown and I remembered the [00:22:00] question I was gonna ask you, but I'll shift gears now.

The, as you've gone through the generations, how have you seen that progress? From a wildlife standpoint it is definitely increasing. Okay. The time, if you look at it, if you were to chart it, I'm an engineer. I like data and charting and stuff like that, so my mind immediately goes to that.

It is definitely increasing on the x y scale, year by year we're seeing more and more deer. In places you can drive around with a spotlight and see it. At the night pretty exponential. Or has it been a gradual pace from the nineties or something on? Yeah, that's pretty, I guess that's pretty qualitative to, to take a stab at it.

I don't know if it's linear or exponential or what it is. Yeah. But it's definitely increasing. In the late nineties or early two thousands, there was a period of time where the deer were quote unquote, really bad. We remember that there was a lot of deer. Okay. And when deer season came around, and back then you hunted deer differently.

Yeah. You got a group of guys together, you filled out a roster, and you had this big party of guys, you had a good [00:23:00] time and you drove for deer. You put on concerted efforts and drives. But comparatively speaking, the deer pressure was minimal back then compared to where we're at now. Because it's interesting.

It's flat out unsustainable in some spots. If you have. The four acre, seven acre field that's surrounded on three sides by a considerable amount of bush. Now that is the FUD food source for a whole bunch of deer. And then with that perimeter also provides access for mainly groundhogs.

But some of your other little critters are gonna come and beat it up to, and it's, we have left go some of spots like that just because it's, not as sustainable. Profitable thing to do. Yeah, they basically just planting deer plots, food plots is what it ends up being.

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Yeah, and that's extremely expensive. People have no idea the amount of investment that it takes in [00:25:00] order to grow. That amount of biomass and for dear, keep in mind, and a lot of biologists will tell you that a mature whitetail will eat somewhere, I forget what the percentage of body weight is, but a lot of time it comes out somewhere between four and eight pounds of their body weight like four eight pounds of material plant matter based on their drive.

Wow. And that's a lot. I've never heard that. Yeah. It's crazy that's a lot. And that's a mature whitetail, there's certain points of the year it's gonna fluctuate based on bodily demands. When you're developing antlers and fa production, stuff like that. And that's gonna fluctuate.

And you're putting out a highly manicured field, high, high fertility plants are just nutrient exchanges for animals, is what we're talking about. So you're creating something that. Is is highly attractive. And the longer that goes on, the harder it becomes to make things like corn and soybeans profitable because corn and soybeans when you think of, so every big deer hunter that thinks of Midwest, they think corn and soybeans.

It's just the thing. And you talked about [00:26:00] diversifying your crop rotation. Correct me if I'm wrong, but deer and wildlife had a huge impact on some of those decisions in diversifying, correct? Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah. So it was really a two-pronged reason or two, two reasons that really drove the di the need for diversification.

One was drought tolerance. You were limiting the risk of drought and the other ones the wildlife damage. One thing that can make deer so destructive in corn is you talked about the biomass number. That's really cool to know. And it be one thing if they would take that from just.

An entire plant. But they don't, they go through almost like a salad bar, yeah. Like you, and just take with each nibble, take each plant outta production. You and I were joking today that a corn plant is very difficult to kill, but it's very easy to take outta production.

They just snip and bite the silk at the right time and, it's done. Yeah. And even what's crazy, a lot of people think that wildlife, deer in particular aren't going to eat corn until it gets to [00:27:00] that stage. Until you start to see the silk, the tassels pop out and you start to see the silks of the cob come out.

And that's where the damage is gonna come from. However, in some of the cases, in a lot of cases where we're at, where the populations are substantially high. They're annihilating corn when it's coming out of the ground, bingo. And that is, and it's grass. And that is the big. The big variable in it is how hungry are they?

How pressed are they from a population standpoint? What's their food? How much food source do they have in the bush, in, in the woods. And if they're becoming at an unsustainable population level, like maybe like they are in a suburbs or some of these, areas of that we farm, there's really no other food source.

So they're gonna come for what? For what they can eat, what's green? And then they'll start mowing down corn as soon as it comes up, or, and soybeans, they can almost do more economic damage to soybeans. 'cause they just continually take 'em down. The soybeans can't. Get ahead of it.

Can't grow. They'll just graze it like cattle and pasture, whereas [00:28:00] cattle and pasture, you'll move into another paddock grow. So pasture can recover. You can't move the deer off the soybeans. Yeah. Unfortunately not. The level of pressure is pretty crazy. So you brought up what's available in the bush, and this is one thing that I don't think a lot of.

General population quite understands. So like we're driving around the valley today and t today, what we did we took some time in our schedule and looked at crops together. Typically when I come work with you, I'm out scouting fields, you're busy doing a lot of field work.

We, we try to collaborate once a once multiple times a week sometimes. And try to come up with game plans that are gonna be advantageous to, maximize yield potential. And this time of year being down a little bit, we kinda like to assess and we're sitting pretty well as far as growing.

We have great growing, growing season. Crops look really good and we're driving around and we're looking we're looking at crops. One of the things I notice, and it's not just right where we're talk, we're sitting today, it's throughout the general area that I work in Eastern Pennsylvania.

