The term "Ag in the middle" is given to farms of a certain size... Say 250 to about 650 acres. That's too small to justify the bigger, better, faster machinery. Yet too big to be a hobby. Lately it seems like we're In the middle of blizzards, decisions, arguments, and cold weather that seems to have no end (-11 and dropping right now).
You know, I sometimes stop and think that I wouldn't have to be in the middle of any of this. We are farmers by choice. I suspect most farmers are. But we had a comfy, easy life in the City. Double incomes, high end neighborhood, and I could bike or bus to work. And we left it by choice-- to farm-- to raise our kids on a farm-- and to create a legacy of healthy land and community.
As Mike and I were walking back to the house after getting the snow blower back on the JD 4440 (a tractor in the middle-- middle size and made closer to the middle of the last century than today) we talked over what to do with that north 40. "We came here to create a legacy for our kids" I remind him. "For whatever reason that just doesn't seem to figure in as much now" Mike said. And he's right.
Now that we're 3 years into this, we have to farm for us. This farm has to be what serves our wants and our needs. When we left the city, it was a dream. On this bitter cold night, it is reality.
We are late in making decisions for a 40 acre parcel that will be first year organic transition. Do we go for the short term, highest potential financial return for the coming field season? That would be planting some high density non-GMO corn. Or do we nurture the soil and plant some oats for hay (feed the cattle) mixed with some legumes for green manure? That would set us up for some better weed control and greater fertility for a future crop.
I suspect if we were conventional farmers the choices may be simpler- corn or soybeans.
And just when I was starting to feel whiny and overwhelmed by all of it, I remember to go outside to stoke the wood boiler. Outside in the pitch dark, I rake the orange coals and fill it up with wood. I take a walk down the driveway in the still, arctic air. The lights from the farmsteads around us are just blazing in the crisp, clear air. I can see stars crazy low on the horizon- unnaturally low. The Milky Way and stars are so bright they are making reflections on my glasses. I stop and the stillness is absolute and complete. Sunny nuzzles her nose in my hand. A person can be overwhelmed with the raw, unfiltered awesomeness of just being. Present.
A jet flies high across the sky. I watch it blinking, passing over and wonder if anyone on that jet to Seattle or Vancouver, BC is looking down on our dark and lonely land. They have no idea of what this place holds. Probably couldn't imagine how it feels to have the veil of modern life pulled and to be alone on a dark starlit prairie on frigid night.
I'm thinking we'll go with the corn.