Award-winning farm

Towaoc corn producer recognized on national level

$PHOTOCREDIT_ON$Michael Vicenti and Vaughan Cook dump corn from their combine in November at the Ute Tribal Farm.$PHOTOCREDIT_OFF$ Enlargephoto

Journal/Sam Green

$PHOTOCREDIT_ON$Michael Vicenti and Vaughan Cook dump corn from their combine in November at the Ute Tribal Farm.$PHOTOCREDIT_OFF$

The Ute Mountain Farm and Ranch in Towaoc gained national recognition during the recent National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) National Corn Yield Contest.

The farm claimed a third place in the nation and first place in Colorado, in the no till/strip till irrigated division.

But this is not the first time the farm has been recognized for their efforts. In 2003, the farm earned a second place in the national competition.

The contest begins in March and entries must be filed by July 15, then harvested by Dec. 1, according to the NCGA.

“The national (competition) is hard to win. It’s tough these days, there’s over 8,000 contestants,” said farm manager Paul Evans.

Evans said he was excited about the contest since he was anticipating a good yield that could do well in the competition. He said the hybrid corn seed he was using, which is produced by the Fontanelle brand of Nebraska, was producing about 20 more bushels of corn per acre than the other seeds he was planting.

Hybrid seeds combine the best attributes of male and female corn to achieve maximum harvests, Evans explained.

“You get the desirable traits from both male and female plants. That might be anything from kind of yields to drought tolerance,” Evans said.

The farm’s competition corn, a cattle feed corn, produced more than 315 bushels per acre, only 75 bushels behind the first-place winner at the national level. A bushel weighs in at 56 pounds.

The 7,700-acre farm used the no till/strip till method, one of several categories in the competition. Tilling is preparing the land for planting, and the strip refers to the long narrow rows of planting, according to Evans.

No till/strip till is a combination of growing strategies that minimizes soil disturbance and erosion while increasing water and nutrients in the process. Strip tilling disperses fertilizers ahead of planting.

Max Starbuck, the director of production, stewardship and livestock for the NCGA, is also the director of the contest. He says that no till/strip till is a difficult category.

“With no till/strip till, you can’t disturb more than one-third of the soil in a row, so you’re restricted on ground disturbance,” he said.

Starbuck said the contest began in 1965 and is focused on seeing progressive farming strategies and creative techniques.

“We encourage farmers to try something new. We’re seeking innovative methods. They also get to find out what works and what doesn’t,” Starbuck said.

Evans said the award recognition is a tremendous source of pride for farm employees.

“We’re very proud of our staff. These people work hard to get those yields out of the land. It’s good for bragging rights too,” Evans said.

Michael Vicenti, an employee of the farm and Ute Mountain Ute Tribal Member, says he thinks the competition is a positive thing.

“It’s exciting, because we are being recognized on a national level,” he said.

Vicenti was a new hire in 2003 when the farm won second place.

Vicenti added that the competition motivates him and others on the farm to do a meticulous job, not just for the competition corn, but all the other crops as well.

“It encourages me to do a better job, and make sure it’s all treated well. The field corn and the contest corn are all treated the same,” he said.

Evans said that the farm wouldn’t have earned its recognition without the hard working staff and the support of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe.

“We have a good staff and they work hard, so they deserve the credit. The tribal leadership gives us all the tools we need, they don’t restrict us. That’s a real plus,” Evans said.

The Ute Mountain Farm and Ranch is an irrigated production farm nestled just below the foot of Sleeping Ute Mountain. The farm produces corn, alfalfa, wheat and sunflowers.

Reach Brandon at

$PHOTOCREDIT_ON$Michael Vicenti and Vaughan Cook harvest corn at the Ute Tribal Farm in November 2011.$PHOTOCREDIT_OFF$ Enlargephoto

Journal/Sam Green

$PHOTOCREDIT_ON$Michael Vicenti and Vaughan Cook harvest corn at the Ute Tribal Farm in November 2011.$PHOTOCREDIT_OFF$