When you look [00:29:00] at the surrounding. Vegetation, the surrounding wood type. Here's, there's a lot of low land stuff lot of walnut trees, which we were talking about that earlier. Walnut trees have allopathic abilities that they limit certain plant growth. Underneath that we've got a lot of invasive brush, automotive, honeysuckle, things like that.

Cauliflower rose. Yeah. Tree of heaven. Yeah. And what I've noticed happens is, the population of deer that are here, whether you think it's high or whether you don't think it's high the available food source that is naturally being produced is not being replenished because there's too many things that are inhabiting, whether it's too much overstory or there's too much invasives or things like that.

But what we're really getting into, in my opinion, is farming is A supplemental feed to carry the populations that we have. I personally feel there's above average populations of deer based on what I'm seeing. Many hunters when complain, they don't see deer. There's not [00:30:00] that we need more.

I truly believe we're able to sustain the deer population we have because of agriculture. You can take that in, you can take that into suburbia. It's the same thing. Think about the investment people do into landscaping yards and stuff like that. It's the same concept. There's supplemental feeding and they're living off of nothing in the woods, but that supplementation.

Yeah. You take that away. There's a problem for the overall herd. Yep. And it's, and the animal itself is such a resilient adaptive animal. People sometimes say oh, they're gonna get too, You're gonna get too pop, too dense of a population, then it'll start declining. I shake my head when I hear that.

Yeah. That's not how deer work. They just, they'll just find a way. Yeah. So when you're talking about diversifying, you said about four or five years ago, it was about when you had incorporated wheated into the conversation. But tell me a little bit about that transition. Like when did it get to a point where we gotta do something different because we're getting our tails kicked in some of these farms with corn and soybeans?

Yeah. [00:31:00] So we knew this for years, 20 13, 20 14. And one of the big changes was in 2018 we found out about sorghum. Sometimes it's called milo, it's a grass, like it's a grass crop that for a period of its growing season, looks like corn. But then it has a marked difference.

Has a real nice crimson, seed head that comes out. And it was recommended to us that, hey, this is something you ought to try. It's very drought tolerant. And the deer don't want to eat it. All right. Sounds cool. So we'll give it a shot. And like any, it's basically like from a business standpoint, like r d you're trying out a new, developing a new system, trying to see how it works for you.

You can ask a whole bunch of experts how to do things. So you integrate that practice into your system, into your production cycle. There's a lot of, a lot of tuition to pay. Yeah. Big time. A lot of things to learn. So sorghum has been one of the, one of the biggest helps and diversification from a Deere standpoint for us.

It's also very drought tolerant. So it's been serving two purposes there. And [00:32:00] we saw that last year in 2022, which was probably a one in 25 drought, just one of the, one of the worst droughts ever. And it hung in there, it, it still had to reduce yield. Yeah. But if there would have been corn on those acres, it would've been a whole lot less, percentage of yield.

And that's the one thing I wanted to help people understand. If you're, most people are used to seeing corn and soybeans and then there's other places where you might see nothing but grassland and hay and people don't understand. Why does that not happen? A lot of times it's wildlife, but from a grain perspective we were talking about this today.

We have fantastic growing conditions this year. You get fantastic growing conditions, ample moisture, ample sunshine. You stand to have pretty good profitability from corn and soybeans on those bumper years for sure. But sorghum is a little bit different in that, I don't wanna say it's defensive because it has the ability to flex out and be really profitable for you.

But it's taking that buffer off for you a little [00:33:00] bit because it's All the things you just said, it's drought tolerant, it handles the population better. And if we do run into a situation, it doesn't fall flat on its face quite the same as corn and soybeans. It's a boomer bust thing, and I don't think a lot of people understand that.

Yeah. Corn, for all intents and purposes with how much it costs to grow an acre of corn or soybeans you have to, at the very least, hit a triple C. Can you enlighten some people on what that looks like? Because I don't think anybody has a clue and that those are hard numbers to probably figure, but can you give us an idea what you look at for Yeah, there, it all depends like what people factor into costs and stuff like that.

But if I'm just gonna say if people start rolling everything together, seed and fertilizer and fuel and insurance and all the things to, in, the meme, all the things, it's gonna be 750 plus, probably an acre. And depending how it's managed, how much extra stuff is being put on it, what kind of seed decisions are made.

It's, there's so many variables, but you could easily probably spend a thousand dollars an acre to grow a crop. So a lot needs to come back to you. And [00:34:00] where so when you're talking about one of the things that people don't understand when you're talking about corn we think about corn a lot of time deer creatures of edge people's always say, and, they'll take those few outside rounds and they'll start eating that.

And it is, it's really hard to put a number to a value on a corn plant. But the thing that people don't understand is the biggest yield loss is when you lose population. And when that happens from the beginning, man, you are, lemme explain what population is population. Is like the amount of plants per acre.

Yeah. We throw that term around, but like for corn, you plant 30,000 seeds in the ground and you expect, somewhere north of 95% of them to make it to the end. But as, as they keep, as mother nature maybe the bugs in the spring or the deer. Or the deer, the turkeys will grab a few too.

Absolutely. Turkeys can along Bush. I just, can They play Pac-man? Yeah. They go right down the line and they wait for that little two inch [00:35:00] flag to come out and that tells 'em there's a yummy seed. Yeah. Down in the ground and they'll just go man down the line and pick him out. So that population gets decreased.

