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Brice Mehlbauer prepares a plane at the Portland Municipal Airport to spray crop cover over fields on Freeman Farms. SUBMITTED

The Portland Municipal Airport doesn’t just provide a service for the many local industries located in Portland, but area farmers use it as well. 

In late summer, when the crops are harvested, farmers are thinking of next year’s crops and preparing the soil for better yields. That’s when the airport is vital to the farmers.

Local farmer Steve Freeman contracted with Houston Ag Flying Service from Stanley, Ky. to spray cover crops over approximately 500 acres. The company flew into the Portland airport and operated from there as they spread cover crops over the Freeman farm and two other farms in the area. 

The airport played an important role in this operation. Airport manager Doug Hunter was involved in making sure everything was in order at the airport.

The cover crops being sown by the airplane pilot were radishes, clover, and turnips. Sometimes rye is added to the mixture. These crops grow well in the cooler months and are destroyed in March and April to make way for the farm crops. The radishes and turnips grow deep and break up the soil causing the soil to become less compact. The clover and rye add nutrients to the soil. 

Freeman works with Jason Stratton of Nutrien Ag Solutions for the seeds he used in the process in addition to the wheat seeds Freeman produced in his farm crops. The program is a U. S. Government cost share program. 

Brice Mehlbauer with Houston Ag Flying Service was working at the airport operating the hopper to assist the loading of the seeds into the plane when it returned each time. According to Mehlbauer, a GPS is used to zero in on the field which is to be sprayed with the crop cover. Points are established and the plane flies in a race track pattern as the seeds are released. Instruments in the plane gauge the wind for accuracy in identifying the fields to be sprayed.

According to Freeman, farming today is very technical. Farmers must know how to market their crops, have an understanding of alternate crops, know what nutrients are needed as their crops grow, must understand soil conditions, and must have someone who understands computers to gather the necessary data. Using this knowledge helps farmers produce higher yields. Freeman has six employees who help him farm 6,000 acres.

Freeman also operates Freeman Logistics to supplement the farm income, The logistic business employs 21 people. His drivers pick up eggs and produce in Nashville to deliver to various points in the states for distribution.

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