Agropraxis Farm

  (Scotts, Michigan)
A Ultra-Low Carbon input farm using Eco-Bio methods.
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Fall and the Nature of Farming

On the farm the late fall crops are doing well. A great harvest of leeks, Brussels sprouts, rutabegas, radicchio, broccoli, and kale was done. I also I harvested a nice crop of collards. Maybe it’s a Michigan thing (or a white, Michigan thing), but collards are not real common here. This was a demo crop and I honestly had never eaten them or grown them before. I never had a CSA member ask for them or had someone at market inquire. But, they seem to be really popular in some regions and referred to favorably in cooking magazines. So they went in. They were largely neglected through the summer. Some were taken to market but drew little interest. They looked super the other week so I harvested and cooked them for my first try…and was blown away! So that’s what I’ve been missing! What flavor and texture. Even the picky-eater in the house took seconds. So simple and so good! They earned a spot on the farm for the coming years. We’ll  have Kale and collards for late greens from now on. 

I took time to read a farming magazine and ran across an appropriate description of what it’s like to farm compared to typical businesses.  “…the difference in magnitude and importance of the problems between managing  a business unit versus managing a farm….It sort of puts those petty office problems into perspective. On a farm if you miss something, you miss it for a year….In business if you miss a deadline or something doesn’t work out right…it’s so easy to correct…and go on....with farming you’re so much more aware of what’s not in your control; whereas in business you get this warped sense of it’s all in my control…In farming you do have some influence, but so much of it is nature.” (Acres USA, Dec 2012 Womack pg. 55…)

The lack of understanding of the challenges that farmers face gets a broad range of responses. Customers don’t lose any money when a celery crop fails due to unfavorable hot, droughty conditions. They buy conventional celery with its inferior taste.  Early beets may be killed by a late hard freeze and hours of work go unrewarded. Working with nature is a humbling and unpredictable experience. As the article detailed, it has a magnitude associated with its problems that few appreciate. 

One farming job I had was a nightmare.  A “plan” was created and a farmer hired to implement the plan (me). The plan was grossly unrealistic but being a farmer and hoping that the plan makers understood a little about the difficulty of farming to a rigid plan, I took the risk of trying to fulfill the plan. In an ideal situation the plan might have had a chance. With a challenging weather year and personnel scenario the problems were insurmountable and the plan was unachievable. The business decided to try another farmer (only to experience the same outcome) and is again looking for another farmer to assume the risk. The article brought to mind the differences and failings of thinking and working with nature as though it fit into a plan. The mentality of a farmer is to keep planting and working so that short term problems are minimized and long term benefits of the work are realized. Having to work to a plan is loaded with stress and quickly results in insurmountable animosity. Only a farmer seems to sense the difficulties or understand the problems and their magnitude.
Farmer Pete

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