Jamie Routledge, Glenburn, N.D.
Describe your operation.
I'm a second-generation farmer in northern North Dakota. I farm with my wife, Mary, and our daughters, Meta and Elsa, who are in their 20s. We raise sunflowers, wheat, peas, soybeans, corn, canola and durum.
What do you like best about farming?
I like everything about farming. I like working outside. I like being my own boss. It feels really good when you grow a good crop. And when you have a family farm, it feels like you're working for something and building for the future.
How long have you been growing sunflowers?
About 30 years. They've been profitable, and they're harvested a little later so it spreads out the work. We plant sunflowers in early May and harvest at the end of September.
Why do you contract with CHS for you confectionary sunflowers?
Neighbors suggested I look into it. We contract more than 800 acres of confectionary sunflowers with CHS, which gives us a premium price and an incentive to take extra care of the quality. We also grow oil sunflowers that we sell to our local cooperative, CHS SunPrairie.
How do you produce high-quality sunflower seeds?
Quality seed is important. We plant Royal Hybrid® varieties from CHS. We do soil testing to make sure the plants get the nutrients they need, and we do two applications of insecticide to protect the sunflowers.
What's your biggest challenge as a sunflower grower?
You can't control the weather. This year we had hail and it was dry, but the crop was still strong. Blackbirds and bugs can be a problem. I really appreciate that our CHS buyer walks the fields with us to see how the crop is standing and to recommend when to spray. He helped identify some bugs I had never identified before.
What value does working with a cooperative have to you?
I think there is a lot of value in having a cooperative involved in marketing and processing our crops so we have a strong market. I buy my agronomy products and services primarily from the local co-op because as an owner, you get dividends and they'll always listen to you if you've got something to say.