I'm late at so many things. Squandered October I did, just did not get it together. But that's the way it went, and it has always worked out. The animals are cared for, nothing is busted, so here we are.
We are losing some of the land we have cared for so well. But I feel satisfied I left it better than I found it. It's the risk we take. In life, too, when you shift from cynical - what about me - to - trusting that it will all work out, that doing right in a smart way always works out in the end.
Dear Stoughton Area Farmland Owner:
My name is Scott Trautman. You may know or have heard of us. Most easily known as the farm with 'all the Jersey cattle' on it. It's sad it's so rare to see cattle, and on grass, that we're so easy to pick out. 2049 Skaalen Road, Stoughton WI, three miles out of town at the corner of Skaalen & Pleasant Hill.
We are radicals to the core, defying the 'reality' here in 2010: We are family farmers earning our living from the farm. This is not a hobby for us. Your grandfathers would recognize what we do and a lot of how we do it. That which they wouldn't recognize - with explanation - would show a deep caring for the land, and applying the best of 2010 technology to the best of 1950. I happen to have a world of respect for your grandfathers.
What you've heard over and again is the family farm is dead.
That is wrong. What is dead is the ability to have one product/crop, one outlet for that crop on a family-sized basis (it's really questionable that it's smart on any level with how the deck is stacked against farmers). We sell 100% of our farm's bounty direct to consumers, which can't get enough of what we do. We're not 'marketing geniuses', either. We have a great quality product with what people want, and are willing to pay a fair price for. Grassfed beef, pastured pork, pastured poultry, and soon enough, the finest dairy products anywhere. We have over 500 customers, and they pay a fair price, and we work hard, year round, to provide it to them. Our entire family: Myself, my wife, and our three young children: Ian, 12, Quinn, 10, Lilly 7.
Whereas the 'big' farmers of the area will never have enough farmland to satisfy their need, as they gamble every year, compete with each other, we are very close to satisfied as we are, running 110 acres, making a decent living. We don't farm like they do, either. I would ask you to compare.
We build organic matter and improve soils...because that's what you do when you farm organically. We are proudly Certified Organic since 2005. I will gladly show you starting soil reports, and what we've done in just a few years. Dramatically better organic matter and minerals, which gives impressive amounts of harvest, most typically in forages for our bovines. On towards what your grandfathers left your fathers. This will make some angry - but they know - the soil was a lot darker when they started than it is now.
We look at all the sprayers going up and down the road, and fertilizer, and we wonder just what purpose it would hold for our lands. None. We get great yields, and only getting better. We return to the land what we take off. We'd ask you to consider our farming skills, when we don't need all that crap to farm, and don't have poor, weedy, bug infested crops, like many of them and agribusiness want you to believe we have to be without their poisons.
'They' have been running the land for many years. We see the erosion, the trees ripped out to fit the ever larger equipment, more chemical use and not less, monoculture rather than the interesting fields we plant. Corn, beans, corn beans. It's all they know how to do. And fencepost to fencepost. To me it sounds like they're poor. We're rich, and we think you ought enjoy your land. Seeing it in beautiful hay, and having a path around the outside to enjoy it, encouragement - and help - from us to plant trees and take up some of that farmland, rather than tear more out. And if you dreamed of farming? I would love to help you do that, even if it meant me losing your land.
My children are interested in farming as their livelihood. I am consciously working towards that. Step one, treat our farmland well, so they can see how lush and productive it is, and better every year. Step two, sell our products for a fair price, and them see how people love what we do and aren't afraid to say so, and Step three, us involve them in the farm, helping make decisions, explaining everything, and designing everything so you can participate, to the farms profit.
'They' have no future beyond this generation. The children are the true test: they don't want to farm? Then maybe they haven't had quite the enjoyable time of it they might lead you to believe, by observing mom & dad not happy with the life. What happens then? The farms get bigger. The caring gets less. More corporate. And they convince themselves - and you - that this is the modern way, and some sick warped idea that they have to operate this way under some duty to 'feed the world'. That green 'revolution'? feeds agribusiness and the healthcare business. As what you spend for food goes down, spending on healthcare goes up. We are starting to get the connection, and we are in on the ground floor of the revolution of providing the great food for healthy people. I am convinced the day will come where we are the normal ones - and not the weirdos of the neighborhood. Such is the nature of change.