Now it's down to 25,000 or 20. Now you only, so those remaining. Plants can make up that much. They don't. Yeah. Maybe a little bit, but and we don't need to throw these numbers around, but if you wanna go up and look at what the grain markets are and the prices, it you already got an idea of how much it costs to invest into that.

And I can already tell you that if you drop 30,000 and you lose 5,000 plants per acre, from an average standpoint, you're talking about losing a substantial amount of yield. It's not like that percentage of stand loss is gonna equal the same percentage of yield loss. It's greater than that a lot of times.

For sure. You might be talking 20, 30%. That's huge possible. So that's a huge issue. So sorghum has worked really well. You've incorporated wheat. But the other thing that's interesting that we were looking, You've got sunflowers out too. We do. And that's been an experiment for you.

That's definitely research and development there. Yeah. But [00:36:00] talk a little bit about that because you're doing, when you talk about research and development, you've got a bunch of test plots out. This is not something you're just we're gonna try this on a field and see if it works. Like you're trying to figure out how to bring this into an operation scale.

And keep in mind when you're talking 3000 acres, there's, I'm just throwing numbers out, tell me if I'm wrong, but we're probably looking at what, five, 600 acres of sorghum? Yeah. We're over 500 acres of sorghum this year. The sunflowers we tried, I think we put 70 acres of full season sunflowers at home.

Yeah. And when I say full season, that was planted, early in spring. Yeah. And then corn and beans are still part of your irritation. Absolutely. But they're strategically placed. Yep. So we're and it's a really. Good to see this pie chart beginning, this be, begin to develop for us from a almost a split 50 50 corn and beans to now 20% sorghum, 30% corn.

Such and such percent soybeans. We have the two fall small grains, barley and wheat, and that gives us the barling wheat, gives us the ability to plant soybeans later. We can come back double [00:37:00] crop after the wheat and the barley comes off. So it just further helps diversify.

Now it's not all roses, it's not all, it's not all easy. All this stuff adds. Adds effort, adds cost, adds, inefficiency. So it's always a balancing act that I'm trying to, trying to look at. Yeah. The sunflowers though, you've, you right now you've got test plots out.

You've got strips that you're monitoring what certain varieties, there's different seed varieties within a plant species. We're looking at sunflowers that have different characteristics and which ones are gonna work best for your soil and can that come into your operation?

You're doing the same thing with sorghum and how do you balance it to then balance your harvest window and there's so much that goes into it and we could probably beat a dead horse in going down the logistics of farming from the beginning of the calendar year to the end of the calendar year.

I wanted to give those perspectives and I wanted to. Bug you with some thoughts of when people who don't understand agriculture, they just deer hunting. Let's just [00:38:00] look through the lens of somebody who is all about deer hunting. Whether they wanna see high volumes of deer, whether they they're like me and they wanna shoot a trophy buck.

And the logic there, there's a there I've heard very generic statements and I'm just gonna throw generic statements out at you and see what your thoughts are. But first of all, a lot of people say why do I care if I wanna shoot deer? If I'm interested in deer? Why does that matter to me?

If you're struggling? You're just adapting. That's just life. And there's more to it. And I wanna know your reaction to some of that stuff. Yeah. And that's understandable. I, at one point in my life was a big sportsman as well. I did a whole lot of bow hunting, years ago and a whole lot of rifle hunting.

I don't have as much time to do that anymore. I still getting enjoy getting out with the rifle and it's still, I still get that pump. When I see the, when I see the, when I see the buck walk up to me or when I see even just out with the spotlight, you get to see that really big buck.

Yeah. So like I, I get that same adrenaline drive and I totally get it, and a lot of it just comes from just not under, those type of comments just come from not understanding, what goes into it, what [00:39:00] goes into farming, the effort. So it's understandable.

It is understandable, but I think perspective in the big picture, because we get stuck and I've talked about this so many times, but I think we get stuck narrow-mindedness of almost like the, is I, is idolizing the word I'm looking for? Just that lot that thought of. The, this big buck that I'm after or this desire to see a certain amount of deer.

Like we get so fixated on that when there's so many more important things in life. And it, a lot of the time, the angle I come from is just the time you spend doing something that you love and the time you take away from family. But the other end of that is the big picture from the surrounding habitat and the impact it has on folks like yourself who are feeding America.

Yeah. That really remind, you asked me about what kind of changes have I seen generally generationally from farming. That kind of sparks there's been big generational changes in hunting as well. Big time. [00:40:00] And when I think back, even just in the time that I've been hunting, I'm 42, 12 30 years, it was way more, when I was younger, it was way more about the experience. Way more about the comradery with the other men. The camp life or the roster life, coming back to process those deer and it's that shared experience and, I get it. I'm not in any way bashing it, but it has shifted way more towards the hunting of the trophy, an individual sport.

Yes. It's an individual sport now. I'd say with some people it has really flipped where years ago, the quote unquote right way, I'm not saying one's right or one's wrong. But, the accepted way to hunt years ago was be part of a group. You put a big drive on, on the mountains and the bushes and.

You weren't as concerned about, getting the trophy buck because you shot what came to you. Yeah. When the six point came, it was your turn. That was the buck. You, that was the buck. You had an opportunity. I, and every once in a while, maybe every five years, 10 years, you had a awesome shot at a really nice buck.

