We spoke to Brandon about his career development within Farming, what he has learned and accomplished.
Brandon standing beside the Combine Tractor he drives.
Hi Brandon, it is great to speak with you today! You have been working in farming for quite a while, how long have you been doing this type of work?
It’s been about 4 years since I’ve started. I started with nothing, no skills in farming but I knew I was interested in it.
I didn’t know what to expect. You don’t know what you’re getting into but the first thing I learned to drive was a front-end loader. Then I learned how to till the field using a disc cultivator. I’ve been given more responsibilities over time.
Can you give us an idea about the type of work you are doing? What sorts of tasks do you complete day to day?
It depends on the season. Most of the day-to-day tasks are either field work, or yard work. Tasks like prepping and maintenance of machinery and equipment start in early spring, then comes fertilizer spreading. We will get a shipment load of fertilizer powder. I set up the tractor hooked up to the auger. From there I offload the fertilizer into potato trucks. Each of our trucks can hold up to 30 ton.
If it’s planting, I’ll be hooking up the planter, going over and checking the oil, hydraulic levels of the tractor itself, making sure the planter is greased. When you get to the field you fill the planter with bags of seed. You set up an auger with the tractor if you need to fill the planter via 1 ton tote bags of seed. On a farm you will often see an auger and remember folks, the auger is the farmer’s best friend.
With this work, what skills do you get to use?
The skills you get to use are observation, that’s a big one and spatial awareness. You need to know where you are going to place the center of the truck to be able to make sure the fertilizer is coming out and that it is not going to be offset. You want it to be centered. Or know how close you are to the edge of a field when planting the headlands, or where your forks are on a loader in relation to the slots on a pallet/skid so you can pick it up. Offloading a full grain tank from a combine into a truck is also quite tedious especially with a 30ft grain/bean header attached.
How have you been able to develop these skills?
The only way I know and that is by experience. You get good at what you do, when you do it for a couple of years. You make mistakes over the course of it. You fall, you get back up again. You have to be able to work hard and put in the time, make sacrifies and the hard choices. Who else besides a farmer chooses to get up at the crack of crazy to till the soil?!
What time is it when you usually get up?
We usually start at 8:00 in the morning but I drive 45 minutes to an hour, depending on traffic. I get up at 5:00 or 5:50 in the morning. Some guys are already at work at 3:00 in the morning!
How do aspects of your ASD affect or improve your work, if any?
I mean, to be honest, at the start my ASD did affect some things as I might not have understood some things.
I really do not know if my ASD has helped. Maybe in some ways it helped, because I’m tech savvy. Let’s just say it didn’t have too much of an effect at the start or where I’m at now.
Is there technology used in the tractors?
Yes, in some. Keep in mind there is a lot of older equipment I’ve used. The computerized part I’ve been able to learn quickly, such as a GPS, which allows me to use auto-steer, which greatly helps with planting straight rows.
You have had some variety in past work experiences, what type of work do you prefer?
Within farming itself, I love planting. It is my favourite part of the season but if I really wanted to do something within farming itself, it would be combine harvesting which can lead to custom harvesting. That’s what I’d love to get into.
I like both planting and harvesting. With planting and the growing season, you see the physical, tangible result of planting – it’s so beautiful, it’s unreal. It makes me think – I did that – it’s cool. Then I go and bring in the product during harvest.
The only part of the season I don’t like is irrigation. It’s hot, heavy and frustrating.
For this we draw from water sources, a pond at the home farm and the Nottawasaga river. It’s muddy, it’s hot, muggy and buggy. My boss said irrigation will make or break you. Well, it’s not my favourite but we still have to do it and it’s important.
How do you think employers can better accommodate someone on the Autism Spectrum?
That’s a hard one because I didn’t say I was on the spectrum at first. My boss learned about it over the years and gradually he’s become more accommodating.
It’s hard to say how they can accommodate, because if you have a passion for something you’re going to do well at it. That’s for anyone, if you’re on the spectrum or not.
It’s hard to pinpoint.
Looking ahead, what are some career and work goals you have for the future?
I’d like to get into custom harvesting which is basically: you have a combine along with the appropriate type of header, you need a tractor and an auger wagon, you also need a truck with a grain trailer.
With custom combine harvesting you do contract work; you have the machinery and you go and do the work for farmers who can’t do it themselves. They do this a lot in the Prairies and the [United] States. There are some companies that do it in the States and they come up [to Canada]. You get thousands of hours on this one machine.
What else would you like people to know about farming?
The pandemic has not affected my ability to become involved in farming, though I can’t complain about the weather we had, because the famers in the prairies just faced a really bad drought, it was pretty horrible from what I saw. Luckily, I’ve been able to continue to work and keep myself in shape.
I’m often just by myself, listening to tunes on the tractor and the radio. Singing my heart out in the tractor!
The Combine it’s huge, it’s the biggest machine that I’ve operated. It’s the one in the picture that you will see me standing beside. When you look at the guy in the field, it might not look like he’s doing much but he’s doing a lot. You’re always concentrating very hard, so you have to listen to what is going on. A lot of it is observation, audio and visual. You also have to fine tune the machine depending on the day, and whether it has been dry or wet.
Farming is a great job with some pretty great rewards. But the most important reward is that you are growing food for people and at the end of the day I can come home safely and rest knowing that what I am a part of is bigger than myself and that I am giving it my all to ensure that food is being grown so that others may eat and be satisfied.
Thank you for taking the time to speak with me today, Brandon. Congratulations on your current accomplishments and it is great to hear about your knowledge of farming.
We look forward to hearing more about your new career!