By Dusty Sonnenberg, CCA, Field Leader, a project of the Ohio Soybean Council and Soy Check-off
When a tornado hit the Baldosser farm on July 11, 2013, it destroyed their grain system and several buildings. That seeming misfortune turned into an opportunity for the Baldossers to plan for the future by re-building and developing an expansion plan and improving the safety and efficiency of the grain system in the process.
Gary Baldosser is a fourth-generation farmer in Seneca County. His great-grandfather originally settled the farm and Gary’s sons (Scott and Darin) are currently involved in the operation on a part-time basis. The Baldossers raise soybeans, corn, wheat, hay and cattle. Their farm consists of soils primarily in the blount soil series, which are deep and benefit from subsurface drainage. Their farm is in the Sandusky River Watershed. The Baldossers practice no-till and minimum tillage and utilize cover crops. They also have filter strips along their ditches. Given the farm location, in a karst area with subterranean streams and caverns, there are times when a strong east wind raises the water level in the Western Lake Erie Basin and lake water backs-up into the ditches and holds until the wind changes.
“A west wind then lowers the lake level and water drains out of Ottawa and Erie counties first, so as a result the soils upstream are held wet and tight,” Baldosser said.
The Baldossers utilize a number of local market opportunities directly linked to the end users. Corn is delivered to a local ethanol plant. Soybeans are delivered to a Bunge soybean crushing facility in Bellevue located just 9 miles away. Wheat is delivered to Sunrise Cooperative who in turn has an agreement with Star of the West Milling that provides the flower to Pepperidge Farms for Goldfish crackers.
Planning for the future is something that Baldosser doesn’t take for granted.
“When the tornado went through in 2013 and destroyed the grain system and some of the buildings, in many ways a storm of fate. It gave me the opportunity to be able to reinvest in the farm for the long term and for future generations and do it when agriculture was in a pretty good place,” Baldosser said. “We were able to re-build some structures and build some new structures that will be 30- to 40-year investments for the next generation. We were able to upgrade the grain system and improve and increase our storage and handling capacity for corn, soybeans and wheat and most importantly, improve the safety measures of the system.
“My father and I, like a lot of farms in the area, started with one grain bin in the early 1970s and then added another and then another and another over the years in kind of a hodge-podge manner without any formally designed system in place. When the tornado came through and took down all the grain bins, I got a clean piece of real estate to do exactly that (create a formally designed grain handling system), and now I have a long-term plan for adding additional storage when the time is right, and we expand our operation. This is looking forward into the future 5- to 10-year planning for the next generation,” Baldosser said.
Labor is a challenge in many farming operations, and for Baldosser Farms, that is no different. “My boys both work off the farm full-time, so making sure that we are using their time as best and efficiently as we can when they are here is important,” Baldosser said. “Fortunately, we do not have to travel long distances from field to field, so we do not waste a lot of time on the road moving equipment. We stretch approximately 8 miles from one end of the operation to the other. We have spent many years working on our crop rotation and converting from individual fields to entire farms in a rotation so that when we move to an area, we have a couple hundred acres in that area and can spend a couple of days working and are not spending time moving equipment on the road. Road time does not equate into harvest time.”
The future is exciting for Baldosser farms.
“We have room for growth in our operation and the infrastructure and a plan in place to be able to grow, but it needs to be planned sustainable growth,” Baldosser said. “We do not want to move beyond our capacity too quickly. We want to be a legacy business in our community and to help our community be sustainable. We want to keep the family involved and make good decisions that financially allow that to happen.”