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Posts Tagged ‘omnivore’s dilemma’

 It appears that Aquaponic Gardening in the USA is continuing to gather interest throughout the country, but it’s also facing a great deal of turnover due to the expense and fairly steep learning curve of start up.  Many excited newcomers, balk after seeing the high cost of pre made kits, or even the complicated nature of DIY when compared to growing in raised beds or traditional in ground gardens.

For those who manage a successful set up, new unforeseen headaches appear with water. Who really knew dechlorination and pH balance would be so time consuming and pricey, or that maintaining a thriving colony of bacteria that continuously convert ammonia to nitrites then nitrates is not as easy as it looks in diagrams or on YouTube.

Oh, let’s not forget about the fish. Waking up to fish floating in your tank is not only expensive, it’s discouraging, especially when you’ve poured a lot of hard earned money into having (Usually) Tilapia shipped from halfway across the country, only to watch them die in the first month or six weeks. In my case, I spent several hundred dollars learning that I could not raise redclaw crayfish here. I’m a slow learner.

The failure rate of ‘commercial’ ventures is even greater. The USA landscape is littered with abandoned Aquaponics systems that were going to make a fortune by selling premium products at premium prices to an ever growing health conscious public, who’ve grown tired of poisoning themselves with traditional supermarket fare.

The truth is, that there are only a relatively few places in America where the demographic that can afford premium prices, the proper climate for successful Aquaponic Farming, and would be entrepreneurs with the fortitude and work ethic to succeed are able to intersect.

I know some awesome people in west central and central Florida who are making it happen. I cannot promote them too highly. But they also work their butts off to make it happen.  Many, if not most, Aquaponics dreamers are simply not prepared to pay that price.

A large percentage of the success stories in the more temperate climates are not really commercial ventures at all, but are non profits, dependent on grants, gifts and donations to stay afloat. To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with the model per se, but running a non profit is a whole different animal and requires a different set of skills than a for profit commercial farm.  Many would be Aquaponic farmers miss that difference and are destined for failure from the beginning.

Like its older sibling, hydroponics, Aquaponic farming is NOT the future of food production. It has its appeal, it has a niche where it can be successful, but it is not going to begin replacing traditional gardening and farming anytime soon.

If you have stayed with me this far, you probably think I’m some kind of hater or have sour grapes about my own lack of success with aquaponics. If that’s what you think, you would be wrong by a mile. In fact, I am within a few days of setting up my 2016 backyard aquaponics system, and I already have several hydroponic projects going.

What I want to do, is cut through a lot of the boloney and help you be successful, or at least help you set realistic expectations if you’re new to aquaponic gardening, especially if you’re on a budget.

I have no intention of discussing how to begin a commercial aquaponics farm.  I understand marketing and sales, because that’s my background, and I’m an entrepreneur to the marrow in my bones, but I have no experience in commercial aquaponics farming, and I will not pretend I do. A successful commercial aquaponics farm is a unique animal. It will require capital, patience and night and day work for a long time.  I will tell you that, as I’ve already mentioned, location is mission critical. Out here where my wife and I live, such a venture would be a disaster. If you are really keen on investigating how you might launch a commercial project, email me, or use the comments section and I’ll be happy to direct you to some people in the business who will give you good answers without the bull. This article is for people who want to begin a backyard, basement, or garage system.

First, understand that you can build several raised beds or buy a whole lot of containers for what a backyard aquaponics system is going to set you back. A small ‘off the shelf system’ that will keep a handful of fish and grow a few veggies will cost you over $1000.  If you’re going to grow in your garage or basement you’re going to have to add in costs of lighting and water temperature regulation, which can be significant. 

If you’re going DIY it can be much cheaper, but still significant. First there is the cost of Fish Tanks and grow beds. Will you use plastic barrels, IBC containers, stock tanks, or some other container? Your cost will be determined by what you choose and where you source it. I have historically used plastic barrels and stock tanks, but I also have some IBC totes for potential future use.

Plumbing costs money. There is the pvc, fittings, valves, hoses, cutting tools to consider, in addition to the costs of a filtration system.  Unless you already have an off grid power supply, you’re going to have to find a way to operate the water and air pumps. If you plan to run year round you’ll also have water heating costs.

Now, for the fish. Most of us began with Tilapia. Most of us failed. If you live in in Florida, south Texas, Arizona, Nevada or Southern California, you might get away with it. For most of the USA, however, the only way to successfully raise Talipia, is to heat the water at least part of the year and/or to raise them inside. When water temps get below 50 degrees F, Tilapia are going to die. For example, my inlaws live in west central Florida just south of Tampa Bay.  They have wild Tilapia in the ponds and lakes around them. A couple of years back, during a particularly cold spell, tens of thousands of Tilapia died and floated to the surface of the local ponds. Now just imagine what would happen here in north Georgia, or Kentucky, or Indiana, or Montana, or Maine. I think you get the picture. Tilapia can handle a wide range of water quality conditions, but water temperatures are literally a killer.

I was successful growing Tilapia in my basement and garage when we lived in town, but it wasn’t cheap. I gave up very quickly once we moved out here in the country. The cost of heating water in my greenhouse was prohibitive.

On the other hand, I love gardening and many things grew better in aquaponics than they did for me using more traditional methods, so I started thinking outside the Tilapia.

