Photo Essay: Harvesting Corn in Iowa

November 07, 2015

The success of FarmLogs depends on the success of our farmers. In this series of blog post photo essays, we’re traveling across the country to meet our users, and learn more about their operations. If you’re interested in showing us your farm and being featured in the FarmLogs blog contact us at!


Meet Bill Secor. He owns and operates the Secor family farm, which is located just north of Fort Dodge, Iowa. He’s been farming there since 1979. Before that, his father farmed the land. A small team from FarmLogs visited his farm in early October so we could experience their corn harvest first hand. Later, I would ask Bill why he was a farmer. His answer: “Farming is in my blood.”




The beginning of the day started in Bill’s Ford F150. He drove us out to the field where his son, Rob Secor, was harvesting. His son-in-law, Brandon Zwink—who also works on the farm—followed along behind us. It was Brandon who initially discovered FarmLogs and began incorporating the software into the farm’s daily operations.




It was a dry day, and the corn head was kicking up dust that turned the air a milky gold. It was so dry that the United States National Weather Service had issued a Fire Weather Warning.




Rob Secor, Bill’s son, had been harvesting all morning. Bill offered to get behind the wheel so that Rob could take lunch. Seen above: Bill walking toward the combine. Rob is inside.





Left: Bill Secor. Right: Robert Secor.




 I had the opportunity to ride along with Bill as he operated his Case Axial-Flow. We rode together for almost an hour. It was there where he told me more about his family’s history and how he arrived on the farm. “My father was a farmer essentially all his life,” Bill said. “There were a few years there where he went through some tough times and in the late 30s and early 40s he did some off-farm work. But then he had an opportunity to move to the Fort Dodge area.” In 1946 he found a 320 acre farm. He rented that crop share 50/50 with family and established a nice start. “In 1954 he was able to buy his first farm,” Bill said. “It was 160 acres. He wasn’t able to buy another one until 1972. He made a lot of sacrifices to get us to the nice family farming operation we have now.”




Bill studied Agriculture Business at Iowa State, but agronomy wasn’t his focus—business was. After school he wasn’t sure if he was going to come back to the farm. “But I made a try of it, and it worked out,” he said. When I asked him if he still found the work rewarding, he said, “Yes, very much so. You get to control your daily destiny.”




Inside the cab of the combine. Bill told me that during harvest, they work from about 7 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. “If you go much longer, accidents happen.”




At the end of the lunch hour, Rob returned to the combine to relieve Bill of his duties.




Pictured above: a tractor-pulled grain cart that holds 1084 bushels, or about 55,000 pounds, of corn.




After my time in the combine, I joined Dave Guddall, who drove the tractor that pulled the grain wagon along side the combine. Dave had a long career in sales before he retired. Since retirement, and for the last 10 years, he’s been working as seasonal help on Bill’s farm.




 I spent an hour with Dave on the tractor. We listened to the radio and chatted about work and family. I discovered when “Staying Alive” came on the radio that Dave has good taste in music. He turned up the song and began humming along after saying, “You like the Bee Gee’s? I think they have a pretty good sound.”  




The combine and the tractor took turns offloading corn into this semi truck, which weighs about 25,000 pounds. Add approximately 55,000 pounds of corn, and they’ve quickly reached the 80,000 pound max they’re allowed to haul on the road. 




This is Brandon Zwink, Bill’s son-in-law. His background is in engineering. He joined the family operation when his wife—Bill’s daughter, Anne Zwink—came home to the farm in 2013 to help operate the family’s vineyard: Soldier Creek Winery. Six and a half acres of the Secor farm are dedicated to growing grapes. They grow nine varieties. Brandon splits his time between the winery and daily farm operations. 




Rob (left) and Brandon (right) joking around after Rob dismounts the combine for a final time that day.




Rob (left) and Brandon (right) walking the field as the sun sets.




A Case Axial-Flow at rest in the sunset.




Dave taking the tractor back to the farm as the sun sets.




After we wrapped up in the field, Brandon took us back to the farm where he showed us the conveyer belt that Bill has installed on the property. It allows his trucks to easily transfer grain to the grain augur.




Bill also took some time to show us the moisture meter he uses to help determine the best time to take his grain to market.




A random collection of nuts, bolts, and washers next to the moisture meter.




This is Rod Peterson, who’s been working on the Secor family farm since before Bill took the reins from his father in 1979.




That night, Brandon and his wife Anne invited the FarmLogs team over for dinner. Anne pulled a few recipes from the “Thug Kitchen” cookbook, including roasted cauliflower.




Anne finalizing the fixings for homemade burritos.




We finished the night with a hand of Up and Down the River.




On our last morning in Fort Dodge, Brandon explained to us how he discovered FarmLogs. It was when he was new to the Secor farm and needed to quickly understand where each of the farm’s fields were located. He went on Google Maps hoping that the satellite imagery would allow him to intuit the physical relationship between each of the fields from a bird’s-eye view. He began drawing out the fields in Google Maps, but the task was labor intensive. Before he finished, he assumed there had to be a better way to manage his fields. After he did a quick Google search for farm management software, he found FarmLogs.



Our trip to Fort Dodge, Iowa was a memorable one. We had a great time learning about the Secor farming operation, and spending some time with the Secor and Zwink family. From all of us at FarmLogs, thank you for your hospitality! If you’re ever in the Ann Arbor area, let us know! We owe you dinner and another hand of Up and Down the River. :)


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Ashley Rutter


Ashley Rutter is the Content Marketing Writer at FarmLogs.