You Grow, Girl!: Carrie Vollmer-Sanders
Editor’s note: This is the first in a series comprised of contributed pieces from female farmers around the globe – from the northern reaches of Canada, to the heartland of the U.S., to the western coast of Africa, to the rolling hills of France and beyond. The series aims to amplify the voice of female farmers who play vital roles in helping farms thrive. These amazing women nurture their families and fields. Here, they share their unique perspectives on food, family and farming. We hope that you enjoy their stories as much as we have enjoyed unearthing them.
“I don’t do that.” That was my answer to someone asking if I planted corn or soybeans.
My parents, husband Ryan and I have very specific jobs on our farm, and I don’t drive the tractor.
I don’t plant. I just don’t do that. My dad and husband plant our 1,000 acres of corn, soybeans and wheat.
Sure I know how to drive a tractor. Growing up we baled plenty of hay and wheat and even hauled hogs around with a 1950s Farmall H. I drove that small, red tractor all the time. It had no electronics, no cab and was worth about $10,000.
Like most family businesses, everyone pitches in to make it work.
April, May and June are corn and soybean planting seasons for us in Ohio and Indiana, three of the busiest months of the year. Each spring presents new opportunities and challenges and this spring was no exception.
My dad got sick this May and was in the hospital and was unable to drive the tractor. We were a man down and while we received many offers from friends and neighbors to come help us plant, we knew all of the other farmers were in the same position: it was go time for them too.
Go time is when the days are so busy you forget you haven’t eaten lunch.
You begin before the sun pokes up and when the sun goes down, you just turn the lights on. Go time is not a time to complain: You deal with breakdowns, constantly changing weather forecasts, and determining what fields to plant next because the soil conditions are better. We check the weather app so often you’d think it was the latest YouTube video.
Go time means all hands-on deck, except this year, we were down two very important hands.
Ryan asked me if I would plant soybeans and without thinking, I said, “Yes.”
Once the fields were dry enough to begin seeding, it set in that I really was going to plant. My tractor would be our new, big 8335R John Deere, a $200,000 tractor full of electronics, monitors, sensors and alarms, and each trip down the field it plants 48 rows of soybeans, 40 feet wide!
I had ridden back and forth in the field many times with Ryan, but we caught up on the day, we talked about how dry the next field was and we ate dinner. I certainly never paid attention to what lever or button did what, and although I have reviewed countless field maps, I have never been the one creating them.
In a few hours, my “I don’t do that” answer was about to change.
As I drove to the Walz farm, a farm dating back to the early 1900s that my family bought 40 years ago, the 3-mile drive seemed longer than usual, maybe because I took longer breaths than normal, or because I told myself many times, “I’ve got this.”
By the time I arrived at the field, I was ready to go. I also remembered that our boys practice their spelling words on the windows of the tractor cab with Ryan. I could use that whiteboard marker to write down the steps if it got too complicated.
Back-up plan in place, check.
Just days after my 37th birthday, I planted my first field of soybeans. I was nervous the first few rounds Ryan left me by myself, and driving 4-miles per hour felt like driving 60. Thankfully the new tractor has auto steer, so my rows were straight when I clicked the right button.
I had a few skips where I forgot to put the planter down in time and a few overlaps where I planted over the end rows, but I survived, the tractor didn’t break and the planter worked well.
I’m so proud of that 120-acre field. I hope God and Mother Nature water it well, and give it lots of sunshine to help those little seeds grow into beautiful, productive soybeans.
Now I can say, “Yeah, I do that!”
Read other posts from the “You Grow, Girl!” series, here.
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