Farm plans

For those of you who don’t know, we have 75 acres. Only 16-18 of it was in crops last year. The rest of the land is woods, a creek, and some other clearings, plus the house and lane. Our land is hilly and the crop areas are not completely flat. There are four separate areas that are tillable and all of it is Highly Erodible Land (or HEL for short, because someone had a sense of humor). We knew that if we rented the acreage to a farmer, we wanted it to be organic.  There are many reasons for this: we have a well, the crops are close to the house and we have kids and don’t want to move to the country only to die of cancer later in life because of pesticide exposure, and, well, it just makes sense to do things organically. It’s best for the soil, the environment, the plants, and the people or animals who eat the plants.

I started looking for an organic farmer soon after we moved here in October. While there are plenty of people who do some organic farming in the form of community sustained agriculture (CSA) or personal vegetable gardens, finding an organic farmer who rents land was not easy. There are not a lot of farmers who grow organic corn and beans, which is primarily what is grown in Illinois. I mentioned to our neighbor that we were interested in renting it to someone who would do things organically, and that I had looked on-line to find someone and had had no luck. He mentioned he had a friend who does all organic growing. I did not realize at the time that his friend was exactly what we needed!

Enter Scott the Farmer, who is apparently the only organic grain farmer in the county. He’s the one who called me a hippy girl when I told him (confessed) I didn’t eat meat. He said that growing soybeans is bad for the environment (except the way he grows them, of course) and that tofu tastes really good fried in bacon grease. Then he laughed. He loves to tease me about being a vegetarian. He also called rendered pig lard “Illinois olive oil.” I thought that was pretty funny. He’s a great guy and we’ve been working with him for a month or so now, trying to figure out what we are going to do.

I think we first met with him sometime in January or February. Then I was supposed to make a phone call (something I really don’t like doing) and set up an appointment with someone from the Farm Services Agency (FSA). Well, I dropped the ball on that and it took me a month or so to finally call him back and set something up. That second time I talked to him, he told me that it is not in his interest to grow grains on our land. Organic corn and beans is not a big money maker in this area. Also, our land is not all that close to where he lives and planting and harvesting four different areas would just be a pain in the butt. He didn’t say it quite like that, but that’s what he meant. So his idea was to turn it into pasture for cattle, and possibly sheep and goats in the future.

So he has come out a few times and walked the property with Tim, trying to figure out what can be turned into pasture. Because the land is highly erodible, we have to be careful. What I’ve learned from him is that, having cattle will improve the soil and prevent erosion in most areas. However, some areas would be made worse by cattle tromping around. The soil fertility will be better after growing clover, alfalfa, and/or oats, and after having cows poop all over the place. In a few years we might do some grains, but he was thinking at least three years of pasture. He doesn’t want to harvest the clover/alfalfa/oats because harvesting doesn’t make much money and is harder on the soil.

Today (Wednesday) Scott the Farmer, Tim, and Greg from the FSA office walked the property. We (or Scott) can get money from the government to build fencing, water pipes, and dry dams. In order to do that, we have to have some animals already being pastured. So Scott is going to get some fencing and some temporary fence posts and is looking for a couple of calves to buy. Once we get that set up, we can apply and get some money to do more fencing and to get water to the pastured areas. So that is the plan for the farm. Soon we should have some calves in a small area. The rest will take a while, of course. I will keep everyone posted as we find out more. And, of course, when we have some calves, I will post pictures!

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2 Responses to “Farm plans”

  1. Garden plans « A Hippy Girl in the Country Says:

    […] soil for all the seedlings I’ve planted. We won’t spray or use chemicals. Luckily, I know an organic farmer who can give me advice if we have some problems and need to get rid of some pests. So my garden […]

  2. The cow adventure comes to an end « A Hippy Girl in the Country Says:

    […] Scott the Farmer was waiting for the people from the Farm Services Agency (FSA) to come out and document that we had cattle and fencing already. The FSA people have that documentation, so after the cows got out on Monday, that was the end of […]

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