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Friday, September 25, 2009

Farming Philosophy

There was an interesting post on NewAgTalk a day or so ago.
Fellow posted bemoaning the direction agriculture has taken. Essentially he pointed out than in going from the family farm to the BTO farm we went from nurturing to exploitive agriculture. Apparently there has been some expose' on big egg farms and this fellow was reacting to the point that you can't afford the sort of farm with 30 chickens and make a living.
I started to go on a rant, but came back later and removed my post.
I thought of another important idea. We don't want to live on a farm with 30 chickens, 50 cows, a couple pigs, and a farmall M. (or in our case a Minneapolis-Moline model Z) subsistence farming is a lot of work. Oops! That is called sustainable farming now.
However, I wonder if you could make it work with somewhat of a new model of doing business.
First you would have to start with capital or a decent job.
The second major problem is land. You have to have at least 50 acres of good, probably irrigated ground.
You could start out in this area doing hay. You use the custom hay business to buy a nice modern cab tractor with FWA and A/C and 90-120hp. You can scrounge up 10ft equipment with no problem.
Once you get the nice tractor you can realize huge fuel savings and creature comforts that allow you to farm at night or when it is 110 degrees outside. You then take advantage of the many opportunities to put in pastures and mow weeds and do various unpleasant jobs that the big guys won't do.
The next step would be crops and cows. Raise vegetables and hay for the local markets and feed the waste to livestock. I think you could do fairly well and have a nice lifestyle with 100 acres and an outside job, or a lot of custom farming.
I have not seen this done as most people you start out doing this fail. Still I think it could happen with the right mindset. I've sort of done it, but we were doing to save the family farm, and I don't like livestock cause they bust my fences.
But here is my rant:
(See link to NAT before reading my rant)

I feel that I should point out ideas which help to give me understanding to such frustrations as you have expressed.
First of all, in my humble opinion, most farmers know deep down in their heart of hearts two very important things.
1. The Almighty has given them and mostly them, the unique ability to be the best darn farmer in the whole world.
2. With that idea in mind, of course they would be the best stewards of whatever land GOD Himself might send their way.
So you may talk about the benefits of smaller farms. How, a small farm buys local and hires local, and supports the local grain elevator, the local co-op, and the local farm dealership. You might opine how many smaller and a few larger farms build a population base of people who understand farming and how things work and who will make good leaders for future generations. You may point out that huge farms mean fewer  farmers and thus a smaller voter bloc or lobbying group or shall we put it bluntly LESS VOTES. But, you in fact are totally ignoring that GOD Himself has given a mandate to x-family farms to wisely shepherd the land in five counties and who are you to question the realities of modern commercial agriculture.
Then again you may be ignoring the idea that perhaps all that really motivates farmers is the desire to have a really huge combine and a couple really awesome Big tractors and they just like to drive around in circles all day pulling really large implements. Then on their off days they can drive around in really new pickups and look for more land that God has sent their way.
Now I'm not saying I really know all that much. I've spent most of my farming career doing custom work for other people and listening to them complain about their BTO neighbors. After all, I've been so much happier now that I understand farming is a BUSINESS and not a lifestyle.
And I hate chasing cows. I just like to drive tractors, so forget that whole old fashioned lifestyle farming idea with pigs and cows and chickens. I'd rather stay in a tractor for 36 hrs straight than shovel out a chicken house!
Anyway, that's just my current opinion...
Then of course there was all the comments about US agriculture feeding the world-which is sort of previous century thinking in itself.
Right, when I go out and plant my grass seed I'm thinking about feeding the world. It is going to replant a freaking golf course. (or it was till the economy tanked)
I'm thinking about making a buck.
When everyone else on here is planting corn for that nasty crap that rusts my gas tank, they are not thinking about feeding the world they are thinking about getting some cash.
I can respect that.
If you are growing wheat or sweet corn or tomatoes you are thinking about feeding who ever has the bucks to pay for your crop. That's the bottom line. Just admit it. There is no shame in feeding your family.
Good grief, I memorized the FFA creed just like everyone else, but I don't say it everyday...
Ok, that was long and you've read this on here before...All four of my readers know what I think already...So go back to work. Time's a wasting.

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