Tuesday, August 06, 2013

TBF 021 :: Learning From Farmers, Updates, and a Hard Lesson Learned

Have you ever noticed that sometimes it takes a long time for a person to follow their own advice? Well, I don't know if you have noticed it, but I sure have ... and when I notice it I realize that I'm not following my own advice!

For quite a while when people have asked me what steps they should take when it comes to their journey to become farmers I have said that they needed to take some time working on a farm ... even if that farm does nothing the way they want to do it when they have their own farm. As a beginning farmer I realized there was so much that I wish I would have known going in, and that I could have learned a lot of those things just by volunteering a little time at a farm ... any farm!

Well, five plus years into my farming journey I have finally followed my own advice! Before I would always have an excuse of why I couldn't go work for another farm (no time, no farmers that would want me, no farms doing it the way I am, etc.), but this year for a number of reasons (one of which was the fact I needed hay) I made it happen and it has been a great experience even though it has meant more hours off of my farm than I would like. Here are five things I have learned ... so far ...

  1. Things Break and You Fix Them
  2. Practical Farm Things (like taking care of sheep, baling hay, etc.)
  3. Organic Grain Farming Works and is Work
  4. How Three Generations Farm Together
  5. Going With the Flow ... it is very important in farming

If you have an input on the topic be sure to leave a comment below or send us an e-mail.

The Beginning Farmer ShowAs always, I want to thank you so much for listening and supporting the show with your encouragement and reviews on iTunes! I am continually working to produce a better show, and I'm thankful for all of the listeners sticking with me as I learn. If you do enjoy the show, don't forget that you can subscribe on iTunes and leave a five start rating and review (by clicking the link or the image on the right). If you are an Android phone user you can also subscribe on the free Stitcher App. It is so very encouraging to know that people are listening and enjoying the show!

I would love to hear your questions, show ideas, or comments about the show. Feel free to shoot me an e-mail! As always you can follow along with The Beginning Farmer and Crooked Gap Farm by checking out these links ... 

**Special Note :: A few users are experiencing issues downloading the show on iTunes. If you have any experience with podcasts and how they can play nicely with iTunes I would love some suggestions.**

(if you are interested in the music in this episode check out my brother's record label, Historic Records) 


Donna OShaughnessy said...

Ethan, we have been doing this pastured livestock, organic farm thing for over 18 years and we are STILL learning. We often participate or sponsor farm tours and learn so much visiting other farms and letting others visit us.Books are helpful but helping with your own two hands is the most valuable knowledge ever gained. You are welcome to "intern" anytime with us. All meals, a nice bed and tons of raw milk included!

Anonymous said...

I have not done an internship or worked for a farmer - and I totally agree, I would have benefited enormously from that. I did have the good fortune to grow up on a small mixed farm, so that I did come into this with an inkling of the work, dirt, ups and downs, pros and cons of working with animals, etc. I took a continuing education organic farming course that our local college offered not long after we moved to the farm (about 14 years ago) and while in some ways the course was not that useful to me (it was heavy into how to get certified status, and focussed entirely on vegetable and fruit production), I did learn the importance of creating a business plan, and I did learn about some resources to follow up on - the most important being that someone loaned me Pastured Poultry Profits by Joel Salatin.

With regard to your five points - some of them kind of flow from and around each other - things get broken and you fix them, go with the flow, and three generations farming together - I think it's the "been there, done that" perspective that the older two generations can give the youngest - the knowledge that the sun will rise tomorrow, it will rain eventually, the baler has always acted up, you just have to keep adjusting the tension. I don't have that, despite my childhood, none of my family who farmed are left. My husbands family has not farmed in 3 generations, and so we rely heavily on the knowledge and patience of neighbours, and there we are richly blessed.

Ahhh...planning. I am not good at this. Or - I am so good at creating the plan that I don't get around to carrying it out. Typically I plan backwards, forcing myself into action - I order chicks and set my processing dates, and then have to figure out where to brood, how to build another pasture shelter, etc. This year, we got two piglets to grow out to see if we like doing them (we do), and ordered them without really having a good idea of where we would house them, or how electric fence worked (I know now). This kind of planning works in that it forces things to get done, but it does mean that I often end up with a "temporary" solution because I ran out of time - and then of course, the temporary solution becomes the permanent one, except that it was so poorly constructed that it needs constant patching and mending to hold together.

So, obviously, you were speaking right at me this week. Thanks.

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