"Striking a Balance" is the title of the article by Deborah A. Hyk and the subtitle is, "Family learns that good farming is like an evolving dance." There are a couple of reasons that I found this article especially interesting.
First of all the VanDerPol family is farming together as a family. Their son and his wife joined the farm in the 90's and they have been able to create enough income for them without buying up all the available land around them. These kinds of examples are especially interesting to me because the common thought in Iowa is that the family farm only can produce enough income to support one family so the kids have to leave the farm. With the kids gone and starting new lives without the farm when the parents retire there is nobody to take over ... what used to be a circle of land passing on to generation after generation has become a dead end.
The second reason I enjoyed the article is because they have made a transition from conventional farming methods to more pasture based methods and they have succeeded. I wonder what they would think of my post below and the idea that we can't produce enough on pastures. These success stories are not only great resources for finding farms that are doing things right, but they are an encouragement to me because it shows that it can be done.
Here are a few quotes from the article to pique your interest:
Initially, the VanDerPols decided to put pigs and sheep on pasture. Although Minnesota does not have a climate suited to raising hogs on pasture year-round, Jim noticed that even Minnesota pigs benefited from the seasonal pasture time. Weaned litter sizes were larger when the sows farrowed outdoors, he said; the sows were generally healthier, as well.
This was the first significant step away from a cropping system as a way to support livestock. The farm still includes crops as part of the rotation—alfalfa and orchard grass hay for two years between small-grain crops, with corn or soybeans as occasional visitors to the mix.
They also knew they wanted to keep the farm an intergenerational success. “I grew up here,” says Jim. “But I’m one of the last few still farming the family farmstead from the years when I was growing up.” Across Minnesota and across the country, farmers with large-sized acreage have acquired farms but haven't had an opportunity to pass them onto the next generation. Jim and LeeAnn wanted their farm to be one of the exceptions.
To make that happen, they needed to make certain their acreage was as productive as possible. Maximizing pasture clearly seemed to be the key.
“Our customers are people who appreciate the locally grown, environmental sustainability of our products—and they are folks who like the taste, as well,” says Jim.