My heart is breaking for all of my friends in Southeast Missouri today. The Army Corps of Engineers decided last night to blast the Birds Point Levee in a two mile stretch to save the Illinois town of Cairo. In … Continue reading →
I spent most of my Saturday fixing fences so the horses could go out to pasture. It’s always amazing to see the land change from brown and bare after the snow melts to a beautiful green. We’ve had lots of rain in the Northeast this spring and these pastures are on the way to their full potential. Across the road, the pastures are already as beautiful as any I’ve ever seen. The grass is bright green and lush with no bare spots in sight. The land is owned and farmed by a sheep farmer. He milks about 200 sheep and makes delicious cheese. If I were a sheep, I’d want to graze in those pastures.
I called this farmer a sheep farmer and most people would think of him that way. He could as accurately be called a grass farmer. As with any animal product, the cycle starts with grass or plants that the animal can utilize and in the process creates a product that humans can use—milk, meat, eggs, etc. The animals are the intermediary between plants which humans cannot digest and a product that nourishes us. This farmer is very productive because he is so successful with the first step in this chain. In his case, the sheep are an ingredient in the recipe of raising grass. They are rotated correctly to keep the pastures grazed and their manure is used as natural fertilizer. Hay is taken from the fields as well so the grass is available year round even when snow is on the ground.
I’m sure there are other fields that are just as green as the ones I rode my horse through today, but the contrast between the sheep farm pastures and the horse pastures was striking. The horse pastures don’t get such careful attention and I don’t have a degree in soil biology like the sheep farmer does. If you stop to think about it, farming is an impressive endeavor. I am always amazed that someone can start with grass and soil and through animals create a nourishing and delicious product.
I spent most of my Saturday fixing fences so the horses could go out to pasture. It’s always amazing to see the land change from brown and bare after the snow melts to a beautiful green. We’ve had lots of … Continue reading →
My wife and I have had very different agriculture experiences growing up. She grew up checking cows and bailing hay while I grew up planting corn and cutting wheat. My grandpa had cows until he finally sold out and concentrated on farming. He even gave us his brand for our wedding gift. I have never known much about cattle other than they create a very good fertilizer source and they eat corn! Traveling to my in-laws every summer for county fair I learned very quickly how important cattle and the cattle industry are to them. Just like I can tell you about all the different varieties of seed corn and fertilizer, they talk about using different bulls and EPD’s. For the last four years I thought I was “training” my wife to understand all the different aspects of our farming business; custom planting corn, growing corn, drilling, and harvesting wheat. I guess she must have been using reverse psychology on me or something but the more I taught her about crops the more I kept learning about cattle. Next thing I know a friend is talking to me about selling me some of the cows he just bought. Personally I think they conspired against me just to get me to say “hey this will work.” None the less the more we kept talking about it the more comfortable I felt about moving into another segment of agriculture. So, I guess I am taking the same leap of faith my wife made four years ago when she entered into a side of agriculture she had never seen before and put her faith in me. I will be doing the same with her. Grandpa knew four years ago that he was giving his brand to a young family that would put it to use and for the first time in over 20 years. I was able to show him that he made the right decision as he sat in the pickup and watched us brand our new herd. The cows have officially come home to the Weathers Farm.
My wife and I have had very different agriculture experiences growing up. She grew up checking cows and bailing hay while I grew up planting corn and cutting wheat. My grandpa had cows until he finally sold out and concentrated … Continue reading →
There is something about living in the country that is a huge draw for me–the fresh air, the peace and quiet, the land and animals. Not that I live in the country now, but I hope to some day. I want my children to grow up on a farm, and I want to own enough land to raise some livestock. Hopefully land prices will not prevent me and other beginning farmers from realizing our dreams. In central Illinois some land is going for $11,500 per acre. Granted this is prime crop producing land. Even at this price, one expert thinks that acre can only generate $400 to service the principal and interest on the land. I’m not an economist, but that doesn’t seem like a very good return on investment, especially in an occupation that can be financially risky. I probably won’t be buying prime corn land in central Illinois to raise my children although that is where I’m from and where my family still lives. I live in the Northeast now where real estate prices are high and farmland is at a premium.
For now, I’m doing the best I can where I am. I’m getting ready to pick up two piglets which I’ll raise for meat in the fall. This is my third year raising pigs. They live in a corner of the large shed with an outside pen where they can root in the dirt and take mud baths. They live right next to the chicken coop where I raise a few chickens for eggs. I’ve become a backyard farmer, but I’m not the only one. Small flocks of chickens can be found in many yards, even in cities. The number of backyard pigs has also increased dramatically. Four years ago, my vet clinic rarely received calls about pigs. Today, hardly a week goes by that I don’t talk to a pig owner or two. Why the dramatic increase in farm animal ownership? The localvore movement has provided a market for fresh eggs and locally raised meat. People also want to know where their food comes from and that it was raised humanely. I think part of it is that farming is in our genes–or at least mine. There is a sense of pride and accomplishment in raising a living creature, nurturing it into something productive and healthy, and sharing it with those we love. Hopefully someday I’ll be able to take my mini farm to a larger scale but in the meantime, I’ll get my fix the in backyard.
There is something about living in the country that is a huge draw for me–the fresh air, the peace and quiet, the land and animals. Not that I live in the country now, but I hope to some day. I … Continue reading →
I heard this term, professional board member, used in a conversation about a year ago. It was a somewhat negative reference to a person who seemed to have a long resume of organizational involvement, especially serving on boards of directors. I didn’…
I heard this term, professional board member, used in a conversation about a year ago. It was a somewhat negative reference to a person who seemed to have a long resume of organizational involvement, especially serving on boards of directors. … Continue reading →
Happy Earth Day! Today we get to celebrate our planet, marvel in its environmental wonder, and plant a tree to commemorate the event. As a tree fruit farmer, planting trees is a rite of spring, a job that ensures that … Continue reading →