Hanley Falls farmer works to help others succeed

Independent file photo Brian Velde of rural Wood Lake/Hanley Falls had a subsurface drip irrigation system installed in his 60-acre cornfield this spring.

MARSHALL — Hanley Falls farmer Brian Velde enjoys the agriculture life. So does his family — wife, Heather, and two daughters.

Sitting in a conference room inside Centrol Crop Consulting, Inc headquarters, Velde shared the story of his eldest daughter waking up after having a nightmare.

“I had the nightmare we moved to town,” his daughter told him. He assured her there were no plans for the family to move to town.

Just like assuring a daughter experiencing a nightmare, Velde likes to help farmers who face their share of worries. He is a regional manager with Centrol Crop Consulting, headquartered in Marshall.

Centrol is a crop consulting company who works for farmers needed recommendations on anything involving growing crops.

“The farmers own the company. We work with the farmers,” Velde said. “We don’t sell anything, we don’t sell products. We just advise on what are the best products on your particular farm, because there are so many people in agriculture selling products. We help separate the good ones from the poor ones. And that’s why farmers hire us. We kind of tell the truth. We are on the farmer’s side making sure the best products are put on their grounds.”

In his quest to help farmers, Velde got involved with an irrigation system on his own farm in Hanley Falls. The system was installed 14 inches below the surface of the soil back in 2017.

“It’s a new concept for Minnesota. Not a lot of people have heard of it,” Velde told the Independent in August of 2017. “I first heard about it at a trade show in Sioux Falls (South Dakota).”

Velde said the new concept in irrigation is already being used in Kansas, Colorado and Nebraska. He also said the subsurface drip irrigation methods was conceived in the 1950s, but didn’t become fully developed until the 1990s. Now, it can be found in nearly every country in the world.

“It’s an irrigation management tool that enables precise control over the root zone environment of your crop,” according to the company, Netafim, that manufactures the system. “This control often results in consistently high yields. In addition, better water and fertilizer management help reduce fertilizer inputs, water usage and runoff.”

After introducing the system in 2017 during a field day for farmers, Velde ran into different results in 2018 because of the amount of rain.

“It rained all summer. When it rains every day, you are getting Mother Nature’s irrigation,” he said. “I don’t think we ran that system for irrigating, but what we did do quite often was fertigation. That is running fertilizer through the underground.

“So between every corn crop in the field there is a drip buried 14 inches. “This last year we didn’t put in any nutrients ahead of time. We put a little bit of nitrogen on with the planter, then we ran most of the nitrogen through the drip tape — through the irrigation.”

Velde explained that rain normally causes the nitrogen to float around in the soil, causing it to be prone to leaching (loss of nutrients).

“After these big rain events you could introduce nitrogen (through the irrigation system) and not having it lost to excessive rain,” Velde said. “This year the irrigation wasn’t the value of the system. But the ability to fertigate at the appropriate times provides value. The yield responses we had were very good.

“I guess when you look at farming — if you can control somewhat the water and if you can control nutrients, the ability to get higher yields is a lot easier to attain than when you can’t control the nutrients that you put out there.”

Velde is always looking at how technology helps his farm operation. He said every year there are more and more technology advancements which is helping to increase yields.

“What we are producing per acre, it goes up significantly per year. It’s just the more we learn about it, we figure out how to get those extra bushels. It’s kind of the name of the game nowadays — produce more,” he said.

Velde raises both corn and beans on the Hanley Falls family farm. He admits the recent tariff war has made farming challenging. But he said the Market Facilitation Program helps. The MFP provides partial compensation to farmers and share-rent landowners for losses occurring because of trade disputes. This program is administered by the Farm Service Agency (FSA) and application procedures for MFP are straight-forward. MFP sign-up is a “one-time” event.

“It’s a nice subsidy to help offset some of the price decreases that we had on soybeans. It’s definitely nice — you can almost call it a bridge. It helps bridge some of the dollars we lost. Before the tariff, beans were almost $2 a bushel. Once the tariff was implemented, the price of beans fell out. This is kind of a bridge to get back where it was.

“It’s pretty lucrative on soybeans — it’s $1.65, but on corn it’s only a penny. When you think dollars per acre, if you have 60 bushel beans, six times a $1.65 is $99 an acre. It’s a nice perk. When you look at 60 bushel corn, and you get a penny, its $2 an acre. So it’s a lot more favorable for soybeans than it is for corn.”

So Velde remains optimistic on farming.

“You got to be, I guess,” he said. “Every farmer is internally optimistic. If you weren’t, you wouldn’t be farming. You got to be optimistic.”