Friday, November 24, 2006

A Little Light Reading...

One of the things that I enjoy very much is reading. Whether it is a great historical novel, such as the Jack Aubrey series, or a 18th century journal I love to read it. Usually you will find a few different books or magazines in my night stand, but lately there has been a subject matter other than the normal history or Christian books ... Farming books, magazines, and articles have made their way into my reading library. With Christmas coming just around the corner I put together a list of a few of the books that I would like to tackle next. Most of them come from Joel Salatin because he has written very candidly and to the point on the subect of small scale farming, but there are a few others that look to be interesting also. So, here is my list of light reading...

Salad Bar Beef by Joel Salatin Amazon

You Can Farm by Joel Salatin Amazon

Pastured Poultry Profits by Joel Salatin Amazon

Making Your Small Farm Profitable by Ron Macher Amazon

All Flesh is Grass by Gene Logsdon Amazon

And then for a practical approach from the past...

Five Acres and Independence by Maurice Kains Amazon

Those are some of the one's that I have picked out from the research I have done. I hope to be able report back with some more information soon!

IN OTHER NEWS ::: I finally received my new boots. I had ordered a pair of Georgia Boots, but a seam on the tongue hit my ankle at the wrong angle so I had to fork out a little more cash and buy the Wolverines. All in all I am pleased with them so far and hope they will last.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

A Little Farming Yesterday...

I was able to live a little farming yesterday. Nothing big or special ... more like, "social farming". My family and I traveled up to my Uncle's farm for a plow day. As you can tell from the picture it was a little cool ... and a little snowy. I had a great time plowing with his 1955 Minneapolis Moline UB Special pulling a three bottom plow. The UB is a 48 horsepower tractor according to the Nebraska Tractor Test. My Dad, my Uncle, and my Cousin all were out their driving MM tractors (all of which were my uncle's) because that is our families brand. My Grandfather ran a MM dealership in Nevada, IA in the 50's and it has been in our blood ever since. My dad also has a MM M5 down it his farm. Other neighbors were there with their tractors also and we had a great day plowing.

In other farming news ... I plan on attending a agricultural seminar this December over in Davis County through the county extension office. The seminar is called, "Diversiying into fruits and herbaceous perrinials". It will cover strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and grapes. I believe it will look into selection of varaties, disease, and pest control amog other things. I'm looking forward to this as it will be my first "class" dealing with some potential "crops"! I'll be sure to let you know how it goes...

Friday, October 27, 2006

Money in Farming?

This is a question that was posted on a message board that I read every few days ( It is also a question that has been on my mind recently. Of course there is an easy answer to this question ... yes, there is money in farming! But, the bigger question for me is whether or not there is enough money in farming to cover your production costs and provide for your family?

According to statistics I have read in magazines and on the internet small farms are experiencing somewhat of a comeback in the United States these days. But, how many of these farms are providing the bulk of the income for the farming families? There are many part-time farms or hobby farms out there opporating on a small scale, but how many small scale farms are producing and bringing in enough to provide a living for a family on the farm?

These are some of the questions that I am researching, thinking on, asking about, and just plain day-dreaming about. If you want to see what some other people think about the answer to this question you can follow along with the discussion at Money in Farming? at

Monday, October 09, 2006


This morning as I sat at my desk early in the morning at the church and contemplated the fact that I was the only one in this large building a question popped into my head. Why farm? A while ago when I was working and talking with my uncle he told me that I should not try to become a farmer just because I felt like that was the only other thing I could do. Sound advice from a sound mind with many years of experience on the farm and helping beginning farmers. So, this morning as I sat in a fake leather chair, facing a computer monitor, and all alone in an empty church I pondered that question... Here is what I came up with.