But there was no scouting, no, none of that [00:41:00] stuff that, that goes on today. Now fast forward to today, it's much more of a, you said an individualized sport. Much more focused on equipment and scouting and scent. And don't get me wrong, you spend the time at it, that is absolutely the way to shoot a trophy buck.

Certainly lots of guys do it. Every, the success rate has probably drastically increased where maybe someone hunting the camp life way or the roster might shoot a trophy buck once every 10 years. Now if you put the time in the, you can do it annually. 80 hours, 220 hours, 200 hours of fall, I don't know. Yeah. Piles of time. And really know your area and know your craft, you can absolutely, increase your chances of taking a trophy buck fairly regularly. And that was the one thing I wanted to highlight too, because you and your family enjoy hunting. Like we, we've already established that.

You guys enjoy My dad especially, that is my dad's like passion. He loves yeah. So much so that there's six or seven acres up here that came outta production to just be deer. Yeah. It's his deer field in front of his new tree stand. Exactly. So bring that into perspective. Keep in [00:42:00] mind you guys don't wanna rid the world of something that's causing you right.

Financial stress because you guys enjoy it and, we, we talk about the individualistic stuff and have us like putting food plots out to harvest deer and stuff. There's nothing wrong with that. I wanted people to think about it from the perspective of everybody needs to know what's best for them, but at the same time, keep in mind the scope of.

How self-centered you get within this, because I've put the blinders on trying to shoot a big deer. It has robbed me from time with my family and stress in that case. Another thing that I can do when I think you think about the population or, I'm not gonna, I'm gonna shoot a trophy buck and I'm gonna hold out until I do that, and then maybe I'll think about harvesting an antlerless deer.

You're, we could make the argument you're shooting yourself in the foot in the long run for what you could possibly do in a hunting season, bringing meat in. But you're not helping out for the greater good of your surrounding area, whether it's for [00:43:00] farming, whether it's for the native habitat and, carrying capacity issues.

And that's a whole different conversation. But I think it's still important to bring into the conversation. Think about it from outside of your filling my buck tag. Yeah. You said dough hunting. Dough hunting has taken. It has a much different meaning now for a lot of people because, you look at it through the lens of the camp life or the hunting group.

That was just another way to be together as a group and to spend time with friends and family. And then, as you bagged a couple dough, now you had, most guys would butcher them together. Do that post-processing. Maybe that took one or two times. You, now you have another opportunity to get the guys together and build that camaraderie that is very rare today.

And now it's more transactional. You get a dough, it has to go to the butcher, you're by yourself. It's work to get these things out by themselves. And it's not a, the juice isn't worth the squeeze for a lot of people, [00:44:00] so I'm gonna let the dough go.

I'm just really looking for the trophy. Not as interested in the meat or the experience. You so I don't need to. So there's a lot of folks out there and I get it, but don't seem to be too interested in shooting dough. Yeah. The the comradery aspect, I've talked about I'm fortunate I still belong to a cabin where we have that comradery aspect, and I think it's good.

We talked about this in the past and I wanted to revisit it. You talked about what kind of positive positivity that has for your own mental health throughout the busy time of the year, but even when you're talking about younger generations I think that's big. And you talked about that a little bit.

Like what, like that was important to you growing up and that was things that, it's time with the guys and freedom and stuff and it's good to instill into the youth in some of that case. Yeah. For the most part it was a male only space. There was.

Ob obviously, sometimes some ladies would hunt and this and that, but it was a really great opportunity for young boys to see their dads interact with their friends, to see their grandfathers interact with their peers, [00:45:00] and, learn history, learn how to conduct yourself in that kind, in a, in in, in the environment, out and about.

And like I said, I kinda look at it through, nostalgic lens because a lot of ways that kind of stuff, that kind of opportunity for our boys doesn't exist anymore. It's tough. Yeah. It's not the same. So it's not the same. It's, I think you think about kids and what they've got wrapped up nowadays, whether it's baseball, football, and a lot of that's group sports stuff with kids and stuff like that.

It's, I think it's a little bit easier to incorporate a kid into something like that when there's a group of people involved. Let's face it, we're in the day and age now where everybody's complaining about kids having their nose in a screen. And I question, and I'm genuinely wondering what I'm gonna do as a father, as my kids grow older, and not necessarily saying they're gonna be deprived of that, but incorporating them into the things that are truly enjoyable, meaningful, and like things that are just [00:46:00] as, as good old Ted Nugent says, good for the soul.

Right on. And that's really tough. And I think the camaraderie aspect of it I we're talking about something that there's like a division within the hunting community. There's definitely like the mindset of solo. I'm gonna set my property up with minimal intrusion and I'm gonna shoot the best buck and try to bring the whole entire herd to this.

And then there's the other side of things where we've talked about we're gonna try to do as many drives and stuff as possible. And we're gonna have fun doing that. Personally, there's nothing wrong with either style of hunting. Whe whether or not you like the other style of hunting or not.

Keep in mind there's nothing wrong with that. So if you're listening to this and you're into property management, I love doing that stuff. There's not, there, there's nothing wrong with Dustin in your group going to shoot a bunch of deer because you have different goals and objectives than I do.

What I don't know and this is if your goal and objective is to shoot a trophy buck every. Year, every two years, you really enjoy [00:47:00] checking trail cams and scouting. That is absolutely the way to accomplish that goal. That's your goal. That's the way to go about it.

