Just got back from the Acres 2010 Annual Convention in Indianapolis. I am seeing a major sweeping change among small and maybe not so small producers all across this country. Two basic issues are changing the way some in agriculture are farming. One is driven by the poor quality of food our current agribusiness promotes and its indifference to the harm it brings. The other is the growing interest in changing a broken agriculture system that makes money for everyone except the farmer. When one looks closely it is quite easy to see that these are one and the same issues.
As usual I spoke on improved grazing and the elimination of inputs in the form of hay equipment, tractors, chemical fertilizers and all pesticides, GMO grains and most all other consumptive costs that steal both quality and profits from our farmers. I also spoke on the absolute necessity for biodiversity. This not only includes different species and varieties of forages but also the importance of having many different species of grazing animals on the farm for better utilization of what the farm grows. Our animals have the availability of almost 200 different plants to select from throughout the year. Our beef cows, dairy cows, sheep, goats, pigs, chickens, turkeys, laying hens, etc., have a better chance of improving our utilization of forages grown on our farm than the traditional mono-cultured practices of today promoting only one type of animal per farm.
I spoke to many small farmers at the convention that are currently working on this exact system. I am seeing young farm families getting very excited about creating a good future for their families. Many women are taking my wife Dawnnell's recommendation and they are the force for their addition of the farm family dairy. The young wives and mothers are instrumental if not paramount in the success of a multi-species farm. These small dairies can be the nucleus of a quality farm. Not only does the dairy provide milk for the household but provides immediate income from the sale of milk, cheese, or butter to customers who see the absolute necessity of improving their diets. A calf every year is free for increasing the herd as demand comes or provides income from the sale of meat. Then comes the hogs to help balance this supply and demand. With litters of 8 to 10 on average these grazing hogs will prove to be one of the best money makers on the farm. Sheep and goats not only provide revenue from the sale of meat and or milk but improve the flora and fauna of the entire farm and eat weeds and other forages not readily consumed by the cow. Laying hens and pastured broilers give the quickest return on investment and are in the greatest demand from valued customers. The beef herd being the slowest to return the investment dollar are important for tremendous landscaping across the farm improving soils and organic matter.
These family farm systems are growing at a rapid pace. And the expertise among these new farmers is exponential. The idea of commodity farming and toiling day after day, year after year, so the feed or fertilizer dealer can make large incomes while farmers and their soils go bankrupt is absurd. Access to good food is rapidly becoming limited. There will be a time, if not already, when these good farmers and what they produce will be a priority to the households not fortunate enough to own their own farms in which to produce life saving foods. If I lived in the city I would be securing, for the good of my family, a good relationship with my farmer to insure the health of my family for times to come.