1. The opportunity to live and raise our family in the country a little further from the hustle and bustle
2. The ability to work together as a family unit each day
3. To continue the family tradition of farming and hopefully the history of small farms
4. Self Management = Independence
5. My love of the outdoors and hard work outside

1. The cost to return ratio can sometimes be troubling
2. Long hours through out the year in many different weather conditions
3. Volatility of markets, harvests, and livestock (a farmers livelihood)
4. Self Management = Lots of pressure for a someone supporting a family
5. High amount of start-up costs
6. Lack of certain skills and knowledge
7. Higher risk of failure than some other jobs
8. Leaving a comfort zone

As I put together this list I realized a couple of things. First of all I found that it was easier to find negatives than it was to find the positives (as you can see by the lists). But, that really wasn't surprising because in times of quiet reflection I am pretty good at finding the negatives. The second thing I realized is that most of my reasons for wanting to farm could be considered, "romantic" reasons and my reasons for not farming were rather practical. So, is it bad that I want to farm for "romantic" reasons? Well, yes and no! I'm sure that doing things because it feels good or right can get you into all sorts of trouble ... especially financially. But, I am also sure that we need to follow our hearts at times, and that there is nothing wrong with being a good old fashioned romantic at times. I would like to farm because of the lifestyle. I would like to farm because of the history. I would like to farm because of the connection to the creation. I would like to farm because others before me did and they loved it despite all of the stresses, pains, and troubles.

Just a few thoughts from an early morning in an empty church...

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Where's the Beef?

Well, I went to the big city of Des Moines yesterday (yuck!) and I wasn't able to find any new work boots. I'm going to try a hardware store in a small town south of here next. But, I did do a little research when I returned home last night. I would like to present it here for discussion...

Here is the Choice Steer/Dressed price for Friday, Sep. 29th (Iowa/Minnesota Average):

1,060 over 80% choice cattle delievered ... Average weight dressed 878 lbs. ... Average price per 100 weight $137.65 (or $1.38 per lb.)

Now, here is the price for Choice Beef/Dressed from Wholesome Harvest out of Iowa:

Sorry, no weekly numbers ... average weight is up to the farmer ... Price per 100 weight $245 (or per lb. dressed is $2.45)

There you go. Now, of course there is a lot more to it than just the numbers. You need more space to pasture cattle, there is more care needed to keep them healthy, and many other things. But, those numbers at least give me a starting point for the finished product.

That's just some of my research from this week. It keeps me interested and always wanting to find out more!

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Time for Boots

I went to go work for my uncle on the farm this past Monday. We didn't end up spending a lot of time working (trip to the Ethanol plant and a stop at the Practical Farmers of Iowa offices), but I guess we did do enough work to blow out my trusty old hiking boots that I bought in 1995. So, now I'm in search of some new boots. I've been doing some research and window shopping on the internet and I have found out one thing for sure ... good boots are expensive! I am limiting myself somewhat because I would like to purchase my boots from Cabela's because of all my "Club Points". I have found a pair that may work, but I would really like to try them on first. So, if we make a trek to Des Moines tomorrow like we are planning I am going to find some to try on.

  • Georgia Boots

  • In other news :: I mentioned my stop with Uncle Loren at the Practical Farmers of Iowa office. It seems like it could be a very useful resource in my farming journey. I believe I will be joining the group so I can take part in some of their classes and field days. Also, I believe they are very good at connecting beginning farmers with people who are already doing it and in the know. I have added a link in the links section at the right to the PFI website.

    Saturday, September 23, 2006

    The Very Beginning...

    I am going to use this web log as a journal of my journey into the world of farming. I hope that it can be a source of information for other people that have the same dream that I have (full-time farming). Since I do not have any immediate family that is currently involved in farming I am looking into the potential of alternative farming that does not take as much land as conventional Iowa row crop farming. Some of the ideas that I am researching are berries, cut flowers, pastured hogs, free range broiler chickens, organic eggs, sheep, and goats. I want to have a diverse group of farming endeavors in order to have things producing income at all times of the year. I am not looking for a hobby, rather I'm looking at farming as a full-time job.

    Some of the biggest questions that I am facing now are in the realm of finances. How much capital will it take to get started? How much cash-flow will be needed, and where will it come from as we start? How much can I expect to make with certain crops or livestock? And, how and to whom will I do all of my marketing? As I find answers to these questions I will post my results and thoughts. Also, if you have questions ... or even answers ... feel free to contact me!
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