I-80 Planting Tour: Homeschool Becomes New Normal During Plant Prep

I80 Planting Tour Kick Off 040120

School time now comes with some shop time for Bremen, Indiana farmer Charlie Houin and his sons.

“Our whole dynamic right now is rather interesting,” Houin says.

While great-grandma, grandma and grandpa help homeschool due to the coronavirus (COVID-19), Houin works to get equipment ready for planting.

“It’s one of those things we look at and [say] ‘OK, we have these situations.’ We just deal with them as they come,” Houin says.

A lot has changed since planting last year, not just with the coronavirus but also with trade.

Houin is planning to plant more soybeans this year. He banks on China coming back to the market to buy during 2020 in order to fulfill the Phase 1 trade agreement.

China is already buying some U.S. farm products last month even though typically they buy beans from South America during this time.

“China was the biggest buyer [the week of March 22] of U.S. corn, wheat and U.S. soybeans. That is a very interesting piece of information,” says Joe Vaclavik, founder and president of Standard Grain.

“If you look at what our markets are going through right now with the uncertainty with the virus, I think [China will] start to take advantage of those opportunities to lock in some cheap products,” said Houin.

The Houin family is also planting more soybeans because it’s the best for them financially. It will save them money on inputs.

“Basically, it’s money,” says Marvin Houin, Charlie’s father. “[It’s] how much money we have to put the crop out and [how much] we can get.”

Last year’s tariff and trade issues are top of mind. Houin says farm country may need another government payment to have a successful year if there are any pauses in Phase 1 or lingering uncertainty due to the coronavirus. It’s a payment possibility now in writing following Congress’ recent stimulus bill. Lawmakers voted to put more money in the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) fund for agriculture. They also voted to set aside potential money for COVID-19 relief.

“To get guys to really cash flow, that government payment is going to be huge,” Houin says.  

As the unexpected change of “homeschooling” becomes part of the plan, the family adjusts. They adjust just like farm families do, both in the shop and in the classroom.