And this is a tough question to answer. This is just open-ended thought. What do we gotta do as a community to somehow meet in the middle? And I don't know what the answer is to that. And from your lens through agriculture, I wonder what your perspective is? Yeah. I really don't know what the answer to that would be for us as a business.

It's been to, to adapt to maybe play defense or be reactive in terms of the crops that we grow. There's other practice changes that we've made too. Yeah. But probably the biggest difference was growing different crops we're also. Removing the amount of strips, so if you visualize, that's a great point we gotta touch on.

If you visualize a big hill, big highly erodible hillside, maybe it's 35, 40 acres that goes from said township road up to the mountain. Years ago that was quote unquote stripped off like a comb. Yep. Maybe 30 or 45 foot strips when they did it with horses. Over the years, those strips have increased as [00:48:00] the equipment has increased in size.

And we are at maybe a 180 to 200 some foot strip. But each field edge you have carries inefficiency. We gotta go in there with multiple times for the multiple crops and turn around and drive stuff down. There's overlap and things that happen, but what's bigger is those field edges are like buffet lines.

Bingo. It was eyeopening two years ago. I was walking some fields checking and I happened to just hop in the field edge to make some time. And there was tracks like. All over the place. Yeah. Right where that corn and soybean line met in that joint between the corn and soybeans. They just walk it like a highway.

And they say I'm gonna, I'm gonna hop off here at McDonald's or I'm just gonna go down the road a little bit and get off of Burger King. So it serves as like a highway for 'em. And by now we call it farming in blocks, but farming the entire thing in one crop. And doing other things to mitigate erosion.

That's been huge for for wildlife, for deer damage. 'cause it eliminates all those ingress [00:49:00] Yeah. Points. The more that you can make it a block, the less of that edge damage you're gonna have, which is ultimately gonna reduce how far in they go and reduce that feeding. Which is really important.

I'm glad you brought that up. It's I struggle with it all the time 'cause I'm stuck somewhere in the middle. 'cause I've told you this I love Yeah. You're a sportsman obviously. I love it. I mean I've I always have, but I'm not afraid to shoot some deer. Talking about measures of trying to alleviate this let's you're, from your perspective, you're trying to adjust your crop rotation to maintain profitability.

Increase profit, your goal is to increase it all the time. We don't wanna stay stagnant in any cases. So crop rotation, the practices in which you orient when we still can't have. The level of control from the wildlife side of things. This isn't something you're doing, but I know it's something that happens throughout the country and even in parts of the state where you're gonna start to incorporate crop damage harvest into that for sure. And that is a completely legal thing to do. It. There's a process [00:50:00] in which farmers can do it, but it's really not what you want to do for a couple reasons, right? Yeah. Some growers definitely choose to go that path, and there's varying levels. One tool that, that in, in our toolbox that we encourage and we use quite a bit, Pennsylvania Gain Commission has the Dmat program.

Deer Management Assistant Program. You got it. So that's a pretty darn good program because it lets landowners get more dough tags. Yeah. And those landowners can control how, who gets those coupons and it can give a landowner the ability to harvest a few more dough from. Their property in deer season.

Okay. So Dmap is additional dough tags in deer season, correct? It does, I can never quite keep track of this, but it lets you shoot dough in rifle season when Buck are in. So I dunno if they still have that. Yeah, I think now they changed it, that it's hard to keep up with, isn't it? It is. I'm pretty sure last year they finally con conjoined dough and buck season again for the first week.

But there was a time yes, where the first week of the season was buck only. And then the second weekend is when DOE opened [00:51:00] up. But during that first week, you could shoot a dough and that's one of my biggest arguments I've had from a population standpoint is the minute the gun start cracking.

Yes. That adds pressure. And the perfect example I'm gonna give with this, I hunted. Last year New Jersey had a statewide emergency action plan to incorporate a bear season. And they hadn't had a bear hunt in two or three years. And man, I was hearing stories of farmers that were killing multiple bear in a day for crop damage.

And there's all these human conflict interactions. I'm thinking, man, I might have a good chance of coinciding with a bear on this hunt. And leading up to the season, it was closed off due to an anti-hunting protest and it, they closed it for the first two days, but then it got reopened midweek.

So I went down and learned quickly that the amount of hunting pressure that occurred during the first two days of their firearm season hold stuff up in swamps. So even though there's a high population, they know the pressure's there and they know where to go shape, they know that pressure and they hold.

And the same thing with the deer. Absolutely the same thing with deer. Once that mountain or that bush or [00:52:00] those, that wood lott gets tracked up with scent and a couple guns crack. They. They go nocturnal. And they have to be pushed. And that to loop back to the whole not driving or not getting, moving away from that idea of getting guys together. Now you rely on natural movement and once they've been pressured, that natural movement contracts to like maybe a little bit in the morning and maybe a little bit at night. And it's usually not the biggest ones that wanna do that.

Yeah. It's the, so you gotta move them. Exactly. And I'm gonna talk outta both sides of my mouth here on this conversation because I've talked strategies of how to make that better when the guns start cracking. If you wanna see a bucket to the next age class, there's strategies to do that. The problem is how are you going to find the balance?