I, Scott, if you would choose to be around me, as in, to rent us your land, would find me, and my family, the happy farmers. A big grin on my face, pure joy of knowing what I am doing is what I am here in this lifetime to do.
Yet, my mission goes beyond just our farm and the radical thing it is. I am working towards more farms, in this area, now. You see, in the next 10 years, the older farmers still hanging on will retire, and their lands will go the way so many others have gone. Farmland separated from farmstead, Every tree ripped out to create bigger flatter fields of corn, barns torn down, life from that farm, gone, forever. Sold to the developer, the memory of these great farming legacies, gone forever, not even their names remembered. So very very sad. Long proud farming legacies, gone.
Our farm was dead: it is again alive. See our beautiful animals, see the trees we plant, see the joyful people in the fields. People walk and drive by all the time; there is something to see here that isn't sad, about a way of life that is dead. Because it isn't dead. And it is so very attractive.
I speak about being rich and poor in a different way than most. We are rich. Not in a money sense, but in life. Those that can only make decisions based on things, and money, and right now are far poorer than us. We plant trees and make plans beyond my generation, rather than cheap to last just this year or my lifetime. We're happy, and we see a beautiful future we are going to create.
Won't you join us in making a better world? At least this corner of the world? We have and will continue to be generous with our knowledge, equipment, labor. I'm the guy that says YOU can farm - not what the current culture says, you CAN'T farm. And we won't be able to contain the good of our farm just unto ourselves. The grass, the trees, the animals, the happy people: it's infectious. And you can choose to be poor and still take advantage of this, so you think, or you can be rich with us and be a part of a revolution, right here.
God has given me so much. I have not earned it, I do not deserve it, but he has guided me to this, and a deep feeling of duty: More farms not less, productive, sustainable, beautiful, community building farms, not cynical, when I feel like it - or have to -sell it to developers, but generation after generation farming with pride, and making this a better community to be in for everyone. What would the effect of 20 200 acre thriving family farms be on the community, rather than one never satisfied 4000 acre farm? We used to know, we will know again.
I have talked to so many landowners, farmers, who are convinced of this terrible world, that's just the way it is. It's easy to think that. It takes no courage whatsoever to march in line. Yet it doesn't have to be that way, and I can show you - not just talk, but show you - it doesn't have to be that way.
We don't need all that chemical crap, we don't need antibiotics and all that kind of crap either. It wouldn't help: we have excellent health in our animals, nice yields indeed in our crops, like your grandfathers who didn't have all those tools: They figured it out if they wanted to stay farming, and we have too. We know so much more than even 5 years ago. This is the real smart farming: smart enough to make a living, be happy, and not put the cost of our living now on future generations.
I'd be happy to have you talk to landowners I have worked with. What I have done for their land. Show you the soil reports - showing dramatic rise in organic matter and minerals, without all the fertilizers.
Yet I will tell you, it does take quite an investment on our part, and a couple years to re-awaken the soil life, and we go in the hole to do it, and it requires you and I to have a partnership to undo all the farming of the past 50 years (nature is so amazingly resilient if you only listen and provide the little it needs). We have to understand each other. If you are poor, and all you care about is money, screw the land, convince yourself that up is down and right is wrong, then we really have nothing to talk about.
If you could yourself be happy - that you were a part of a revolution - taking back the family farm - here - now - then let's talk. I am not happy unless all parties are happy. It is no better for us to be happy and you not than it is for you happy and us not. Because we are rich, and to take advantage is to be poor - in spirit. We will invite more farmers here, train them, work to get them onto the land, work together - like your grandfathers did - yet with the intelligence and efficiency of the modern world, and the best of the culture of 1950. Yes, I believe we are that smart and focused. It takes neither to be cynical.
Come talk to me. I'm easy to find. Come look at what we've done. We started only in 2003, yet, if we were what some would have you believe of us, we'd have long since burned out, sold out, and convinced ourselves it wasn't our fault we couldn't make a living. Yet we are thriving, and working hard towards creating a better world with more farmers, not less - here - the revolution starts here - just outside Stoughton, WI, 2010.
Scott Trautman, Proud Wisconsin Patriot-Farmer-Dairyman