Tractor’s Farewell

As our Cat 45 headed down the road and we said farewell
I took a deep breath and reminded myself it was just time to sell.

She’s worked our dirt for 22 years, at least 10 times over
Getting fields ready for grass seed, green beans, wheat and clover.

She’s hooked up to many harrows, plows and disks
Even in tough conditions she always pulled, taking all the risks.

A few years back we dressed her up a bit and gave her auto-steer
But at the end of the day even that couldn’t justify keeping her here.

She’s broke down, been cussed and kicked more than a time or two
But she still got washed up to be put away for winter, cuz that’s just what we do.

A new hydraulic pump to end her last season on our farm
Her last winter getting parked inside our barn.

It’s funny this feeling of being attached to a machine
But these pieces of equipment have always been a part of my dream.

For those of us who measure memories in acres in the heat of the summer;
You know these treasured moments between just a tractor and just a farmer.

Memories of kids sitting next to you learning all the ropes.
Knowing for a fact that having them want to sit there gives our legacy a little hope.

It was our last rolling stock with big tracks and my grandpa will probably roll over in his grave.
Except that little D2 parked in the lean too there, I’m afraid that one we are gonna to have to save.

I may have had a tear as the kids said goodbye and wished her adieu
See you down the road old friend, I hope your new farmer takes good care of you.

Obligatory family photo.
My brother Kyle and cousin when we first brought her home.

I also posted a video of me reading this poem. You can find it on the NuttyGrass Facebook page or by clicking here for a direct link.

Why All the Fuss about the Dust?

This time of year (mostly on social media) I hear so many complaints about the dust.

  • Why do they have to create so much dust? 
  • I can’t breathe, why the dust? 
  • Why do they have to work the ground to death?
  • Why don’t they cover crop? 
  • What about no-till farming?
  • Why, Why, Why??!!

Then this great (and timely) piece written by Tiffany Harper Monroe came out in the Eugene Register Guard entitled “From Dust till Dawn”. 

“As more people move into rural areas, it’s important for everyone to remember that farms and ranches are not just bucolic backgrounds. They are hard-working operations raising food and foliage, and sometimes that means there will be the associated dust, noise, smells and slow-moving farm equipment on the roads.”

I get it, I work in the dust and dirt and there are days where my teeth are gritty with it and my clothes are saturated.  So I want you to know that I’m not arguing that the dust isn’t annoying, but I am asking for a look at the bigger picture and hear another perspective.

This was after a particularly dust filled day transplanting cabbage.

It seems so simple from the outside looking in, straightforward answers and solutions, but when I try to sit down today and write down why we do all that we do and why it happens to create dust, it’s overwhelming.  Because the answers aren’t simple and straightforward, it’s a complicated web that reaches from our farm and across the world.

To make one thing very clear, my answer is not, “Well that’s how we have always done it.”  Also my answer is not, “I don’t know.”

FIELD & SOIL ROTATION
On our farm, one reason we till the soil (which often creates dust) is simply because of the crops that we grow.  We raise seed crops and vegetables on the soil that we till.  To do this our soils need to be rotated.  Rotating, which is done often by tillage helps in many ways.

  • Reduces our pest populations (mice and slugs)
  • Gives us a chance to kill unwanted weeds and plants without pesticides
  • Bring last years volunteer seeds to the surface so you can get a sprout and have a naturally occurring cover crop through the winter
  • Reduces disease pressure in the soil profile
  • Allows for more organic material to be put back into the soil
  • Gives certain parts of the soil a break while different crops are being cultivated

SEED GERMINATION & EROSION CONTROL
Working the soil is important because as we work it down into a seed bed, the seeds that we plant this fall will grow better and grow larger plants before the rains start this winter; helping with erosion. If you were to plant into subpar conditions, it’s really hard for the seeds to get up and growing.  It also can leave areas where the seeds don’t germinate at all, leaving space open for weeds to come in.

WEED CONTROL
Why do we care so much about weeds?  Well in any cover cropping, no till, earth saving book you read, at the end of the day, one of the most important factors is your ability to get clean seed to plant.  We provide that seed, and walking through a field to pull unwanted grass species isn’t fun. and isn’t cost effective.  So the better the seed bed of soil when you start, the better seed we can offer for whoever plants it – one with minimal weeds.

