Last week’s ideal harvesting weather provided no breather for Dave Kestel after a weekend family celebration on his northern Illinois farm. In addition to readying for harvest, Kestel hosted his daughter and son-in-law’s wedding reception in his farm shed near Manhattan.

“As soon as I got done spraying in summer, I repainted all of the buildings, relandscaped all of the yard,” said the energetic seed dealer during a brief break from harvest. “It was just about like a field day meal here.”

Kestel referred to the recent near-perfect harvest weather as “fabulous,” and immediately jumped on it. He knocked out 100 acres of corn and soybeans by midweek.

“There’s always a drawback, farmers always got to complain about something,” said Kestel. “We’re going to get down to 9% (moisture) soybeans. It’s just dropping like a rock.”

The Will County farmer acknowledged he likes the price of what he’s receiving for his soybeans even though a bit disappointed with yields, which have been averaging about 50 bushels/acre. He’s having them hauled right out of the field to a local elevator rather than storing them on his farm, as has been the case in recent years.

“If they go to $12, $13, or $14 (a bushel), so be it,” remarked Kestel. “I’m sure there are a lot of fellas like myself, we sold some beans in the summertime, when we thought there was no bottom, for $8.60, $8.70. Hopefully, the over $10 will help level the playing field on that.”

He tried a couple of new things this year, including seeding soybeans in April, not the most common practice in his part of the state, but happening more. He likes what he sees, despite being drenched with over 9” of moisture the month of May and nearly nothing in August.

“There’s a lot of pods, but a lot of two-bean pods,” he said. “You just don’t find a lot of four-bean pods.”

With corn, Kestel took a five-acre corner of his home farm to conduct a trial on high seed population, coupled with high-fertility. He’s anxious to point his combine corn head in that direction soon.

“There was a little monkeying around, changing population on the planter and applying more fertilizer, but it’s only five acres,” said Kestel. “It’s not going to break me and I’m going to learn a little bit from it.”

Kestel has a knack for taking striking farm photos and sharing them on Facebook and Twitter. This year, he decided to experiment with field art too, by creating a giant crucifix in his soil with a tractor and field cultivator the day before Easter. He used a drone to photograph the formation. The uplifting social media posts generated thousands of “likes” during mid-April when most people sheltered in place as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I just get excited about farming, the good Lord has blessed me and is letting me live my dream,” said the northeast Illinois farmer. “I wake up every day and I say, ‘This is awesome, I get to go do this again.’”