Thursday, August 20, 2015
We are working on updating our website, and so part of my homework is to work up a short history of the farm, as well as other fun assignments. You get to read my rough drafts and comment on them, if you choose.
There are many ways to farm, and we've tried several of them. Despite the awful effects in the 1980s of the "Get big or get out" motto, early in our farming career we couldn't see any other way. But getting big didn't really mesh with our dreams. We didn't have a ton of money, and we had no desire to get over our heads in debt. We knew we would rather farm than manage employees. Our idea of a fun time didn't include dealing with paperwork all day long. We wanted a good place to raise a family. We wanted to be connected to the land and to our community. We consciously stayed small, but farmed conventionally, using the tools of modern agriculture.
In an effort to make a living wage, we diversified. Part of our reason for diversifying was to try to survive--maybe if we had many projects going, some would pay off, despite a wet spring or a dry summer or a harvest failure or a hard winter. And part of our reason was a natural progression as we learned more about soil health and the importance of rotating crops and animals.
As time went on we tried very hard to do a better job with what we were growing and raising. We developed a growing awareness that the ground under our feet is a living entity, and that much of what we call health springs from healthy, working soil. We switched from more harmful chemicals to less harmful chemicals. Then we switched from less harmful chemicals to no chemicals and began transitioning to organic farming. We continued to become more intentional about crop and animal rotation to ensure healthy soils, healthy plants and healthy animals.
So now here we are--farming organically and biologically. Certainly we haven't arrived in the sense that we know what we're doing and do it well. We joke that we find new ways to screw up every year. But we are pleased with where we are, even so. The sheep and cattle graze part of the farm, followed by corn, then beans, then grain. Each year finds us working within all four of these categories in different fields. We are excited about the nutrition, taste and sustainability of the food we grow. We offer our food at three different farmers' markets in the area, and sell our food through two online food hubs that operate in the West Michigan area.
We have a lot to learn yet, and continue to struggle with the weather, marketing, crop yields, cash flow, exhaustion, weeds, and relationships. But there is a sense of satisfaction that permeates our days and draws us onward.