My husband, Duane, loves field work. He loves the smell of the soil. Using precision planting helps him feel good about being fussy about how the fields look as the seeds are sending up their first leaves.
    We take evening drives spring, summer and fall just to see the crops growing.
    He takes pride in having healthy crops of corn, soybeans, wheat and alfalfa. If the wheat or alfalfa did not make it through the winter, he gets upset and tries to replant. Any time there is a wet hole after spring rains and the corn or soybean stand got too wet, he tries to replant. He knows it is not profitable, but he does not want any weeds or sapling trees to get started and grow all summer.
    As he harvests in the fall, he starts thinking about the next year ahead. He analyzes what is happening in the ground. Not only does the yield monitor tell him how things are going as the corn and soybeans are going through the head of the combine, but he is also taking notes about things that might need attention come spring. Tile lines that need to be repaired or replaced. Overhanging branches that need to be trimmed back or the trees removed.
    As this year’s winter winds changed, the calendar flipped to March. Duane began looking at the notes and started making calls and organizing this spring’s plans. Could we handle more land? Now that I know how to mix feed since he has recovered from his hip surgery, he will head out early with the tractor. He was always itching to get out every spring when he saw the other farmers out, but he was always mixing feed. Now that I can do it, he will get more planted and can take on a little more farmland.
    We looked into purchasing a couple 40-acre parcels and what could be done with the property to restore the farmland. Trees have grown up over the past 30 years and have made some of the lower areas too wet to plant because the drainage tiles have filled up with tree roots. These tiles need to be cleaned or replaced. When trees need to be removed, they can be cut down, but anytime the roots are removed, there is a chance erosion can take place.
    We have spent over three weeks working on erosion control permits. The Wisconsin Land and Water Conservation Association has a mapping program with photos of all of the farmland in Dane County as far back as the 1950s. The maps show the contours with the elevations and slopes on the farmland, and it shows there were open fields without trees. We have used these maps from the past and also the most recent to document what our farmland restoration plans are.
    All of the agents we have worked with have been helpful and patient. They want to make the permitting process as painless as possible, and they want to make sure we are all in agreement on the plans to protect the land and water on this new property. Wisconsin Land and Water Conservation Association, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Natural Resources Conservation Service, United States Army Corps of Engineers and the township have all heard from us and have been proactive in our project to restore the farmland to what it was. We are hopeful we will be able to plant in the areas where the farmland restoration has taken place this spring.
    While the days are still warming the soil and the sun is shining longer, we are keeping busy getting ready for another planting season. The seed has been delivered, inputs ordered, and the tractors have been taken out of the shed. Dual tires have been put on the planting tractor, and the planter is hooked up and opened out.
    A lot of work goes into getting the fields ready to plant. If the field needs repairs to the tile or trees need to be worked on, it has to be done when the soil is dried from the snow cover. All of this needs to be done without getting trucks or equipment stuck. Then comes the rush when all the farmers begin working the ground, picking rocks and then finally the planting.   
    Tina Hinchley, and her husband,  Duane, daughter Anna, milk 240 registered Holsteins with robots.  They also farm 2300 acres of crops near Cambridge, Wisconsin.  The Hinchley’s have been hosting farm tour for over 25 years.