On September 13, southeast Arkansas farmer Matt Miles harvested a record-smashing 107.63-bushel soybean field.

Miles, a gentle giant of a man, is willing to talk about the growing season but only after repeatedly explaining the accomplishment in terms of family ties and the benefits of surrounding oneself with good people.

“Look, man, the record is awesome! But in the end what really matters is the whole crew that did this, the history we have and the memories we’ve made,” he says at his dining room table, wife Sherrie Kay at his elbow. “My co-workers are very instrumental in this operation. I’d put them up against any crew in the world.

“And, honestly, without similar weather to this year, I feel that 100 bushels will be hard to hit again. We may go 10 years without seeing 100 bushels again.

“We can still make consistently good yields, though. Our average yield here was at 68 bushels. The four-year average is around 70 bushels. Then, all of the sudden, we pop up with these big yield bumps.”

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Three houses

Three houses once stood on an especially productive 47-acre pie-shaped wedge of silt loam outside McGehee, Ark. Sherrie Kay’s great-grandfather bought the land in the 1920s and her father was born and raised there.

Years later, Matt and Sherrie Kay bought that field and eventually grew 107-bushel beans on it. The couple is equally responsible for the operation’s success. “She is just as big a part of the farming operation as I am,” says Matt. “She doesn’t get as dirty – although she will shovel a polypipe line -- but the office is run meticulously. She can tell you how many bolts we bought in a given year. She keeps everything humming, makes sure everything is in line.

“We farm 6,300 acres – half in McGehee and half in Boydell in Ashley County,” says Matt. “This year, we have 3,300 acres of corn and 2,500 acres of soybeans. We also have 230 acres of cotton and the balance is in wheat and beans.”

More on high-yielding Arkansas soybeans here, here and here.

Miles – who also farms with his son, Layne, and consultant, Robb Dedman -- didn’t have any trouble planting crops this spring. “The early temperatures weren’t what we wanted but I guess it didn’t hurt much – maybe it helped things considering the yields we’ve had. Our corn yield was just a bit less than last year’s average but, otherwise, our 2013 yields have been better than they’ve ever been.”

Did he plan to enter the yield contest with this field from the get-go?

“We did. Last year, we entered the contest with a different field. We threw the kitchen sink at it, tried every product we could think of.”

Dedman says during the growing season Miles is extremely driven and focused. Miles admits that those traits make the process of harvesting a contest field difficult. “I’m not big on stopping during harvest. For me to stop a combine, it has to be broke down. Efficiency is everything to us and I want to keep going until the job is done. I don’t want any delays – going through hurricane weather will make you that way.

“By entering the contest, I didn’t realize that it would mean a special harvest with a bunch of judges watching and whatnot. I learned real quick that we had to stop, clean up the combine, had to have a clean trailer and all the rest.”

In 2012, an hour into contest process, Miles was going a bit stir-crazy. “We still hadn’t cut the first row. I’m itching to get going because, across the field, I could see another combine getting closer to the test plot. I knew what the yield was on those beans – ‘well, this contest field won’t be 100 bushels.’ In the end, they made a bushel less than the beans that weren’t in the contest. We didn’t even get close to 100 bushels.”

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