Learning To Understand The Balance of Life…

One of the things that I love most about my husband is his natural tendency to think and problem solve.  Whether it is figuring out how a piece of equipment works as he uses it, thinking of ways to improve our farm, or struggling through social and political issues; he is a natural intellectual and inspires me daily. He never takes anything at face value, and digs deep when researching a topic.  My children roll their eyes and groan when they ask a simple question and get a detailed chemistry lesson from their daddy in return…

Matt and his captive lecture audience...

When I think of two words to describe a farmer, realistic and pragmatic come to mind.  Farming is an inherently “hands on” profession and is beholden to both science and the local natural resources of an area.  It is also intrinsically tied to the cycle of life.  Our goal, as farmers, is simply to ensure life and grow things.  When we fail to accomplish our goal, we are faced with a sobering glimpse of death. Whether it is the death of an animal or the death of a crop, it is an experience that is long remembered and provides great motivation for continual improvement.

On our farm, we have many things that are alive…

*Our family and our employees…

*Our cattle…

*Our crops (at least during the growing season)…

*Our soil…

The cycle of life on our farm can only continue as each one of these things works together to nurture each of the other things.  If any of the above four components are lost, then the cycle is broken.  Maintaining balance is like putting the pieces of a jig saw puzzle together.

Our family and our employees provide labor to convert our resources into food for human and animal consumption. Both plants and animals need a number of macro nutrients in large quantities to operate their metabolisms and build their bodies.  The important ones are carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. A farmer takes molecules that are organized in a low energy state and reorganizes them into forms that have energy that are ultimately available and usable to humans.

A little intelligence and labor combined with a seed and healthy soil is the first step...

Add water and solar energy and the corn plant grows...

The same is true for alfalfa...

A balanced meal for cattle is made from the corn and the alfalfa...

The cattle eat the feed and grow...

The cattle are harvested to produce a digestible human nutrient packed protein source...

Soil samples are taken after crop harvest to determine how many additional nutrients are necessary to maintain a healthy soil for the growth of the next crop...Fertilizer samples are also taken to provide the rest of the information so that Matt can determine how much fertilizer to apply on each field by tying the needs of the soil to the nutrient levels of the fertilizer...

Natural fertilizer (indigestible nutrients of mainly phosphorus, nitrogen, and other organic matter) is recycled and applied to the farm ground to keep the soil healthy for a new crop...

In this way, water plus carbon dioxide are recombined with other nutrients and used to create starch/sugar/proteins for human use.  While I have simplified the process, the core components necessary for understanding are explained. It takes precise and intelligent human labor to properly combine resources and efficiently grow food.  In 2012, this puzzle has an added challenge.  Less than 2% of the population are actively involved in the reorganization of these nutrients into food.  The resulting limit in labor creates a necessity of efficiency.

To me, the big question is: How do I know that I am caring for the soil and the natural resources that are available to me while I reorganize them to make food?  The answer is simple: look and observe…test and measure…focus on the details and continually improve…

We test the soil.

We test the fertilizer.

We measure our yields (both crops and cattle).

Every single growing cycle…

Here are examples of test sample sheets for fields that we are currently spreading fertilizer on–getting ready for the next growing cycle in 2012. We get these back from the lab when we test the farm ground and the fertilizer produced by my animals…

Soil Sample Fall 2011

Manure Sample fall 2011

Matt takes this information to match up the soil and crop needs with the nutrients of the fertilizer…Below is a sample document from a field that we spread fertilizer on prior to the last growing cycle. This shows how we make sure that we did it correctly…

Brownfield manure application report winter 2011

The goal is healthy soil, abundant crops, healthy animals and nutritious beef for my family and for yours!

Raising food--it's a family affair on our farm...

4 Comments

Filed under CAFO, Environmental Stewardship

4 responses to “Learning To Understand The Balance of Life…

  1. Pingback: An Unusual Request… | Feed Yard Foodie

  2. Pingback: Winter Chores… | Feed Yard Foodie

  3. Pingback: March Madness… | Feed Yard Foodie

  4. Pingback: Environmental Sustainability: How do I care? | Feed Yard Foodie

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s