Sometimes I don’t want to be a farmer anymore. There is just too much stress. There’s an old joke that the farmers around here never need to go to the local casinos because they gambling every day. At times it really feels like that. There is just so much out of our control.
This year the pastures are stressing me out. We’re going to run out of grass soon. The grass we were supposed to be moving our animals onto has already been grazed once early this spring and under normal circumstances would be lush again by now. But thanks to the dry hot weather, it’s hardly grown at all. You’ve probably noticed that you haven’t had to mow your lawn quite as much this year. Well, on the farm that means we have a hard time keeping animals fed. And you can’t just push pause on animals until the rain shows up.
Right now we’ve strung up temporary fences and pushed the animals into brushy areas outside our fences to help buy us some more time before they return to Paddock #1. But as the days go on and the brushy areas shrink and the rain doesn’t come and the regrowth doesn’t happen...the pressure just mounts.
If you’re wondering about the possibility of feeding the animals hay let me explain: So far everyone who makes hay has reported their first cutting came in at about %50 of normal. So they either need it all for themselves, or its in such short supply that getting your hands on it is very difficult. There just isn’t much grass growing this year.
Another option is taking the animals to someone else’s land. This option complicates management and has its own challenges like the questions of dependable feces and providing the animals with a constant water supply. Not every grassy field is a realistic possibility.
So where’s the good news? IS farming just a miserable occupation that only a sucker would participate in? Should we just leave our food production up to the mega industrial farms that can absorb these fluctuations? Perhaps global food supply chains are a good thing--surely their getting enough rain somewhere else…
As always, hope lies in fertile soil. Deep top soil that is rich in organic matter is like a giant sponge on your landscape. A 20 acre sponge can hold a whole summer's worth of water. And when you cover that “sponge” with a thick mat of growing vegetation, evaporation is limited. That means water stays right where it’s needed--in the root zone. Healthy ground can produce abundant food even during a drought. When we build fertile fields we create resilient landscapes that can feed our communities even through times of stress. That's good news.
The land we are working on right now is in pretty bad condition. The topsoil is extremely thin and the vegetation is sparse. The Ph is whack and the mineral profile is out of balance. The biology is negligible. These fields have been degraded from years and years of extractive farming practices. We’ve inherited that degradation and it is the source of the stress we are working under today. We don't have that forgiving topsoil anymore. That's bad news.
And what's worse is that extractive farming is the norm. Farm land is by and large being slowly exhausted and abandoned. It’s productivity and resilience are diminishing.
The fertility of this land is like a struggling fire: it needs care and attention or the wind will all but put it out. Thankfully, we're here now working to build things up. We’re here now blocking the wind and slowly feeding the fire. We’re here standing in that wind. And your support keeps us here.
We’re also not cutting corners. By living on this land and eating the food from this land, we’ve linked our well being to the health of this land. That’s a lot of incentive to do the hard slow work of building true health and resilience in the soil. It’s our own health that's at stake.
And when you join a CSA or buy a half cow or in any way support a farmer who is dedicated to healthy land, you’re shifting dead fields back towards health and abundance too. By joining that effort as a customer you push that work forward AND receive the health that results when land is protected. Your support is crucial.
When a careful farmer is backed by a crowd of people who are committed to building health and resilience in their local community, the change WILL happen.
We’re here. You’re here. The land is here. Now if we can just make it through the first challenging seasons on this new land...
Stay with me,