Doing What We’ve Always Done – NOPE

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.

The Business of Agriculture Podcast

Back in December two of my good friends and fellow farmers, Macey Wessels and Shelly Boshart Davis and I were given the opportunity to join Damian Mason on his podcast; The Business of Agriculture.

We covered a multitude of topics including Oregon agriculture in general, what it’s like to farm in a heavy regulated state, being a woman in ag, grass seed, filberts (or hazelnuts), trucking and straw. So if you’re interested in a glimpse into what it’s like to be a farmer in Oregon, I take a listen and let me know what you think!

You can find us where you regularly listen in to podcasts, look under “The Business of Agriculture; Episode 222 entitled Grass Seed, Hazelnuts, Trucking & More”. Or you can also follow this YouTube link to listen.

Triage of Fall Farming

Most of the time when folks think of when farmers here in Oregon are most busy, many would agree that harvest time would be the obvious answer. And in many ways that’s true. Through summer we are working seven days a week, often 14 hours or more a day. But if you look beyond just the “time” aspect, for me, the fall always feels much busier.

During summer harvest you usually find yourself and your crew in a groove. People know what to do pretty much everyday, because it’s the same thing they did yesterday and will often do tomorrow. But in the fall when the end of harvest is winding up for the year and we are gearing up for the next year’s crop, everything seems to come at you all at once.

So lately we have been harvesting filberts when we can get into the orchards. Our seasonal rain here on one hand helps the nuts fall naturally from the tree, which is good because we harvest the nuts off the ground. But it also creates windows of time where you have to wait for the ground to dry enough to be able to harvest off the ground.

So in the “in between” we are also getting ground worked to plant. In the fall we plant our perennial ryegrass, tall fescue, crimson clover, swiss chard, and filberts. We are also applying weed control and fertilizer to many of our established fields. Meanwhile getting projects done such as ditch cleaning, excavation projects, etc.

So in perfect fall fashion the last few weeks have been a triage of “what to do today”. We have been able to get a few fields planted, worked and ready for winter, the tall fescue is all in and we have about quarter of the crimson drilled (planted), and killed off some sprout.

This week we will get back to harvesting the second (and hopefully last) time in our filberts.

And then after more planting in the good weather windows, more excavation repair and maintenance projects….at some point….we will all be very happy that it is finally November!!

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