For Jon Oden, like his wheat fields, life has had many challenges. But like his fields, he keeps going – often with a calm demeanor and an optimistic attitude.
Oden is a fifth-generation farmer, operating Sterling Heritage Farms in Sterling and Lyons. Like his forebears, he raises wheat, corn, soybeans and milo. He’s added and deleted other crops to and from the mix throughout the years, including alfalfa, sunflowers and cotton.
Always on the lookout for better outcomes, Oden, a graduate of Kansas State University, uses advanced technology, no-till practices, cover crops and rotation. This year, because of the heavy rains toward the beginning of planting season, Oden is a little behind on his planting.
"It was too cold early on, then it got too wet," he said. "Then it dried up for five days. We planted hard and it rained again."
Oden is especially concerned about planting all his cotton on time, as that crop has a small window. Because cotton has worked well for him for the past couple of years, Oden continues to have the crop on his plant rotation. He said he dropped sunflowers about 10 years ago because he had a hard time controlling weeds.
Along with grains, Oden owns cattle, used to run buffalo, and is always thinking of new commodities. Although he has four employees and his son Cody, 16, to help, he is reluctant to move into produce, having investigated green beans, watermelon and tomatoes. He has also looked at industrial hemp, but decided against the crop.
"With industrial hemp, everybody’s jumping on board," Oden said. He remains skeptical, thinking the market might become saturated.
Status of Crops Statewide
Like others statewide, Oden is hopeful for his wheat crop. Information from the USDA and the Kansas State University Extension Service for the week ending June 7 states 70% of Kansas wheat crops fall within the fair and good ratings. A little less than 25% are poor to very poor and 6% are ranked excellent. The state’s winter wheat headed was 98%, similar to last year and the five-year average. This year’s coloring was 61%. This was well ahead of 40% for last year, but near the 63% average.
Oden just finished planting corn, placing him with most of the other farmers in Kansas. As of June 7, this year’s corn condition was mainly fair to excellent, with only 7% at poor to very poor. Like Oden’s crop, much of the corn throughout Kansas has emerged. This is way ahead of 69% from last year.
The soybean condition statewide is 98% fair to excellent, with almost 80% of the crop planted and just under 60% emerged.
This week’s sorghum condition is rated 95% fair to excellent, with slightly more than half of the crop planted. This is ahead of last year’s sorghum crop.
Oden’s cotton is beginning to emerge. The condition of this crop statewide is 97% fair to excellent. Cotton planted was 94%, well ahead of 68% last year and the 65% average.
Just under 50% of sunflowers were planted, but this is ahead of 32% last year and the 31% average.
"I always hope it’s a bin-buster year," Oden said. "This year you’re not going to make any money unless you have above-average yield."