The Rewards of Farming
Farmer’s been making hay the bluestem way
Establishing a field of pure big bluestem is no easy task.
But Carl Langley, Leavenworth, has managed to do it.
Carl and Linda Langley are being honored as 1999 Banker's Soil Conservation winners because of their farming practices that focus on 40 acres of hay growing just south of the Atchison County line and a half-mile west of Kansas Highway 7. A total of 36 acres are planted in big bluestem and four acres are planted in native grasses.
Langley said he decided to go with the big bluestem because it's native to Kansas and also because it doesn't need to be fertilized.
He bought the land in 1993 and planted half of it in hay in 1994, and the other half in 1996. It can be tricky getting a stand started, he said.
"One year I flunked out," Langley said. "I don't know why I did everything I was supposed to do."
Gary Radar, district conservationist with Natural Resources Conservation Service, recalled the failure to establish the crop and agreed that Langley had done everything right.
"Sometimes you never know what goes wrong," Rader said. "He's worked close with us and has always tried to do the right thing."
Persistence paid off and the fields are now producing good crops of hay, Langley said.
"I think the back half is going to be as good as the front half from now on," he said.
Rader said it's uncommon to see fields of big bluestem.
"Most people don't want to take the time and patience to get it to where it's producing," Rader said.
Langley's hay yields are higher than they would be if it were a mixed stand of native grass, Rader said.
Langley said that last summer's crop yielded 96 round bales off the 40 acres during the early July harvest.
Part of the beauty of the field, other than the nice look of the fields when the grass is growing, is that once established it's fairly maintenance-free.
"You probably aren't going to get more production than you would with fertilized brome," Langley said.
"But the thing is you don't have to fertilize this."
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