And I think it's really hard for all of us, and it's, like I said we're we this whole conversation, none of it's gonna give answers. Sure. But it's hoping to give perspective. Yeah. Because if you have that property that has the lack of pressure that deer are going to go to, I think it's a great opportunity [00:53:00] for you to really assess how many deer are utilizing their property after the season.

And when you go in there what's the browse pressure like I, is there an overabundance to the point where it's gonna have an impact on your property? 'cause for the long term, that's gonna have effects for you while it's having immediate effects on you as the farmer. If that makes sense. Yeah, for sure.

Yeah, I from the end of farming and stuff. Was there stuff that I skimmed over or things I missed? When it comes to your operation of what you're trying to do in order to be combative against this, because f from my point of view, we're talking we complain about deer a lot, but at the same time, I think you, you as an operation do a very good job of being conformative a amidst an area that's very high in its hunting heritage.

A lot of landowners like their hunting and want to take the well, and that and to back to your earlier question, I got sidetracked there with the whole DM a thing. But yeah, there, there is the ability for growers to get [00:54:00] help from the game commission to take deer outta season, to crop damage, deer, whatever you want to call it.

We've chosen not to do that, because we're a sportsmen as well and we understand that a lot of our neighbors and friends and. And relatives and landowners are sportsman too. So that's been, the driving reason why our course of action has been more defensive or reactive.

But at the same time, what really concerns me is that, back to that exponential or linear, yeah. Where's the gap in your chart? It it's not heading in a good direction. We keep getting increased populations and increased populations. It's just. It becomes it's almost unsustainable.

Yeah. And then you're, then that's where you run into the side where we talked about DMM A and stuff like that. The state also has the the program. It was formerly known as the Red Tag Program. Now it's now it's, they deemed it something different now. Oh. Renamed it. It renamed it. And it's the.

They're quite so mean. The orientation of it is a little bit different. So years ago, correct me if I'm wrong, I think for the red tag you enrolled and then all the [00:55:00] paperwork side of things, relied on you, like you had to issue the tag and then they came to you and you did the reporting and now it's like a it's, they're called ag tags.

Basically you're allocated a certain amount of coupons and then somebody wants to come onto the farm and shoot a deer during that timeframe, which I think is somewhere between August leading up to season, and then it goes from about February, about till April 15th. When you, when they have that extended ag tag season, you hand them a coupon and they're, they then process that and they get an ag tag.

Antlerless deer tag. Okay. And then the rest of the reporting goes on them. So that's a, that's another option that some people are utilizing, but now you're increasing that, that harvest window increasing pressure on deer and when you start to get into that things that it's great for you.

Yeah. It causes some stress in the neighborhood and for sure. One of the biggest concerns you had. You can't, you don't wanna lose ground, you don't wanna develop bad relationships. No. That's relationships that have been built generationally. Yeah. [00:56:00] That's pivotal to our business people, people that are critical to our business.

We don't, are interested in, in, hurting that relationship. But, another important thing to, for your listeners to realize is that it's not just a problem of two or three deer that's taken care of. It is big in places. And to give a perspective of how like dozens of deer need to remove, be removed from different places.

So it's, it now becomes, like how in the world do you do such a thing? Yeah. And it's not oh, we're gonna go shoot two deer and now the problem's solved. Yeah. It's it's way bigger than that. Yeah. And the to give a perspective of how bad it is, you have fields that are 20, 30 acres of soybeans that this year we were concerned that they were going to create a harvestable population.

And it was coupled because number one, we did have a very dry spell in the beginning of the year and slow growth. But the amount of deer pressure that happened, it, it brought it to the point where we thought they were gonna be over browsed and not recover. And that's a huge [00:57:00] investment.

Yep. Yep. So some other tools that are in our toolbox that we're trying, there, there is new products, spray products that come out every year that are label, that are referred to as wildlife repellents. Yeah. Some of 'em are bone meal products that smell really bad or others are pepper or capsaicin based.

None of them to date work that well most. No. I think we have like Mexican deer and they like, it's like salad dressing. Yeah. Maybe. Yeah. It's ooh, there's salsa on it. Most of the problem with those things is they're not rain, they're not rain fast. So you spend all this effort, all these dollars, you go spray a bunch of things and.

Two days later, it rains, it's all gone. At some point, there's probably gonna be some good products that come out that are what we would call systemic. They stay in the plant, they create some bittering agent or for some reason discouraged deer. But back to my earlier comment, once they get so hungry, they're gonna, they're gonna eat what they need to.

Absolutely. So it'll discourage 'em, to a point. Yeah. One of the things I posted on I posted on my page on Instagram a couple times is I have some other [00:58:00] growers that are actually putting up fences. They're putting up dual perimeter, electric fences with a solar panel, and that's another form of repellent that, that's a huge investment.

Not necessarily from the financial, there's definitely a financial aspect, but with the amount of grain that you can retain back in one year you may pay for that. In one season with the amount of pressure you have. Yes. But it's a huge time investment. Very much. And so I bring that into your perspective with the amount of acres that you farm times of the essence when you're, when it's time to get work done.

So if we go out and say we're also gonna start putting up fences around everything, that's just not feasible. Yeah. For me that, we talked about that a bit and it is a really effective idea. But it, for us, it just really wasn't feasible. And it's, again, one of the reasons why we shifted in the direction that we're going with, growing alternative crops.

