Read Farm to Family
If your hometown newspaper would like to publish Farm to Family each week, please contact Curt Arens (firstname.lastname@example.org) for details.
Here is a sample column from a few weeks back. Enjoy!
Farm to Family is a weekly column written by Curt about family farms, faith, community, philosophy, parenthood, farm issues and concerns and the joys of rural life. It has appeared on the opinion pages in the Cedar County News at Hartington, Nebraska since January 2005, replacing John Thoene Jr.'s legendary "Farm Talk" column, after Thoene retired.
Farm to Family also appears each week in the rest of the newspapers owned by the Northeast Nebraska News Agency, including the Coleridge Blade, Randolph Times, Laurel Advocate, Wausa Gazette and Osmond Republican.
Beginning in August 2008, Farm to Family is now syndicated, with the Carlyle Union Banner at Carlyle, Illinois as the first newspaper to publish the column outside of Nebraska.
If youíve ever assembled anything that you have purchased in a box, like a swingset for the kids for instance, you know that reading and understanding the instructions can sometimes be a harrowing experience.
I am normally a "by the book" type of person, if proper instructions are available at the time. If they say that bolt B inserts into slot Z, that is what I would try to do. But, if youíve had the same difficulties Iíve had in assembling things, you know that often enough, the instructions are poorly written and inadequate. You wonder if the author of those instructions ever had to assemble anything, using their own instructions. Iíve even wondered if the instructions that were inserted in the box were actually for the item that I purchased.
At times like this, when slot A doesnít line up or when bolt C was somehow excluded from the package, the farmer in me kicks in. Iíve been around other "by the book" people, from other walks of life, who are horrified when farmers start to improvise. When the pliers comes out of the holster and the baling wire and duct tape are brought out in full view, even my wife says, under her breath of course, "Here we go. This isnít good."
Farming, on paper, looks pretty easy. You choose the right seed. You plant the seed. You fertilize the field. You keep the weeds down. You harvest the field. You store or sell the grain. Pretty easy stuff, and straight forward too. Who could mess this up?
Well, for starters, I could and have many times. You see, choosing the right seed is not a done deal. There is seed corn, soybeans, oats and wheat that do better under certain circumstances, on dryland or under irrigation, in the valleys or over the hills, under commercial fertilization or utilizing more natural fertility, using herbicides or using tillage and crop rotations to break weed cycles. It can be a complex decision, but it is an important one.
The book says that soil conditions must be perfect, to provide the proper seed bed for perfect germination. But this Spring, are there any farmers out there who had perfect soil conditions for planting? If we waited for the bookís definition of "perfect," there would be a lot of fields that just wouldnít have gotten seeded this year.
Yes, we farmers improvised, cut a few corners, and mudded the seed into the ground in many situations this year. Then we prayed it would all work out. This kind of risk and improvising just drives mere non-farming civilians crazy.
The book says that alfalfa must be in perfect condition, with perfect moisture content, in order to bale. But most farmers know that perfect haying conditions occur about an hour, once a week. There are consecutive days when there is never perfect weather for haying, yet the hay is positioned in windrows on the ground and needs to be rolled up in timely fashion.
So we often start baling in the evening when the hay is a bit too dry and stop baling at night when it is a little too tough for what the book says is "perfect." We cut corners all the time. We use our pliers instead of the perfect-sized wrench, because it is quicker. We use baling wire to hold everything in place so we can finish a project before it rains. And yes, we get an odd-sized bolt or have to drill new holes in that new swingset, so the kids can have something to play on before dark. We improvise. We compromise. And while it might drive our spouses and others nuts, we usually get things done and they still turn out okay. Such as it is with farmers.
Hope you have a good week.