OSCEOLA COUNTY — In many businesses or endeavors, “average” is just ...average.

Beige. Vanilla. Just ...well ... average.

In farming, “average” can be a real blessing.

An average year in farming can mean there were no destructive weather events, no devastating price cuts, no need for huge capital investments.

It also can mean, decent rains in a timely fashion, a relatively steady market, and no, (or few), surprises.

For all intent and purpose, 2011 was an average agricultural year in Osceola County.

And again — average is good.

“It really depends on what categories we’re talking about,” reported Jerry Lindquist, Osceola County’s MSU Extension Service educator.

“Most commodity prices were very good. That’s great news. We are seeing high prices in almost every area.

“On the other hand, expenses were also up. The profit margin may not be fantastic, but it still is good.

“As for the growing season, it has been about average.”

Lindquist did point out, however, that weather and growing conditions can vary widely and greatly — even within an area as small as Osceola County.

“We had some real highs and lows,” he noted.

“Some of our farmers got good rains at good times. Others, however, ran into drought conditions.

“It may have been an average year, but it certainly wasn’t “average” for each and every farm in our community.”

HAY

The growth of hay varied a great deal just in the Osceola County area — if not around the state.

“We saw a first good cutting of hay,” said Lindquist. “The quality wasn’t great, but the quantity was good.

“Then it got dry in many locations so cuttings dropped off in both quality and quantity.

“Late in the growing year, things improved. We had a lot of hay made in September.

“Overall, we had an abundant hay year - slightly above average.”

Prices for hay are not the greatest. Many farmers are ‘sitting’ on their hay in hopes of seeing prices pick up a bit.

“The good news is there may be a market out west of Michigan hay,” Lindquist said. “There are some tough conditions out there so we may see market prices increase.”

CORN and SILAGE

The corn crop this year saw good yields in some areas of the county, while in other sections important rains were missed and fields wilted.

“Overall, we came through very good and there are also abundant corn silage yields,” said Lindquist.

“At this stage, we’re running a couple weeks behind schedule for the corn harvest, but I think we can report that the corn crop came through OK.

LIVESTOCK

Prices on feeder calves were affected by droughts in the west — positively for Osceola County.

The price of meat is strong.

“The price of beef for farmers is the highest I’ve seen it in my time working,” reported Lindquist.

“This is going to mean good money for livestock farmers.

“It also is helping on dairy farms when they sell a beef animal, or a cull animal.

“I’d expect that for the time being, at least, prices for beef — and meat generally — will remain high.”

DAIRY

Milk prices have climbed up slowly but at a reasonable pace. There is a profit to be made in dairy.

“Prices may slide a little this winter, but not enough to hurt anyone,” noted Lindquist. “Our dairy operations are making a profit even if expenses have gone up.

“Milk prices are up, and that’s good news for our area.”

SOYBEANS

Soybean growers did well in Osceola County in 2011, although there weren’t extensive plantings.

Soybeans are at record high prices, and that encouraged the planting of some 600 acres of the crop in Osceola.

To a degree, soybeans replaced canola as the crop “ ... you just have to try.”

“Canola took a back seat to both soybeans and corn this year,” said Lindquist. “We only saw 300 acres planted to canola — not an increase, but this crop is still a big question mark.

“It’s hard for canola to compete in a market in which corn and soybeans are doing so well.”

In short ... things are looking good.

“Overall, we had an average growing year, with above average profitability,” Lindquist said.

“If we can get everything harvested in October, we should have a pretty decent 2011 growing season.

“Our farm economy is doing well.”