And like I said, you talked about those alternative crops and again you're growing sorghum because it's better for that. And deer sorghum, I put sorghum in food plots, but they're gonna eat it when the heads come out. Yeah. That's an important an important thing to point out there about sorghum is like [00:59:00] throughout the vegetative state, while it's growing, the deer almost don't even wanna walk through it.

For some reason, yeah. They won't eat it. They won't browse it. Once the grain becomes what we, farmers will call fit or physiologically mature, ready to harvest. It almost flips like a snap of a finger and becomes very attractive food. And they'll just come and start eating the heads and they can take, coming from on the bush edges, deer can take from a field of sorghum in 10 days or two weeks in terms of yield from sorghum, what it took them all season to take from corn.

So harvest, one of the, one of the biggest bugaboos about sorghum is harvest timing. Yeah. Once it's ready, that needs to be the focus. You have to be prepared and ready from a manpower and equipment standpoint to go harvest a sorghum. Because letting it stand for two weeks or four weeks, or eight weeks too long, they'll.

The deer will come and eat the yield away from you. And then you talked about barley and wheat, which barley and wheat are really unique in that in the wintertime, that it does get grazed really heavy by deer. But it does such a good job of [01:00:00] bouncing back and retaining grazed. One thing I think that people don't realize is you're doing the.

Wildlife of benefit in a case by putting out something like that and harvesting a grain that you're able to retain profitability. So you talked about cereal, grains and then tinkering with sunflowers, which, still has some wildlife attraction, but it's diversifying to the point where, hopefully there's enough variety out there that, you're gonna get those concentrated selectors and you're gonna hopefully overwhelm them with different things that are gonna mature at different times, have different characters, hopefully that yeah.

Alleviates that. And I think that's really important to to understand. But a lot of this doesn't come. And I think that's the hardest thing for people to understand. People just say why don't you grow this? Why don't you do this? Why don't you do this? It's really hard to put that into an operation scale when you've got this much investment on the line.

Yeah. Yep. Yeah. It's all managing risk. You gotta start off small if you wanna try something new and, learn it. I hate to use the word perfect it, but try to, get the bugs worked out, where's it was. Something that can be done. At scale. I really appreciate this [01:01:00] conversation.

I really appreciate the way this goes. One thing I'd like like for you to close this with is give us an idea of what you've, from where you've come to, where would you like to go within your operation? And that could be that could be anywhere down the road. I'm curious, just to give people an idea of the goals of a grain farmer in Pennsylvania.

I think I, I really feel like we're at an inflection point right now, and I would really we've, we actually started on this in the last year or two to head down a path that is more regenerative labels get thrown around too much these days, you're organic and this and that. So I'll use the regenerative label.

But what that means to us is that we're gonna be using more and more cover crops. We're gonna be even more mindful of soil health, trying to reduce the use of synthetic fertilizers, reduce the use of synthetic herbicides. Were possible and. Even possibly integrate animals. That's from a soil health standpoint, that is really the pinnacle, or the keystone [01:02:00] is integrating animals onto an acre.

You talk about getting something ready for production scale, that's way out. But but that is really the direction that I would love to, love to see us continue to go on is taking more, we've, I think we've always done a great job, but absolutely. But as the industry learns more about what we should be doing in terms of soil health, I wanna be on the wave that's riding that in the future and doing what we can.

And let me throw this into that too, because there, there's probably people listening to this that are. Knowledgeable when it comes to regenerative ag. They're knowledgeable when it comes to cover crops and soil health and and think why aren't you doing this? This is the way to like that's just stupid that you wouldn't be doing that.

Yeah. Just turn the key in and yeah, stick the key in and turn it and go organic or go this or that. The Im, the implementation of some of those practices are not easy. When you think about how we've developed and it's nobody's fault. It's been the learning curve of agriculture.

You think about. Where we've come from the [01:03:00] dust bowl to the regenerative no-till practice we have now, it's been a learning curve, but in like we, we can't tap into a farmer's pocket just because it's gonna keep somebody's narrative happy. Like that's something I will stress home.

And I had a conversation with somebody who was not agricultural, ag minded, but they were very biologically minded, understood plants, understood the basis of farming, and had some really negative comments about farmers and what they do. I'm like, you have no idea the amount of work and effort and things that farmers do in order to maintain profitability and to just say that we need to stop doing this certain practice or, the things that you don't need all those chemicals, you don't need all that nitrogen.

The air has nitrogen. Just produce it in the soil. Make it, yeah, exactly. How do you make it plan available? How do you do this? How do you do that? How do you time this? And there's that's a, that's, there's a million other podcasts for that. We could probably go down a rabbit hole conversation to people wouldn't wanna listen to for this big, but that, that sentiment and that lack of understanding.

In the general public is really the fault of farming, that we don't really tell our own story. We've been [01:04:00] so good at working and taking care of the land and doing what we need to. Farmers don't, in general, make it a point to be out there telling their story on social media and on YouTube. Now that is really starting to change.

There's a lot of influencers that are really telling the story well of what farmers are doing. But, for a lot of years our story wasn't really being told. Have you had experiences in your life, whether it's with landowners or just people that you know, that you were able to enlighten just 'cause of what you do and it's, whoa, that's way more than I expected it to be different.

