This time of year I am always reminded of the times when folks, most of who don’t understand farming and agriculture and are challenging me on something, look at me and say, “Well you’re just doing things the way they have always been done. That’s how farmers are.” It’s hard to not feel deflated when I hear those comments. Whether it’s during a hearing at the capital where I am defending and explaining why we do what we do; or discussing important tools and why they are necessary for us to farm in Oregon, it hits me in my gut.
This time of year I think of this often because quite frankly these comments and thoughts couldn’t be further from the truth. Right now, we are currently in “meeting season” here in Oregon. I was attending one in particular a few weeks ago put on my Oregon State University Extension, and it was great! I got a ton of information which I brought back to to the farm to discuss and noodle over. So much so that I actually wrote down in my notebook while I was taking notes, “Doing what we’ve always done – nope.” as a reminder to write this blog post.
Here are just a few of the conversations on our farm from just this one meeting…
- Fertilizer rates, timing, number of applications
- What are ways we can control or help with nitrogen volatility
- New ways to look at soil tests and question what we have been told the past few years.
Farming is not easy with all the forces outside our control, just the weather alone, presenting challenges that force you to look outside the box every single year and every single season. If I wanted to just sit back and do things the way that we’ve always done them, I don’t know that my farm would still be here. We would be growing crops that don’t profit any longer, we would be using tractors that barely run and have to be wrenched on constantly, technology that allows us to do more with less would force us to be inefficient and wasteful, our soil wouldn’t be able to grow the crops that we need to keep our farm viable, thriving, and moving on to the next generation. To us, “sustainable” isn’t just a buzz word; it’s what we’ve lived since we started farming generations ago.
Saying that we are “Doing what we have always done” is a cop out for someone who doesn’t want to take the time to actually look at the innovation in farming practices that continuously occur on farms all over the world. In fact, we have been a part of a number of trials on our own farm to get on the ground data for Oregon farmers. This is not easy to be a part of, it takes time and participation, it takes effort to not fertilize, drive, or disturb areas of your own fields. Sometimes it’s just frankly a pain in the butt.
So why do we continue to say yes when someone comes with a need for a field trial? Simply put, we can’t afford to do what folks think we are doing as they look in from the outside on the supposed simplicity of our work. We can’t stand to be left in the dust, and just let come what comes! We are farmers, who are never doing “what we’ve always done”; instead we are looking to the future to do what quite possibly hasn’t been done ever at all, and see if it works. So next time you hear that old adage, brush it off, because someone who says those words has no idea what can be accomplished by farmers with some sweat equity and soil.