Beginning last Monday, the staff from the Lincoln office visited one
farm per day at noontime, delivering a hearty meal and encouraging
farmers to remember to take breaks during the hectic harvest season.
Those they visited were the Dale Lessen farm between Hartsburg
and Lincoln on Monday, the Allan Heyen farm southeast of Greenview
on Tuesday, the Norm Maxheimer farm between Mount Pulaski and
Broadwell on Wednesday, and on Thursday they went to the John Adams
farm between Atlanta and Armington.
On Friday, Farm Credit Services wrapped up their week with a
visit to the Kevin Leesman farm.
The Leesman farm is located north of Lincoln on Nicholson Road,
between Hartsburg and Atlanta. The farm consists of approximately
1,000 acres of crop production; plus, the family raises beef cattle
and has additional acreage in pasture lands.
As of noon on Friday, Leesman said that there was still about 100
acres of corn in the field and that the soybeans are not quite
ready. On the whole, harvest this year has gone much differently
than last year.
Last season, rains kept farmers out of the fields at harvest
time, and when they did get to the field, they dealt with wet ground
and tough harvest conditions.
In spite of this year being drier than last, Leesman said that
the year has not gone without its challenges, as they had to deal
this spring with the damage that was caused to fields last fall.
Compaction occurs when the ground is wet enough that the weight
of equipment literally squeezes all the air out of it, causing soil
to become nearly rock-hard when it dries. Spring tillage then had to
focus on breaking up hard, cloddy soils and reintroducing air into
To accomplish this, more time had to be invested in preparing
seedbeds in the fields.
Once crops were planted, Leesman said that the heat of this
summer prevented corn from producing at its optimum.
"Corn likes cool weather," Leesman said, "and with the higher
temperatures this summer, we're seeing a reduction in yield this
While Kevin and wife Joyce are the core of the farm today,
Leesman said that he is the second of three generations involved in
the operation. The Leesmans have three sons: Keenan, Kent and Kory.
All three are grown and have careers off the farm. However, their
dad said they still help out a lot, especially during harvest.
In addition to the sons, Leesman is also quite happy that he
still has his father, Paul, with him on the farm.
He explained that his dad, at 84 years of age, has not missed a
harvest in 60 years.
The FCS crew made quick work of setting up tables and chairs for
everyone, and then laid out fried chicken dinners and meatloaf meals
from the Lincoln IGA. Soon everyone was sitting around tables,
laughing, telling stories and enjoying some really good food.
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At the table, it was Joyce Leesman who spoke about the need for a
midday break. She said it was something that her farm family has
"Lunch breaks are really essential. It gets them to stop, get out
of the equipment and break their train of thought for a while," she
As everyone finished their meal, there was a special surprise in
store for Paul. Kevin spoke about it, saying that when he and Joyce
learned that they would be getting a visit from FCS this year, they
wanted to take that opportunity to honor his father for his record
of 60 years without ever missing a harvest.
Alicia Gullidge of FCS presented a cake to the senior Leesman on
behalf of Farm Credit Services and the Leesman family.
Surrounded by all his family, Paul Leesman was very nearly
speechless as he smiled broadly and merely said, "You have got to be
Agriculture is ranked as one of the most dangerous occupations
and industries in North America.
In Illinois, from July 1, 2008, to June 30, 2009, there were 33
farm-related deaths. From July 1, 2009, to June 30, 2010, that
number did drop to 21 fatalities.
Tractor rollovers and run-overs remained the leading cause of
death for the 10th straight year. Tractor-vehicle collisions ranked
second; farm-related deaths with grain bin incidents ranked third.
This year more than 100 Illinois farm families were invited to
take a break with Farm Credit Services in observance of National
Farm Safety Week.
In a recent publication, Dave Owens, the president and CEO of
Farm Credit Services of Illinois, wrote: "Farm Credit salutes the
hardworking farm families in Illinois. We hope our meals give
farmers a compelling reason to climb off the combine or out of their
grain truck to take a quick and refreshing break during the long
harvest workdays. We want to remind farmers that it pays in the long
run to slow down enough to take breaks and drink plenty of water to
help them stay alert while operating farm machinery."
[By NILA SMITH]