By Matt Reese
Several years ago an unusual, foreign looking mail crate showed up at Jon Everett’s Shelby County home. He wasn’t sure what to make of it at first.
“I said, ‘What the heck is this?’”
A package like this obviously seemed a bit suspicious, unsettling even. Jon was pretty sure, though, it had something to do with his son, Joe, who was travelling the world in the Navy at the time. As it turned out, Jon was correct.
“I was in Dubai, Bahrain, Singapore, and other places. While I was in the Navy we would get off the ship every 30 to 45 days to decompress. We could go out in the cities and experience their culture,” Joe said. “I was the ship’s sailor of the year and earned extra liberty time, so I went on a desert safari and thought, ‘This guy from Ohio is never going to get the chance to ride a camel,’ so I did. I got to ride a camel. Then I saw a camel saddle for sale and bought one just to remember my tour and had it shipped to my Dad’s house.”
The camel saddle now resides in Joe’s home as a fond reminder.
“My wife doesn’t really like it,” Joe said. “But it is a reminder of my time in the Navy. I enjoyed the teamwork and meeting people — people who come from all walks of life. You learn that we are all in this together. Sometimes you can lose sight of that here. People from every background become like your family. I became closer with them than my high school friends because we did everything together. I still talk to some of these guys a couple times a month.”
In what was a bold move for a young man from a thriving farm operation in prime Ohio corn and soybean country, Joe decided to go into the Navy right out of high school.
“I just wanted to serve my country. I went in for 6 years,” Joe said. “I was an electronics technician on aircraft carriers. I did not intend to stay in the Navy for a long time, but I really enjoyed my time, and I loved my job. After you have grown up on a farm, the military is not as hard as you’d think. There was a lot expected of you in the Navy, but if you played high school sports and worked on a farm, the physical part was not too bad. The mental part and being away from my family, and the farm was harder. I had moved up a few ranks quickly, so people were wondering why I would want to leave the Navy, but I was planning on getting married and I did not want that life for my family. I wanted this life on the farm. So I came back here in 2017.”
The camel saddle was not the only positive thing he brought back to the farm from his time in the Navy. Experiences on the farm put Joe in a good place for the Navy and experiences in the Navy allowed Joe to bring value back to the farm.
“Now I basically do all of the electrical work here. I converted the shop over to LED and the Navy helped me to be able to take over some things Dad had been doing,” Joe said. “Being in the Navy, it teaches you to take charge of things here on the farm. I also like being a leader in the community, like being in Farm Bureau. I am the current Shelby County president. I have served on the policy committee and am involved with Young Ag Professionals. I am also on the Pioneer Rural Electric Cooperative County Board as the secretary. And I’m not hesitant to go up and work on our grain leg, either, because I learned about safety harnesses on the ship and how to properly tie off.”
After his time in the Navy, Joe was ready to be back home, and his family was pleased too.
“We were glad. Our operation grew right around when he came back,” Jon said. “We wouldn’t be farming what we are now, I can tell you that. Before the boys came on there were times we were not sure how we could get it done some years.”
Joe and Jon farm with Jon’s brother, Tim, and his son (Joe’s cousin) Ty. After high school, Ty went to work at Cargill in Sidney and also gained valuable insights and experiences for when he came back to the farm full time 10 years ago.
“His knowledge from Cargill has been a great asset to our farm.” Jon said.
“We wanted the boys to go work somewhere else to learn, but also so they can appreciate coming back,” Tim said.
Now the Everetts farm around 4,000 acres, most of it within about a 7-mile radius of the home farm. The number of farms around them has consolidated significantly in recent decades, but the tight-knit farming community in the area has kept the ground in agricultural production.
“Its definitely changed a lot since I grew up. As the years go by there are less farmers in our area,” Jon said.
“Around here there are not many new houses either. No one sells,” Joe said. “My wife and I had trouble finding a house to buy around here. We found out this house was for sale — or we knew it was for sale because the owners were building a new house. We went to look at it. My wife liked it well enough but asked if we could look at something else and I told her there was not really anything else to look at. There are not many houses for sale around here and almost no one builds new houses.”
Jon, Joe, Tim and Ty meet in the shop each morning and determine the tasks for the day.
“Everyone has their own job and we all know what we need to do,” Tim said.
Tim and Ty handle the hybrids and varieties, harvest, equipment, and planting corn. Ty works with the grain legs. Joe and Jon handle paperwork, crop insurance, run the grain system at harvest, manage bins, do trucking, plant soybeans, and work ground.
The farm has been making strong strides in yield increases in recent years. Good soils in the area certainly help.
“We usually get started planting early here. We have sandy soils and some gravel and things are well tiled,” Tim said. “We plant both corn and beans in mid-April when fields are fit. It seems like when you plant beans in April you pick up around 5 bushels more than if you plant around Memorial Day. The beans look the same but the earlier ones yield better. Last year we planted beans early and got five frosts, two snows and two floods and we still had 70-bushel beans. We see a lot of corn around a 230-bushel average. We are planting some corn at a 36,500 population and we use some variable rate populations for corn, especially on the rolling ground.”
Most of the ground going to corn is worked in the fall with a Turbo-Till and then hit with a field cultivator in the spring before planting. The soybeans are no-till.
“We’ve started using zone soil sampling and that has really helped us. We sample by soil type and fertilize accordingly. We take the soil samples in the beans in the spring and then figure the crop removal. They review the maps in August and they are ready to go in the fall before corn,” Joe said. “We work with New Ag Horizons and they have done a good job. The nutrient program has really helped on some marginal farms. For nitrogen, we use 10-34-0 and some anhydrous with N-Serve. We’re also trying some gypsum. We variable rate P and K in the fall based on the soil samples and we have added some sulfur, boron, zinc, magnesium, and manganese. We have used some chicken litter too but it is costly to get it because we are so far away.”
Like all farms, the Everetts have been scrambling to stay ahead of supply chain issues, or at least try to keep up.
“I have two of everything for the combine. It is like Noah’s ark,” Tim said. “And we have never bought fertilizer this early.”
“If we think of something we need we’ll just buy it ahead. I bought the first dry fertilizer in May for fall application. That is the first time I have ever done that. I thought it was a high price and it has gone crazy since then. We paid again in September just to lock in a price and it was a lot more than May prices,” Jon said. “We have enough to plant 60% of our corn now in storage on the farm. We are getting our fuel now. We have pre-paid for anhydrous. We pre-bought fungicide for this year. We are spraying all of our corn with aerial application through Bambauer Fertilizer & Seed. It looks like there could be issues and we have a lot of money in this crop right now and you have to protect it.
“B&B Ag-Vantages sprays for us and they say we’ll get it. We have always paid ahead with that but we do not really know what the price is this year. We have never done that before. The structuring on the prices changes so often they can’t give us a price. Every time a truck comes in it is different. So we pre-pay a price, but it may have to be adjusted. Roundup is a lot higher, but other products did not really go up in price and now we are using some new products. Aside from all the craziness the last couple years I have to give a lot of credit to all our ag people. From our crop insurance agent, to our ag lenders, to our field needs, to our grain merchants, they are a big part in what’s made our farm strong.”
The Everetts have also been fortunate enough to buy some additional ground they had already been farming in recent years right around the house as the boys returned to be the fifth generation to work the family farm.
“We have handed a lot over to our sons. I used to be the in between guy on the farm, but now our sons are here to really help with the workload,” Jon said. “We all come here and meet in the shop every morning. We decide what we need to do then go our separate ways and, if it’s cold, Tim and I stay in here.”