Yeah. All the time. I really enjoy it. I really enjoy having the opportunity to like this platform here I appreciate, but when I bump into somebody that's not familiar with farming or agriculture it's really a fun experience to, help. Broaden the horizon just a little bit with what goes into it.

It is, and like I said, I didn't have any narrative or agenda with this conversation. I just wanted it to give perspective. 'cause as this airs, we're less than a month away from the hunting season, and everybody's got their ideas of what they wanna do and how they wanna do it. And I just wanted to keep people in mind that look whether you're you [01:05:00] think one way or another, keep some other people in your mind as you're hunting too.

It's, it doesn't have to be so individualistic, whether that means you're shooting a, you're just shooting your buck. Maybe it's you're just shooting a, a dough if to fill your freezer. But the impact that has is greater than just you pulling the trigger. There's a greater impact in that.

And it comes to the, it comes to the population thing. That's gonna be a continual problem. I know, letting people listen to, the struggles that you have as a farmer isn't gonna just automatically flip a switch and we're gonna start shooting more deer. I wish that'd be the case in some places, but I know it won't be.

It really comes back to what you said when it comes to former outreach, education, and understanding of what's actually happening. Yeah. And that's what we're trying, but no this has been good. I think it's a good point to, to end it. I know you try to do a little bit of social media here and there for your, for you take videos and stuff and send it to your clients and stuff, but you actually put anything out that people can see, like you in the grain bins or doing something cool like that.

I don't have any social media accounts [01:06:00] yet that are forward facing for the farm. We did just set up a website though, so if you go to, yeah, if you go to Key for n, that's k i e. E r a n d s o That's our new website. Okay. That we just set up. That's archaic now to point people to websites instead of your Twitter or your Instagram.

But that's where I'm at. Yeah. But you know what I like that better anyway, because you don't have the other junk that gets piled in with social media next to a page like that. But No, that's good. And there's a lot of other cool things we probably could have talked about, but I think that's a good way to put it.

So just some perspective. I appreciate your perspective because you and your family enjoy hunting For sure. You're not looking to eradicate something. And I say that because I work with growers that have that mindset. Yeah. And I can totally see how growers can develop that. Absolutely. There are, I've, I totally get it.

I've heard had conversations with growers that when they hear c w d, that's like an angel singing to them. It's like a good thing to them. Yeah. Yeah. And that's not good either. No, that's not good for [01:07:00] the animals. It's good for the population. No it's terrible in all cases. Point, we all suffer from that.

And but like you said, there's gotta be a middle ground somewhere and, it's probably a combination of, education and people starting to understand a little bit more, things like the Dmat program are great. Maybe just having more people have access to, to, to hunting grounds.

Yeah. Do you get the doors pounded throughout the years of people that wanna hunt? Any ground that you guys own? Not a whole lot. Not like it used to be, honestly. Yeah. Years ago there used to be a lot of cold call people stopping in. But I think the The understanding that understanding prospective hunters should build a relationship with their landowners is becoming known A lot more people, call up and say, Hey, can I hunt some groundhogs in summer?

And they'll work at maybe building a relationship that way. Or can I hunt a little bit of Turkey? And then they'll work into finding a spot somewhere on our ground to hunt deer. That business of people stopping in the first day of deer season and knocking on your door, that I don't, that doesn't really happen [01:08:00] much anymore.

So it, we still get people interested, but they're, I'll say doing it the right way. They're trying to build a relationship, add a bit of value, and, and to get the opportunity to, to hunt. And that's important this day and age, just because, somebody comes onto your land you wanna know that they're a responsible individual.

And that's a whole other can of worms. But Yeah. Yeah, I would definitely encourage and listeners, if they don't have. Really good access to hunting ground, to try to build a relationship with a landowner, a farmer. Try to find a way to add value to them. Maybe you can offer to help unload some hay or straw in the summer or shoot groundhogs.

It's a great way to develop your long range skills and get rid of a couple pesky critters for a farmer. And you've created a way to build a relationship with that landowner and maybe have a opportunity to find yourself a good spot in a great hollow cross even fall.

Yeah. And I know, like from your perspective it's not a burden when there's intent greater than my own self-interest of shooting deer. That's important to you as a landowner and a farmer that. [01:09:00] Like I would appreciate your help and stuff, even if it's just as simple as leaving it better than the way you found it when you step onto my property.

That, that's important because a landowner is gonna be concerned about liability too. Yeah. They just let any old person that they don't know come on, their first thought is this person going to be safe, or am I gonna get bullet holes in my roof or my farm pickup, or something like that. So that building relationship with a prospective landowner that you wanna.

Hunt on rather than just knocking and saying, can I hunt up there? Yeah. Is huge. Yeah. And I, I think that goes back to what we were talking about and how things have changed. Like the pace of life is really fast now and I think it always is getting faster and I think in some, on something like that, the more you can slow down, I think the better long term approach you have, if you wanna hunt ground that somebody owns like that, get back to the good old fashioned, just build a relationship.

Yeah. Yeah. And then you still have potential to accomplish your goals over time, but in incorporate that. So I think that's a good place to, to leave it. Appreciate anything you wanna leave us with? Nah, I think this was a great [01:10:00] podcast. A great, great conversation to really appreciate the opportunity to this.

We're biased. We like farming. Yeah. Wasn't too hard of a, too heavy of a lift. All right. Good deal.