BEYOND JUST OUR FARM & OUR SOIL
As you can see my answers go beyond our farm and just our soil, the crops that we are growing in many cases are heading out as “clean seed lots” to be planted in no-till fields across the US.  They are heading out to re-seed pastures and be used as cover crops to protect topsoil.  When these crops grow on our land they are sequestering carbon.  The environmental benefits to what we are doing are huge, the dust, while unfortunate, is part of that picture too.  The whole ecosystem of agriculture that starts on farms across the US, is bigger and more complicated than one tractor in a field creating small particulates that frustrate some folks driving through the beautiful countryside.  It’s not about how we’ve always done things, it’s about how we are moving forward to continually find ways to make our soils healthier while continuing to produce some of the highest quality seed and food for folks across the map.

I encourage you to read Harper Monroe’s opinion article, it carefully spells out some of the other reasons that we do what we do on our farms.  It includes some great points regarding field burning and additional environmental benefits that farmland here in Oregon provides.

It seems so simple this “dust in the air” issue.  But I am asking you to open up your mind beyond “the fuss about the dust” and see that there is a complex system at work here.  I agree with Harper Monroe,  “The more we keep encouraging communication and building relationships between urban and rural residents, the more we will see that Lane County (and Oregon as a whole) is a place for all of us.”

Natural Resources Rally at the Capitol 2019

The rally will go down to some, depending on the article that you read, as a terrorist gathering, a group of mostly bearded men, a few tractors and trucks, a few hundred people.

But for those of us who were actually there.  Those of us who listened to the speakers and talked to the attendees, we are the ones who will remember what it was really like.

It was a peaceful gathering, one of the most respectful events ever held of that size.  There were men and women, families even, who came to show their support.  There were hundreds of trucks and tractors and thousands of people.  Signs saying, “If you bought it, a TRUCK brought it!”  People from the Natural Resource Industry were gathering to be heard!  There was respectfulness, there was impact, we were a force!  But also there was no trash left behind, no trace of demonstrators at the end of the day.   We showed true rural hospitality as we simultaneously STORMED the Capitol. We heard from loggers and farmers, men and women, who would have been devastated by House Bill 2020.  We heard from leaders in our natural resources industry, including legislators, who were so excited to see the rural population show up!  We were there to stand up for standing up!!  We showed our support our Senators who walked out, to tell them that we understand and we are with them.  11 Senators whose bold actions and courage extended to all of us, giving us the courage to do the same!I know I’ll never forget that Sunday I got a phone call from a neighbor telling me that “a few” farmers were heading to the capitol and they needed…honestly at that point we weren’t sure what was needed…but would I be willing to help?  My first answer was no; it’s harvest, we are all swamped and working 24 hour days.  But by Monday morning I found myself on a text thread with loggers, timber unity folks, farmers who wanted to do this, wanted to go big, wanted to show up and rally.  In just four short days this grass roots team mobilized and organized and brought together people from across the state to the Capitol steps.  This is just a brief preview of the rally taken from Farm Bureau. Search #timberunity for more great coverage of the rally.

Here is a full video of the entire program that day!

I’ve driven to the Capitol building probably at least a hundred times to come and testify in the past 13 years, but when we drove up early that Thursday morning, the streets of Salem already lined with log trucks and tractors, it was completely overwhelming.  Matt looked at me that morning and said, “Remember 4 days ago when you didn’t know if you all could ever pull this off, when your answer was no?  I mean look at this babe, look what you all have done in such a short period of time.” There are many of us who have waited for our industry here in Oregon to wake up and show up, and this became a moment that was more than we could have ever dreamed.  But I do hope it’s not just a moment in time, I hope the momentum of being involved continues.  This is what we need in order to be heard, and I know people see that now.  I still can’t quite believe we pulled it off.  And there’s too many people to thank to list them all here.  But you all know who you are and a true thank you for helping to make this all possible.

I’ll leave you with this….

“There is an undeniable and noble calling to take care of the earth, but this bill will not help the earth and only hurts all of us. I see fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers all around me. You all steward the natural world through farming, ranching and forestry. It’s time we stand up for each other and the earth.”

-Tiffany Harper, farmer and woodland owner from Junction City, Oregon.