A lifetime to break even?


My husband and I were driving through some really beautiful farm country in Illinois while doing genealogy research.

These farms are stunning postcard farms and enormous; on hundreds of acres. They are so tidy with no weeds in sight anywhere.

And the crop?


Not the sweet corn you may eat at a BBQ, but starchy ethanol corn. Starch corn is converted into mash, which is fermented and becomes 200 proof ethanol alcohol. Ethanol is then blended into our gasoline.

We even drove past an ethanol plant that was flaring. I haven’t seen flaring since I was a kid (methane flared in the 70’s is now captured and has value). It’s possible that the flaring at the ethanol plant was an aberration-perhaps restarting a plant after repair.

It got me to wondering, how do these multimillion dollar farms stay so pristine?

How would a person even start in the business?

It didn’t take long to get buried in a quagmire of detail on this one.

I was merely curious.

We have a ranch in Texas and it’s IMPOSSIBLE to keep up with the weeds without hiring a lot of help, let alone worrying about crops and tilling soil.

I posed the question, “what would it take to get started?”

Loads of it.

First thing needed:

Check Zillow

There was one farm for sale – 360 acres, 332 of which are tillable for crops:

$1.3Million USD
$7,000/mo mortgage

Unless you were 6th generation on the farm and your ancestors bought it during the land rush of the 1800’s, you’re probably out of luck.

If you own it, you lease it to farmers.

There are SO MANY expenses:
Crop insurance
Electricity for irrigation
Pesticide (if needed)
Fuel for equipment
Services (like spraying for weeds, planting seed, harvesting, drying, storing)
The list goes on…

This is beginning not to sound so romantic, right?

It’s major business.

And if corn is only going for around $4/bushel, like it is currently, you may want to keep your corn in storage until the price goes up, because you still have to pay income tax on any government subsidy you receive. If you sell at a loss, you may still lose?

I’m not sure I could sleep well at night in that business. “Should I sell tomorrow? Next week? Next year?” I would toss and turn.

So, I’ll enjoy those picturesque farms.

In pictures.

Image modified from


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