- Associated Press - Saturday, May 14, 2016

CHILLICOTHE, Ill. (AP) - A rainy day greets Russell Jackson as he ventures out of his Chillicothe home on a dreary spring Wednesday morning.

One of Jackson’s hands is occupied by a pair of lidded coffee cups, now splashed with precipitation due to the falling rain. The other grips his keys as he does his best balancing act and slides into the driver seat of his monstrous pickup truck.

Five minutes before 9 a.m. and Jackson is off to start the day on his rural Speer farm. Wipers screech across the truck’s windshield as Jackson makes his 20-minute commute.

“It’s kind of been a way of life,” Jackson says of farming after making a brief stop at Casey’s, filling both his mugs with coffee.

He’s known nothing but farming for 40 years of his 59-year-old life. The farmland - nearing 120 years old - owned by Jackson stretches across 2,750 acres over Marshall and Stark counties. However, the majority of the land, which annually rotates between growing corn and soybeans, is located in Stark County.

“Moldboard plowing with a 4020 tractor and a five-bottom plow,” Jackson said when asked his earliest memory of working on the family farm.

He was 15 at the time on a farm that featured livestock - hogs, cattle and sheep. His farm today doesn’t have such animals.

One of the biggest adjustments Jackson has made comes with the advancement of farm technology. No matter how many manuals he reads, Jackson likes to experience this new wave of technology first hand.

“It’s easy for somebody to tell you how to do it, but you have to actually do it,” he said.

Jackson flipped the right turn signal on and pulls his truck in front of a locked gate. Roughly 100 yards beyond the barrier is the bin site featuring a number of grain silos, built roughly half-dozen years ago.

He flings open the unlocked gate and hustles back to the truck, brushing the rain off his left sleeve in the process. A few miles down the road Jackson arrives at his dad, Dean Jackson’s childhood home.

A barn just behind the house offers a dry oasis along with bathroom and kitchen amenities. Jackson greets his employee, Dave Goodman, and makes his way to a computer located on the far end of his work bench.

There Jackson checks out the day’s markets as well as weather and news.

“I usually have an idea of what I want to do, but as you can see, the weather doesn’t always cooperate,” he said with a laugh. “It’s always a fluid situation, always changing plans.”

A second shed - a six-year-old, 72-foot by 166-foot Morton Building - is about 50 feet behind the initial barn. It was built after the harsh 2009 winter and is able to house the multiple semi-trucks without unhooking the trailers.

Tractors, a combine and a planter are all examined by Jackson as he weaves his way throughout the humongous space. The remaining room in the building could easily store five or more cars.

A noticeable build-up of dust along the concrete floor forces Jackson to grab a broom. The rain on the roof has gotten louder, causing an echo throughout the building.

As Jackson gets ready to decide the next step in his day, the rain has all, but disappeared. With this news, Goodman hops in one of the semis to meet Jackson over at the bin site.

Once situated next to the 50,000-bushel bin, the semi, which holds 1,000 bushels, finds itself being filled up. The truck reaches its maximum capacity and will be stored at the Morton Building until it can be unloaded.

Lunchtime is upon Jackson and Goodman, and it’s off to Spoon River Bowl in Wyoming. That is the usual spot for the pair of farmers.

The Spoon River Bowl daily special - lasagna, salad and bread - served with a cup of coffee will hold Jackson until supper. He’s joined for lunch by his youngest son, Chase, who will join the family business after completing a two-year agriculture program at Illinois Central College.

Once back at the bin site, it’s time for Jackson’s version of spring cleaning. A grain sweep rotates clockwise through the silo, pushing the corn into a grain leg and carrying it up into another grain silo.

Jackson and Goodman follow behind the grain sweep with brooms and shovels. It’s a process that lasts all afternoon, but is only done once a year.

Each of the grain bins will have to undergo the grain sweep.

“You’re cleaning out the bin to put in next year’s crop,” Jackson says. “We have to clean up every kernel.”

And when farming is your livelihood, every kernel matters.


Source: (Peoria) Journal Star, https://bit.ly/1VDiSDG


Information from: Journal Star, https://pjstar.com

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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