I'll admit (again) that I am quite possibly one of the worst bloggers around, but I'm going to try and change that this year. There is so much in the media about farming, and every time I read an article I can't help but cringe. It has gotten so bad that I have to brace myself before reading anything. The other day, I was talking to a professional storyteller and she really made me think. Why not tell my story? It's a lot easier for me to do that in a situation like this, than it is to try and read comments under news stories (with lots of antiacids because the vitriol that breeds in those areas is acidic.) and resist the urge to set the record straight with people who think farmers should still farm with a horse and plow. I know my blog is just another in a slew of words on the internet, but I'll try to keep writing anyway. If nothing else, maybe people can utilize it as a sleeping aid :-)
The other day I watched a farming documentary, License to Farm, which can be found here http://licensetofarm.com/ and it really hit home for me, especially the last message of 'Don't let your silence take away your licence to farm'. I will not be silent. Here is the start of my story.
What most people don't know about 9 Mile Coulee Farms, is that I started it as a way to stay on the larger family farm. Instead of driving to work each day, I made the decision to start up my own little venture that would compliment the feedlot and grain operation. Honestly, I really didn't think much of it, I just started growing vegetables. Ever since I was a little four year old, jumping from one of my Dad's footprints in the snow, to the next, all I've wanted to do, is grow food. Healthy food. Nutritious Food. Food so good that it melts off your fork into your mouth and makes you eat until you're so full your eyes close and you can't see the dishes for dreaming of how delicious that steak was. And guess what? I'm doing just that... but, with every comment on the internet, I'm finding that people don't think I'm doing it the right way.
This family farm has been here for five generations, and has seen massive, massive changes. My Great Grandfather used to farm with a team of grey Percheron horses, I farm with a team of 55 horses under the blue hood of a New Holland Tractor (Or, 245 horses in one of the Big Farm tractors - that tractor has air conditioning and a cab = Happy Sarah at harvest time!). The skills my Great Grandfather had, are completely different from the ones I've developed, because technology has the tendency to change in 100 years. I've driven a team, (of Belgians, sorry Grandpa!) once, but I've lost track of how many hours I've spent on a tractor or a truck. I've never had to make my own butter or milk a cow - for some reason that feels like a confession - but, I do know how to do those things because that knowledge has been passed down. I might have had a near butter incident with some whipping cream that started that conversation, but we won't go there right now.
I've found myself in a particularly unique position in the agriculture industry. 9 Mile Coulee is pesticide free and the Big Farm is a conventional farm. I have direct contact with the people who purchase my vegetables, and I'll never know the people who buy our beef, or our barley, canola or peas. I feel like I'm right in the middle of an ideological battleground between conventional and organic producers, and I really wish we could all just get along and learn from one another. An example of this, is wireworm control. Wireworms are a predator of barley, and they also make a mess in a potato patch. They can decimate a barley crop, which happened here a few years ago. In order to combat that, the Big Farm changed seed treatments. The treatment doesn't actually kill the worm, it just kind of slows it down until the plant is big enough to fend for itself. A barley seed is just a bit bigger than a grain of rice, and seed treatments are applied before the seed is planted. By harvest time, all of the treatment is gone; it's done it's job and has been broken down by soil microbes, so there's no risk of any treatment ending up in your food. Anyway, I digress. See? This is where I run into Blogging issues... getting sidetracked from my story with science and facts. Okay, back to the story.
The first year I planted potatoes in the garden, the tubers were full of shot holes caused by a wireworm infestation, because the crop previous had been barley. I spent the winter researching and trying to figure out a way to control them, because there are no chemical controls for potatoes that I could use. I found out that Mustard planted the year before reduces the population, because it's not a preferred food source. My horticultural brain started thinking... waiiiiit a second, mustard is a brassica.... there was canola beside the garden this year.... canola is a brassica... ding ding! Here we have a cultural control! I also discovered that wireworms dislike cultivation. So, I planted that years potato crop on canola ground, that had been cultivated and guess what? No shot holes, no wire worms, no chemicals. We've noticed that in the rotation with the barley as well, after a canola year, the damage is much less, and, if we fall fertilize aka cultivate, the damage is much less as well. I guess what I'm trying to say, is on the Big Farm, we don't just spray spray spray to get rid of a problem, we look for cultural controls, and physical controls as well. Everything we do, is a tool in the toolbox, and if we didn't think that what we are doing is safe for everyone to eat, we wouldn't be eating food grown on our own farm. Tonight for supper I've made Chili Peans, which is Chili made out of peas instead of beans, and everything except the tomatoes, was grown on our farm, and yes, the peas were sprayed, the beef had an antibiotic treatment, and the beans, onions, and peppers were grown without chemical treatments. It's all safe. It's packed Full of nutrition, it's carbon footprint is way, way smaller than anything bought from the grocery store, And it smells deeeeeelicious.
Recipe: (Forgive me, it's a Sarah recipe, so that generally means... there was no recipe and I made it up as I was cooking and forgot to write down and/or measure anything)
2 pounds of ground beef, cooked
one sandwich bag of whole yellow peas (Soak overnight)
one half sandwich bag of dried baking beans (soak overnight)
one can of diced tomatoes
one banana pepper
chili to taste
summer savory to taste
Cook the ground beef, drain the peas and beans, cut up the pepper and onions, mix in the spices, place in a slow cooker and cook for about 6 hours.