Every farm has its own story. No two farms (or farmers) are exactly alike. Everyone got started in a different way, and every farm has a different combination of family and hired staff who make the decisions and keep things running. But, in general, even after you consider all of the details, farmers are more alike than different, whether they’re farming above or below the 49th parallel.
This is the story of Ivan Dueck and his brothers, Marcus and Calvin.
The Duecks farm in Namiquipa, Mexico. Namiquipa is about 230 miles south of El Paso, Texas, in Mexico’s state of Chihuahua. The town has a population of under 2,000 people. The average temperature in Namiquipa in January is 6.3 C. In July, the average temperature is 21.3 C. The area receives, on average, 428 mm of rain every year.
What do you grow?
Most people are amazed to hear we grow apples. We have an orchard of 9,000 mature apple trees which we rent from my grandpa, as well as another young orchard of 11,000 trees we acquired last winter that isn’t in production yet. My grandpa started growing apples 55 years ago. Thirty-eight years ago he planted an orchard here, the first in this small valley. Water is scarce and he was fortunate to have water in his well. Some years later, he added another 3,000 trees. He farmed and took care of the orchard until he was 83 years old, and finally retired, still with good health. We are on our fourth year of renting the land from him.
Besides apples, we grow corn on approximately 840 acres of irrigated farmland. Most is irrigated by pivots/sprinklers and some by flood irrigation. Beside that we have a cow-calf operation and run a herd of approximately 150. We graze them in high country in the mountains surrounding the valley during the summer, the rainy season, and on corn stubble from corn harvest in November until mid-April.
How long have you been farming?
I have always farmed. When I was in school, we had a dairy of 60 cows and my job was to bottle-feed calves. That is one of the earliest chores I recall having to do on the farm. I did truck one summer but I knew I couldn’t stay in a truck with harvest coming up. I worked on a farm in Saskatchewan for three summers, mainly for a change, and came back to farm here again.
Who do you farm with?
I farm with my older brothers Marcus (30) and Calvin (27).
Why did you choose farming?
I chose farming because it was simply my passion. There was nothing that I wanted more than to farm and sit in a good piece of equipment.
What farming season do you enjoy most, and why?
I enjoy fall and harvest. I love the busyness it brings, as well as the one and only paycheck we farmers get in a year.
What’s the farm implement you can’t live without?
Good tractors. Our row crops and flood irrigation require a lot of hours on tractors.
What good decision have you made that turned out well?
We need lots of bales for feeding from mid-April until July and sometimes August, whenever rain comes, so we purchased a big square baler and went into custom baling. That has saved us hiring help and helped pay for the baler.
Have you made a decision on the farm that you regret?
Marketing can be a tough one sometimes — when to sell, when to wait. I have only farmed a few years on my own, so I haven’t made too many major land transactions or risky investments, but there’s never a year one looks back and says everything went as well as it could’ve with marketing or other decisions that could’ve improved a yield here and there.
What do you anticipate your biggest challenge will be over the next five to 10 years?
I think it’s the people that have no idea what goes on in the farm. Yes, you see us spraying our apples numerous times a year, but most spray applications on apples are only calcium, which is in no way strong or dangerous. We spray it numerous times just to be able to store apples and reduce bruising when they’re stored in cold storages for months. We eat everything that we sell off our farms ourselves. One of many challenges we face is that we’re feeding a world that no longer has any idea what’s going on at the farm.
What do you think your biggest opportunity will be over next five to 10 years?
It’s very tough to know. If we consistently have good crops, one opportunity will be to hopefully buy land, which is ridiculously expensive here, if it comes up for sale.
What do you like to do for fun or to relax?
I definitely enjoy team roping with friends and going to small jackpots in the area.