Thursday, November 08, 2007

A Break From Your Regularly Scheduled Blogging

I would like to take this time to take a break from my regularly scheduled blogging. Most of the time I post about recent articles, books, or periodicals that I am reading dealing with pastoral farming (grassfed animals, sustainable agriculture, etc.). From time to time I also post happenings from our beginning farm ... things like trips to work with the cattle, the happenings of our backyard chickens, or contemplations on alternative farming in general. But, today I would like to take a break from all of that and talk about good 'ol commodity farming!

Yesterday my family (wife, son, and daughter) and I were all invited to join a friend from church for a few rounds in his diesel guzzling, corn acres eating, commodity crop combine. It was a John Deere if you are scoring at home. We made three rounds through his field averaging about 160 bushels or so per acre with most of the corn coming in around 16% moisture (I know that because of the little computer screen). My little boy (3 1/2 years old) absolutely loved every minute of it ... especially when he got the opportunity to drive.

And, I have to admit that I loved it also. I know that on one level it is a flawed system. I know that I desire to become a full-time farmer and there would be no way for me to play the rules of the commodity farming game unless a bunch of money dropped in my lap. But, there is just something completely rural Iowan about riding in a combine on a crisp fall day with you son and watching the rows of tall corn disappear before you. There is just something comforting to my soul watching the grain pour out of the combine auger and dump into the wagon only to make it's way to an auger and up into a brand new shiny bin. I love the sound of the tractor, the smell of the crop being harvested, the enjoyment of watching a farmer bring in his harvest at the end of a season, and the crisp beauty in the air. There is just something about it...

But, even though I love all of that I couldn't help but think how this farmers life would be different if he didn't live the commodity farming lifestyle. Sure he has some great new equipment. Farms about 400 acres of row crop land. Bales large round bales and runs a 100 head cow/calf herd. But, he as to do that in between shifts at the police department where he is a full-time officer. What if he was grazing all of those acres and cutting hay and silage instead? What if he was using a management intensive grazing program for his cattle? What if he only had those two old Oliver 1655 tractors instead of the new green machines (or maybe just the new 4wd John Deere with the loader)? Would he have to be holding down a town job just so he could farm?

Thanks for indulging me for a day. I promise that tomorrow I will jump off the commodity farming wagon and post cows eating grass or pigs rooting up small trees in a pasture or sheep following after cows ... you know, something unconventional!

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