Thursday, March 26, 2015

Why I Love Farming

Welcome to our website and our first blog post.

To get my feet wet the first thing I'm going to discuss is why I love farming. I did not always love farming; in fact, I loathed it until I was in my early 20's. If you would have told me at 18 that some day I would farm, I'd have said you were crazy. As a teenager, I hated the long, hot hours square-baling hay all summer when I wanted to be with my friends at the lake. Chasing and being chased by cattle still ranks as my least favorite pastime. I learned to appreciate the value of a good fence at a young age.

I grew up in the 80's.  Ask any farmer who operated then: times were tough. Really tough. I was young and really didn't understand how difficult things were financially. I just knew Mom and Dad were stressed. We ate a lot of mac & cheese, and the cool Nike shoes I wanted had to wait. To this day, "the 80's" are mentioned at least 2-3 times at every meeting with my banker. My folks encouraged me to find some other vocation; this was something we
Wolf 2. Baghdad, Iraq 2005
actually agreed on when I was a teenager. When I got my license it became very easy to avoid the farm and its associated work, by focusing on sports or other school activities. I joined the National Guard in the summer of 2000 to pay for college, because even though she had offered, I did not want to have my mother foot the bill.

Fast forward to 2006. I had just returned from my first tour in Iraq, was a new husband, and still didn't want anything to do with farming. I wanted to be in the CIA and had even designed a specific major in Arabic and Farsi to help my chances. After three rounds of interviews, I finally got a letter just before Christmas in 2008: thanks, but no thanks. I was utterly devastated. Their procedure was to not provide explanations either, which made it all the more frustrating. In 2007 Sara and I had purchased 320 acres and although we had no plans to operate it then, the door was now open to the possibility. 2009 brought another deployment to Iraq. Unlike the first tour where our artillery battery was stationed in Baghdad, we now served as convoy security and saw the 
Shocker 1. Talill, Iraq 2010
whole of Iraq. As a farm boy it was easy to recognize Iraq's lack of anything resembling production agriculture. Most Iraqi farmers still used hand tools and old fashioned man power instead of the enormous and imposing equipment seen in the United States. Not to mention the 100+ degree heat. If you were to put them in a new John Deere with air conditioning and auto-steer they would probably think they had died and gone to heaven. Sitting in a 1977 John Deere 4430 back home wasn't looking so bad anymore. The air conditioning sure was nice and I bet it beat walking behind a mule-powered, one-bottom plow all day. I think there is a significant amount of ignorance when it comes to Americans knowing just how good we have it--farmers and non-farmers alike. Water, reliable utilities, full supermarkets, fertile ground, and unsurpassed ag technology are a few of the many things we should be thankful for.

About half way through the deployment I began seriously considering the farm. I missed the color green after seeing so much dull brown desert and sand. I just wanted to be home with my wife and away from the political turmoil,
My three loves: Sara, Sam, and a field of green
violence, and pressure. After 6 years of of marriage I had been away more than I'd been home and I didn't want to live that life anymore. I wanted a quiet, simple life.  In 2011, we had an opportunity to rent 137 acres of expiring Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) ground and I spent the entire fall plowing with a John Deere 4430 and 4-bottom plow. Looking back I wish I had known a little more about soil function and health as I would not have plowed. Nonetheless, by 2012 we were able to break up some of our own ground that had expired from lease and I was really farming. For the first time I was actually happy and content with what I was doing. The learning curve was very steep and I made a lot of mistakes, but I take great pride in likely being one of the last true self-started farmers. I began to love making and watching things grow.  I'm still in awe of how a seed smaller than a dime can grow into a plant over 8 feet tall in a matter of months. There is a sense of peace and tranquility in a field of growing crops; no greed, no violence, no pressure.

That's why I love farming.