View From the Cab

Fathers Know Best

Pamela Smith
By  Pamela Smith , Crops Technology Editor
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Farmers Reid Thompson (left) of Colfax, Illinois, and Ryan Jenkins, of Jay, Florida, are reporting on crop conditions and agricultural topics throughout the 2020 growing season as part of the DTN View From the Cab series. (Photo courtesy of Reid Thompson and Ryan Jenkins)

DECATUR, Ill. (DTN) -- Every day is Father's Day for Ryan Jenkins and Reid Thompson.

Both men have fathers as partners in their farming businesses. Both are raising children surrounded by the rural experience.

As Father's Day approaches, DTN asked Jenkins and Thompson to reflect on "dad stuff" and current crop conditions as part of DTN's ongoing View From the Cab series.

So far, the 2020 farming season has found Jenkins, who farms in the Florida Panhandle and across the border into southern Alabama, wrangling a drought followed closely by the third tropical storm of the season. As he wraps up planting, other Florida farmers are doing the same. The most recent USDA-NASS Crop Progress report for the state pegged 97% of the peanuts planted and 74% in good to excellent condition. The cotton crop was rated 93% planted and 60% good to excellent.

Thompson, who farms in central Illinois, was finishing up planting and doing a dab of replanting this week. NASS reported Illinois corn planting finished with 96% emerged and 63% in good to excellent condition. Soybeans were running well ahead of last year at 94% planted, 84% emerged and 64% good to excellent.

That pushes both farmers into a more positive mid-June growing scenario than last year, despite the many other social uncertainties in 2020.

"Everything that has gone on this year is putting 2019 into perspective," said Thompson. "I think we're all wondering what shoe might drop next in 2020 and trying not to think about it at the same time. Still, it has also left us very grateful to live where we live and to have the freedom to operate our businesses as a family."

When it comes to working with family, two factors rise to the top: basic respect for the thoughts and opinions of the fellow partners and perspective gleaned from off-farm employment.

Read on to learn how these farmers juggle family and life and what is happening in their world this week:


Ryan Jenkins was celebrating Father's Day a tad early by grabbing a few days at the lake with his family this week.

The Jay, Florida, farmer has one cotton field left to plant. "Ironically, that field is now too wet. We hope to get it in by Thursday," he said.

Overall, his crop is looking restored after rains arrived last week. "Stands are a little skippier than normal, but they're still stands and not worth tearing up," said Jenkins. Herbicide, fungicide and insecticide spray schedules will dominate life for the month of July.

If the weather cooperates, Jenkins may double-crop a few soybeans after corn is shelled near the end of July or in early August.

"I've planted Group 7 soybeans behind 200 bushel per acre corn on Aug. 20 and those beans still made 33 bushel per acre," he said. He only has a small corn acreage but likes to put management skills to the test and see what yields can be achieved.

His father, Rennie, was touching up a little bit of cotton that needed replanting this week, affording his son a spot of relaxation. At 72, the elder Jenkins still puts in a full day's work and watches the farm accounts with "precision."

Both father and son had other careers before turning to farming full time, which also supports the positive father-son relationship. "I'm probably the luckiest guy in the world to get to do exactly what I love to do; love it as much as I love it; and get to work with my Dad every day," Jenkins declares.

"I really don't know how it could be any better. He's been behind me 110% in anything I've ever done. It may take two or three conversations to get there, but he does a very good job of playing the devil's advocate and keeping me grounded. We never make a decision where he doesn't bring something to the table that I haven't thought of," Jenkins said of his father.

"We talk out every major decision," he said. "Many times, he'll open my eyes to something I hadn't thought of."

Jenkins becomes temporarily flustered when asked how others can achieve this harmony. "I can honestly say we never argue. At the end of the day, we just keep talking until we end up on the same page," he said.

"Dad has instilled some things that I really hope my boys have learned from me -- if it's worth doing, it's worth doing right. And, always do right even when nobody's looking."

Rennie, who retired from a teaching career, seems to have passed along the love of education to his son as well. This past winter Jenkins organized, and the family hosted, a county-wide FFA career day at their farm with 17 professionals explaining various ag-related occupations. He hopes to expand the concept to neighboring counties in 2021.

"There are millions of opportunities in agriculture and it doesn't have to be the guy driving the tractor," Jenkins said. "Bringing students to the farm to tell this story really drives the message that this industry has so much to offer."


Reid Thompson has concrete evidence of his belief in the future of farming. This week he watched as the pads were poured for additional grain storage that will double the farm's holding capacity to just over 400,000 bushels.

Meanwhile, the seed beans he's been waiting on for weeks finally arrived. "Even the planter was starting to show signs it was time to be done," Thompson said. "We had to replace a gauge wheel on one of the row units and a couple of other things were starting to come apart as we finished up."

High speed planting is great, but Thompson said those 10 mile per hour speeds are rough on components as well as the nuts and bolts that hold things together.

The cereal rye cover crop wasn't waiting for that seed delivery either -- some of it stood 4.5 feet tall as they planted into the green mass. "Had we not had the 4 inches of rain over the last 2 weeks, we might have terminated sooner as the rye was beginning to rob moisture," he noted.

He also borrowed a roller/crimper from a neighbor and is liking the weed control that comes with it. "The beans in the rye tend to be slightly taller and have more branching than in those fields where we burned the rye down sooner," he said.

Overall, crops in central Illinois are faring well. The majority of the corn is V6 or better with a dark green color. "Wet spots are starting to stand out -- showing yellowing where some nitrogen has leached or disappeared completely," he reported.

With a forecast of a small amount of rain to come on the weekend, Thompson had decided to start sidedress applications. He applies a variable rate (60 to 100 lb.) through Y-drops. "I'd rather get started now as fungicide season is fast approaching and I'll need the sprayer for that," he said.

After 10 years of working in farm real estate and financing, Thompson came back to the home farm with the hopes of making his own mark. "From day one I've had responsibility and financial investment in the farm.

"I'm not sure that would have happened had I not stepped away for that time. Dad has definitely given me the chance to be part of the decision-making process and, also, to make some of my own mistakes," he said.

Like most partners, there's not always 100% agreement on every issue. "When I moved back home, I realized pretty quickly how much I'd forgotten about the physical/labor part of the job," he noted.

"I had to relearn a lot of the practical/operational aspects of the job that come natural if you do them every day. Dad has been so patient and lenient about that re-learning curve."

A self-described millennial, Thompson said he fully realizes he's more apt want to be spontaneous about change and likes to charge ahead and learn by doing. "Dad's sitting here with more than 30 years of experience asking if I've thought about the manpower requirements and logistics. He's always asking how we are going to physically get things done when we are already leaning hard on our people."

Affordability of a project is something his dad, Gerald, is better at figuring out, he admits. "That can be frustrating because I see the promise and I want to make it work," he said. "We have many long discussions and generally reach consensus.

"However, we also have individual and shared farming interests. So, I also know I have a way to try something on my own should we not be able to agree," he said.

Gerald, who is 58, has also passed along the belief that sometimes it is time to call it a day. "We can both be workaholics and the way we have streamlined the business to reduce labor adds to that risk.

"But Dad is often the one reminding me to take time to be involved in the industry and of the importance of taking time for family," he said.

Pamela Smith can be reached at

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Pamela Smith

Pamela Smith
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