Farm Family of the Week | The Bidners of rural Mahomet | Agriculture

He’s not Oliver Wendell Douglas from “Green Acres,” who wears a three-piece suit on the farm, but Scott Bidner’s early vocational life was certainly set in a different world, the nation’s capital. The rural Mahomet farmer saw the light and came back to the farm.

How long has your family been farming?

Our family historian is my mom’s brother/my Uncle Richard Rayburn, and I turned to him for the answer. Our ancestor John R. Rayburn bought the farm that is now bordered by US 150 and Prairie View Road in Mahomet in 1853. Mom and a cousin also own a farm adjacent to I-74 and east on Tin Cup Road that was originally purchased in 1875 Though I’m a sixth-generation farmer, I spent some time in my early career as a nonprofit exec and working in DC The offer from my aunt and uncle to begin farming in 1996 saved the world from one more lobbyist.

Where is your farm operation?

We farm mostly north of Champaign and around Mahomet.

What does your farming

operation consist of?

We are corn and soybean farmers, though livestock figured prominently when the kids were in 4-H. They showed steers; we had a few horses and ponies and even a Percheron draft team for a while. They learned how to do chores, fall out of the haymow and the importance of closing gates as steers once took a day trip around the neighborhood, and a pony even camped out overnight.

How many people in the family does the operation support?

Lots of people. My landlords are mostly family, including my uncle, cousins, parents, one brother, mom’s cousin and family, small farms owned by friends, and of course, my family.

Do you have any members of the family in the farm

operation also working other jobs?

My son has been helping farm since graduating university and moving back home. He and his wife both work for the Army Corps of Engineers in Champaign. I’ve had a part-time job beginning in 2010 teaching at the University of Illinois, a half-semester liberal-conservative dialogue course.

How have you seen farming change over the years?

Technology continues to play an increasing role in nearly everyone’s lives, and farming is no exception. Mapping fields and repeatable lines for planting and harvest are pretty common. The ability to work in the dark or in dusty conditions is also possible. In the late ’90s, I was combining soybeans just south of the pasture of the home place. The wind was directly from the south, and I was cutting north, so in the dust I couldn’t make out the pasture fence or even see the outline of the barn. I called my wife and asked her to stand in the pasture safely behind the fence with a flashlight pointing at the combine. I didn’t hit the fence. Now you can look at a map and see exactly where you are.

Another change is the amount of cash flow required to farm. Machinery, inputs and land prices have increased significantly. I bought my first farm in 1987 for $2,050 an acre. That included a house and machine shed complete with a possum living in the rafters. Some recent land sales are around $20,000 an acre. Farmers are used to saying, “Wow, that’s too much.” That may be right this time.

Your equipment: Green (John Deere), red (Case IH) or other?

Tractors, combine and planter are Deere, though we’ve run a few Cat tractors and other brand machines for tillage and fertilizer. A farm favorite is a 1948 International H tractor my folks bought me in seventh grade. It’s in Granddad’s machine shed and still used on waterway projects. I wonder how many machines we are using now will still be around in 70 years.

What makes farming such a good vocation?

Family and friends. I wouldn’t be farming without a start and then support from my family. My kids got to grow up in the country, taking on a lot of responsibility at a young age running equipment, making decisions, learning to work. They’ll have less-pleasant memories of walking beans, scooping corn, late-night runs to the planter with just one more bag of corn. They grew up in the house where their great-grandparents and grandmother (GrandB) lived.

My grandmother would put names and dates in the concrete every time it was poured. They were surrounded by family all the time. Our move back from DC in 1996 was so they would grow up knowing their cousins. They do.

The friend part is also important. Our farming team includes my friend Dan, a retired education professor, and Mike, a retired high school volleyball coach and teacher. Farming is more fun with good people around. Also, I get to own big trucks.

If you could change one thing about farming, what would it be?

Every economy is affected in part by national and international events. That’s especially true for farming. Lack or abundance of rain in Brazil, commodity prices go up or down. A strike at a port or equipment manufacturer affects input or machinery prices. The brutal attack and invasion of Ukraine is affecting energy and commodity prices all around the world. So political stability is important. Oh, and the weather. Sometimes I’d change the weather.

Best time of year to be on the farm?

Spring, summer and fall. Not February. The change of seasons in our part of the world provides equal amounts of challenges and beauty. Fresh soil in the spring, emerging plants, summer rains, fall breezes and a bountiful harvest. The stack of pictures taken over the years and seasons attest to our thinking things were worth recording.

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