Clint and Ashley Jessen operate an organic farm consisting of 20,000 acres split between Colorado, Nebraska, and Wyoming. They’ve been using FarmLogs since 2014, and we recently caught up with them to ask a few questions about how they use FarmLogs to manage the day-to-day operations of running their family farm.
Can you tell us a little bit about your operation?
Clint: I am a fifth-generation farmer. We came from Germany and started farming here. We don't live in an “I state” with beautiful 250-bushel acre dryland corn. We are high plains, wheat country. We're on about 20,000 acres and we're all organic. We've always been organic, because that's how we farmed in the past. When I was a senior in college, I majored in agribusiness and agricultural economics, and I took over the farm in 2000. My wife Ashley runs all the books and does all of the human resources. She does everything from handling new hires, to making sure everything gets submitted on time, to payroll and dealing with the big bills. We also have nine full-time employees that are with us year-round. During the summer, we get up to 14 or 15 for harvest help, planting help, and all that stuff.
Why did you start using FarmLogs?
Clint: We started out looking at farm software to help us manage our organic paperwork and that’s when we discovered FarmLogs. Everything that FarmLogs does we already used to do, but we used to do it in the longhand version on FSA maps, and every employee had a book. Since we’re an certified organic farm, we have to categorize every operation that we do daily on the farm. FarmLogs made that so much easier—it's awesome.
How do you use FarmLogs to keep better records on the farm?
Clint: We keep records with the notes/scouting section of FarmLogs and with Automatic Activity recording. That’s probably our favorite feature. It's significantly cheaper than any of the other systems that we've looked into and we absolutely love it.
All of our employees have the app on their Smartphone. Whether they are lost, or don't know what to do... all they have to do is pull up their phone.
Automatic Activity Recording also makes our farm manager's job so much easier—he just gets on at the end of the day and make sure it got recorded. FarmLogs saves us from doing a lot of extra paperwork. It's wonderful.
During our organic inspection, we have to make all of our records available to the inspector. When the inspector shows up, all I have to do is show him my iPhone or my iPad, and he can see all of our perfect record keeping of the who, what, where, and why on each and every one of our 480 fields that we have. It’s so much more convenient to be able to use a tablet versus the two 5 1/2 inch binders that we used to keep.
|Old log books from the Jessen Farm|
Another great feature of FarmLogs is that we’re able to put in our own names for our fields. When we’re talking with our employees, we can just say that they need to go over to the Highway field and they know exactly where that's at, because they can look it up in alphabetical listing on FarmLogs. Once, we had an employee who was unsure of if he was supposed to be farming where he was at. He pulled up FarmLogs to see his location in the map view of FarmLogs, and know that he was in fact, in the right place, on the right piece of ground, doing the right operation. He was able to make sure that he was in the right location without having to make a phone call or get on the radio. It's wonderful technology, and we love it.
Do you use FarmLogs for other aspects of your operation?
Clint: The Recent Rain feature is awesome. It's saved me hundreds and hundreds of thousands of miles of driving every day. Rain around here is sparse. We rely on about 12 to 15 inches of precipitation a year. When FarmLogs sends me an email of the rain totals across our farm, I don't have to drive all the way out to that certain field to figure out whether or not to make a management decision. Our farm is about 78 miles from one side to the other.
We used to send somebody 30 miles one way and to send someone else 30 miles the other way just to go check a rain gauge to decide where we can go farm at that day. Now, I can pull that information right from my phone and see the last amount of moisture that each field received.
We also used to have hundreds of rain gauges—the free ones that you get from Murdoch’s or Menards—all over the farm. FarmLogs has totally replaced that and I love it. We’ve found that it has been really accurate. It’s always been within a tenth of an inch, every one. It is absolutely a wonderful feature.
|An email from FarmLogs alerting Clint of the recent rainfall on his fields|
How has FarmLogs helped you manage your farm remotely?
Clint: We almost always have somebody farming in a different state every day during the season. It’s great for me to be able to see what got done at the end of the day just by looking in my FarmLogs account. Whether I was at a business meeting somewhere else, or I'm stuck in my office here at the shop, I can always know what was going on with my farms.
|Activities logged in the Jessen’s FarmLogs Account|
Were any of your employees reluctant to use new technology?
Clint: They were all so excited. Like I said, before FarmLogs, we were doing this all on paper. To have it all electronically is basically like being able to carry your entire farm in your pocket on your phone. It was a very welcome change and everybody was extremely happy about it.
Ashley, could you tell us about what it’s like being a woman in agriculture?
Ashley: I definitely wouldn't change the lifestyle for anything. I love living in the middle of nowhere, in beautiful Wyoming. It's an amazing place to raise our kids. It's hard work, but I do feel like it's the best thing ever.
Summers are tough, but it's fun. Like my husband was saying, we do our best to make this feel like a family operation.
We have family style dinner every night of wheat harvest. That's probably one of my favorite parts of harvest. We have a 1971 Ford bus that we converted into a kitchen and our farm foreman’s wife and I cook for the guys every night. We invite their families to come out, if they like, and we take their dinners to the field side. We work 20 hours a day, but for that quick little break, it's a nice moment to relax and reflect. We've noticed that everyone's willing to keep working a little bit longer if they have a full stomach and stop to see their kiddos or wives for a moment.
|The Jessen's and their employees gather for a field side dinner during wheat harvest|
The farm is always growing, and being able to keep track of everything with FarmLogs is really helpful. There are times where I am the person that needs to help out, take something to someone, or pick someone up, and it really helps me to be able to look it up on my phone. If I'm not exactly sure of the spot, I can just look up a map in FarmLogs, and confirm "Oh, yeah. Okay, I do know where that is. I can make that happen." The farm is miles and miles, from one end to the other, so it’s good to have a resource like FarmLogs.
Life is fast paced these days. Having a quick way to find information or to check out a map is awesome, and it’s great to have it all there in one place.
|A mobile view of the mapping feature, showing some of the Jessen's fields|
Do you see the farm playing a role in your children’s future?
Clint: Someday, I hope to pass the farm along to them. I think that ultimately, that’s any family's goal in farming. The kids always like to be here and our oldest one definitely likes to run the combine. Sometimes though, there are days that I really hope that they go do something else so they can have an easier life. Then there's days that I wish that they would take our place over, double it, and make it even greater. The ag economy plays a big role in how strongly we feel about it on any given day.
Does technology impact the way you feel about the future?
Clint: Well, the kids are going to be so much better at using technology than we are. They know how to run the GPS on the tractors better than I do. Our 12 year-old kid knows how to run all of the technology we use better that I do. The biggest thing is that they aren’t afraid to use technology whatsoever and I think that's wonderful. There are still tons of people in our area who refuse to use GPS-driven tractors or really any technology at all, and they’re going to get left behind. Most of us aren’t old farmers by any means, but soon, all the younger generation is going to take it over.
|The Jessen family on their farm|