Picture a crisp, autumn morning. The sun is starting to rise above the tree line that edges up close to the field that stretches before you. The air is still but sweet with the smell of season’s end. You step into the taller grass that grows just beyond the end of the field. The grass is wet with dew. Before you is a field of potatoes. The vines have given up, well past the rush of the season, having completed their purpose. In a heartbeat of time, all that has happened to get to this point passes before you. This happens to be land that is part of the old family farm. The home field as you refer to it. It has been passed down through three generations. Some of your earliest memories are riding with your grandfather on an old tractor as he prepared the soil for planting. As a young teenager, you walked along this field and through the tree line with friends and fishing poles to get to the stream that flows below. The field you stand before is the first land your dad let you farm on your own. Though not a big field, he let you make the decisions and run the equipment. And, your father let you keep some of the money this field and your hard work earned. The used Chevy you bought with your earnings is still sitting in a back shed waiting on your time and passion to bring it again to life. For now, your passions lie elsewhere. Your passion is this field and farming. For this land is not just soil, it is a companion with shared memories. Your memories. The memories of your family. And, the memories yet to be made by those that will come after.
Your farm has grown since the days when it was just known as the “family farm”. The land has had to support more family members. The farm had to grow just like the crops being farmed. Your dad was the one that first purchased more farmland. You have continued the process. Some people are all business when buying farmland. For you, it is different. There is excitement around the challenge of making the most of the purchase. However, there is also a bit of sadness knowing the farm community has lost a family. You feel a responsibility to honor the work of those that came before you and the memories other families made farming the soil that now flows beneath your tractor. Farmers honor history by referring to fields by the names of the original family. You think often about how much has changed in the 140 years land in your community has been farmed.
Change is a part of farming. You know that change can be positive helping your operation become more efficient. You don’t farm the way your grandfather farmed. Bigger equipment, new chemicals, irrigation systems, computer-controlled potato sheds, accountants, bankers, and more employees. Change is a big part of farming. However, there is word that rings seemingly opposite of change that is equally important. A word that embraces the echoes of the past. Sustainability. Sustainability reflects the memories of the farm.
Sustainability is something that takes time to appreciate. Sustainability is part of wisdom. You believe that the gifts the land provides your family are not a given. Your grandfather used to say, “Take care of the soil and it will take care of you”. You have heard yourself speak those words more often lately. Sustainability links those that came before with those that will come after. As you have gotten older, you find yourself mulling over the choices you make and how they will affect the future of the land; the future of your farm. These are thoughts about sustainability.
Everyone has ideas on how you should farm your land. Salesmen, neighbors, consultants, county extension agents all believe they know what is best for your business. The thing is, it is your business, your farm, and your family’s security. You listen patiently to new ideas. Not opposed to change, you weigh new ideas and measure your actions. Whom to believe? Who is out for a buck and who is out for your best interest? It seems everyone is talking soil health now. An old concept circling back around on the carousel of agricultural ideas.
Growing up on the farm, you developed some common sense ideas about the needs of a potato crop. Early on you realized that every time the crop is planted, disease can take advantage. The crop feeds the disease. You have always tried to give the advantage to the crop. You have maintained a rotation program to lower disease levels in the soil and you have used fungicides to protect your potatoes. New varieties are now used that have some disease resistance. You grow cover crops to feed the soil microbes that support the health of your soil. As your operation expanded on to rented ground, you and your potato crop have been exposed to challenges not seen on the home farm. Some fields need help to bring actual yields up to the potential yield for your area. Decisions have to be made. The right decisions to move beyond where your operation is today. You know that change is possible that improves both the sustainability and productivity of your land.
Standing at the edge of the home field, you know that it has provided again for your family. Your agronomy team has told you they expect yields to be up. Disease levels are low. And, the quality looks good. You already know this but don’t let on. You like to hear the pride in their voices as they tell you the good news. Several times over the season after dinner, you have walked through the screen door on the back porch and into this field to check the health of your crop. You worked your hands through the rich soil and let the memories of family and farming humbly return. You have chosen to make sustainable production a cornerstone of your farm. And, in return, the soil is taking care of you.
The team of soil fumigation specialists at the TriCal Group are here to discuss with you the sustainable, productive future of your farm.