Wednesday, January 26, 2011
This has happened with me more and more lately. Two years ago, I set out to figure out exactly who I was, what my values and principles are. On that path, I had to side step to take a close look at what my life had consisted of up until that point. I stepped back to the right and started viewing the sequence of my life. I decided that many things needed to change and that I needed to start incorporating some of my early years into my adult life.
So, I got my first steer. I discovered that I enjoyed spending time caring for him, feeding him and just giving him a good life. I enjoyed having other people come to visit and comment on how well behaved he was, how friendly is more like it. Then Mr. Farmer and I held discussions on other animals to get. I wanted chickens. I have had them around most of my life. I enjoy spending time with them too. They provide eggs and meat for food on the table, enjoyment as they are out running around in the grass for bugs or scratching up the yard to pick worms. So, on one of our trips to the feed store, we were informed that they had some extra chicks that someone had ordered that spring and they had failed to come pick them up. We ended up getting the last of the one's they had left. Seven Rhode Island Reds, which turned out to actually be New Hampshires, and 15 Barred Rocks. All of those chickens have provided almost enough money to cover for all of the feed of our current roster of animals through the sale of eggs. After we set up housing and got the chickens up to a fairly good size so that they could go out and run around through the pasture and field...we set of in purchase of 12 Broad Breasted White turkeys. Mr. Farmer and I had compromised. He wanted turkeys, I wanted chickens. The turkeys stayed with us from June until November that year. The birds were so big by that time, they barely fit into the roaster for Thanksgiving Dinner. That was 2009.
In 2010, when we sat down to figure out what we wanted to do with the farm for the year. We decided that we wanted to get some Heritage Breed turkeys. One's that are not genetically altered. Traditional birds with beautiful, distinctive plummage. So in January, Mr. Farmer ordered a mixed batch of 30 birds for delivery in the spring. They arrived in mid-May. Around that same time, we had gone to the local auction barn and picked up a young jersey bull. By the time he had been here for just about a day, he became very weak and needed 24 hour nursing care. For two days straight, I didn't sleep as I cared for him. He had to be picked up to get him on his feet several times a day. Slowly he began to get stronger, but it took weeks before he was healthy enough to walk around the pasture for any distance. He is now our biggest and most handsome steer. He went from a beautiful chocolate brown to jet black!
In the first part of the year, it was brought to our attention that a woman in the area had been raising jersey cows and money had grown tight. She wasn't caring for her animals the way they should have been. They had very little food and were nothing but skin and bones. We rescued one of her cows in April. The day she arrived here, she was so weak that she actually fell getting out of the hauler. I teared up as the two calves that came along with her stepped out of the trailer behind her. Being ever protective of her young one's, she gently ushered them into a grassy patch about 75 feet from where we stood. She began munching on the grasses and for several weeks, it seemed that was all she did. Over the summer months, she gained weight steadily and is now almost as big around as a 4 foot hay bale!
Every animal is now healthy, happy and extremely well feed. They get attention multiple times a day.
Looking back now, over my right shoulder, I see that I have incorporated part of my youth by installing animals here on the farm. Every time I look at the photographs I have taken of the animals, I can almost hear my grandparent's, my uncles and my dad talking in my ear. When I am on my hands and knees in the garden harvesting crops for the fridge and pantry, I can almost feel my grandmother's hand on my should. Gently patting as if to say job well done.
Five years ago, I would have told you that having a farm was a dream that I would never have the opportunity to have. Maybe someday when I retire and get to do something that I really enjoy. Three years ago, I would have said that maybe just a few animals would be alright. Today, I can say, my perspective has changed 180 degrees. I took a couple of right turns along the way. This coming year will bring two more adventures for me. One is the expansion of our farm into beef cattle and the second is the biomass business!
Going further in depth with the change of perspective...I realized just how much agriculture means to me and our communities. Without agriculture, we have no food. Farmers not only provide us with milk and other dairy products but with every chicken or turkey we buy. Every egg we eat for breakfast. Every carrot, potato, onion, cucumber, pepper, strawberry we see at the grocery store. Every jar of jelly is based from fruits that come from a farm. Every can of soup has meat and vegetables that are grown on a farm. Every loaf of bread made from flour that was milled from wheat or corn grown and harvested by a farm.
I have a plan for you today. The next time you are in the grocery store, looking at produce...find out which one's are provided by a local farmer or atleast one within the state. They may be slightly more expensive but atleast you are helping to keep a community in business. You are keeping a farm in production. If your grocery doesn't provide local sourced items, pay attention to the labels and please buy from a US packaging plant. Most of those packaging plants buy from farms local to their location.
If we all do this, our small part in this cycle will mess with that of others...creating a demand for local sources food products. Remember, buying local keeps money from sales local. What a great way to contribute to your town, your county and your state, hell, even your country.
God Bless...and make a farmer happy today by ensuring his/her future in farming!