By Kay Wilson

Drew Farrell is living his dream while starting a new vital agriculture business in his home county.

“I’ve always wanted to fly,” said Farrell, a 2018 Maryville High grad and son of Ben Farrell and Angela Salcedo.

Now 21, Farrell earned his pilot’s license in December 2019 and with the help of an investment from his dad and his grandfather, Benny Farrell, bought his Piper Pawnee this spring.

He has been flying over 800 acres a day since early this summer, presently applying a fungicide to area farmers’ corn crops. Each trip of 150 gallons will cover 70 acres, so his workdays have been long.

In becoming a professional applicator, Farrell had to acquire his commercial pilots license, an agriculture aircraft operators certificate and a Missouri applicator license. While another air ag applicator allowed Farrell some flying experience, it was basically a learning by doing apprenticeship.

“There are several check-offs I have to watch for besides the actual aircraft operation,” said Farrell, “when applying any chemical by the air.”

He has computer applications that alert him to beehives on the ground and also one that speaks to the drift potential with breezes across each field of the spray he is applying. For drift, he also uses his smoker to visually see the drift over each field. Apple trees and vineyards are especially affected by many of the chemicals.

“I like to leave a liberal buffer zone in each field and am careful of those who might be affected negatively by the spray,” noted Farrell.

The applicator receives logs of information from the chemical company with special alerts and potential harms. Farrell told about the chemical strength of the spray he applies, telling 10 ounces of chemical to two gallons of water which covers an acre and bean spray is one ounce for two gallons.

Farmers work with the chemical company, for Farrell it was MFA, so he has had as much business as daylight allows. He flies out of the Northwest Missouri Regional Airport, west of Maryville, where he buys his aircraft fuel. At one time earlier this spring there were as many as five companies’ airplanes flying out of the Maryville base.

When the spray season ends, Farrell plans to switch his operation to seeding for cover crops while the field corn dries down.