After it became just too expensive to raise Tilapia, I tried bluegill and catfish. They grow great here. I suggest you look into what might work in your area. In many places, especially north of the Mason Dixon, Yellow Perch are a good option. They grow relatively quickly and are extremely tasty.

In our case, my wife doesn’t eat fresh water fish, so it was pointless growing them. If I want some crappie filets, I just go to the lake and catch some. Easy.  The last two summers, I’ve grown goldfish.  They are 20 cents apiece at the pet store. That price is hard to beat. If you don’t eat fish, if you are on a budget, or if you don’t intend to grow year round, goldfish may be a great option.

Other options include minnows and Koi. Minnows are cheap, easy to raise, and can be used, or sold as bait for crappie and bass fishing.  Our ducks like them, too. Koi are often in demand for backyard ponds and can easily pay for themselves.

Koi, minnows, goldfish, bluegill, catfish, and many other varieties can be overwintered if the tanks are deep enough, but my wife and I have decided that growing all year round is not worth it for us. We live in Bartow County Georgia, not Adelaide, Australia. 

My systems work this way. I set up my system(s) in April, stock it with goldfish, and grow exclusively lettuces, herbs and greens in raft (DWC) systems. By doing this and using plenty of oxygen in the water, I can keep growing lettuces almost all summer. I can also grow Okra very successfully in rafts.  By growing these things aquaponically and hydroponically, I have lots more room in my traditional garden for tomatoes, peppers, melons and etc.

Once fall comes, I will grow some kale and swiss chard. Then once things get too cold for gardening to be fun, I take the system down for the winter. The fish will be fed to the ducks and chickens. It’s that simple.

Aquaponics can be fun and rewarding. To make sure it is, think about where you live. What fish will work where you are? Do you want to eat your fish, or will they be just for aesthetic enjoyment?  Will you grow seasonally or all year round? Will you grow outside or in? What’s your budget?

In short, do your homework. It’s the equivalent of measure twice, cutting once. And by all means, think OUTSIDE the Tilapia.

Please email me with any questions or add your comments. After all, we’re in this together.

 

 

 

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As regular readers know, one of our goals here at EOE and Our Edible Suburb is to make healthy, safe food available and affordable to the average family. In many ways, that goal puts us at odds with several other companions in the ‘good food movement’, including some of my favorite authors, foodies and farmers. IMO, a few of the folks I follow on FB and Twitter are beginning to sound arrogant, superior and downright snobbish. I find that unfortunate.  The simple truth is, the average American family cannot afford to go 100% organic and should not be made to feel guilty about it.

The whole food system is so messed up it needs to be burned down and restarted. It’s a very complicated and complex problem, as is the resolution. It’s much more than pricing. It’s about priorities and honesty and lifestyle and ‘The American Dream”.  It is a mess and we all have dirty hands to one degree or another. Sorting it out will take a great deal of education, patience and time. It’s a war that will be fought from house, from person to person, from meal to meal. Standing on a soap box proclaiming the evils of GMOs and Big Agra are not solutions. Defending organic with ‘we provide a premium product and premium products are worth more’ does not resonate with the average family. The person who decides to grow some of her own food and uses ‘Miracle Gro” instead of compost is not the antichrist. She has taken a baby step in the right direction.  The small farmer with a handful of acres and feeds his two cows a handful of corn now and then, is not a CAFO sending sick and abused animals into the food chain.

We need to encourage each step a consumer or producer takes towards a healthier lifestyle, food system or environment. Rome was not built in a day, remember?  As the Emperor Hadrian reminded the empire, “Brick by brick, my citizens. Brick by brick.”

Our food system is tangled in a web of many strands, made by a multitude of spiders and the solution will not come by cutting a single thread. Culpability lies with our Government, our Health Care system, Big Agra, Big Pharma, The American Dream, Wall Street, Main Street, our education system, our personal choices and priorities, Supermarket chains, farmers markets, bloggers, authors, farmers….to one degree or another we’ve all been a part of the problem. We can all be a part of the solution.

This blog began as a way to share our personal journey in gardening, farming and homesteading. We wanted to network with others on the same journey. It is my goal to return to those roots and begin again to help the average family (or individual) chart a new, healthier course.  It’s going to take us in some strange and exotic locations as we tear down our old ways of thinking and forge a new paradigm.

I’m going to challenge many of your core values. I don’t want to be the guy who stands on a pedestal and comes across as a superior being talking down to the masses. I want us to be a family, working together to make better choices, better lives, better futures for ourselves and the generations that follow us?

Lofty? Pious? Ridiculous? Holier Than Thou? I hope not.  I do hope, though,  you’ll come along for the trip. I also hope you’ll join the discussion.

Next up: How Chasing The American Dream Has Mugged Our Food System (And what we can do about it).

 

 

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Wow, that’s a mouthful.  If you read that less than stimulating headline and still came to the article, you might need to see a doctor.  It’s even worse for me, I wrote the darned thing.  Still, you’re here so let’s chat.

Two articles I’ve read the couple days have brought me once again to the subject of Govt. intrusion into the food chain. They remind me of the hypocrisy and silliness of our current USDA and FDA regulatory system, and of our abdication of our personal responsibility in taking ownership of our lives.  Once upon a time those agencies may have been about food safety and availability, but now it appears to be about power, money and control.

I don’t mean to drag this space down into the political mire, it’s supposed to be a fun place to follow our adventures and misadventures here at the farm. Sometimes, though, I feel compelled to digress. This is one of those times.

The first story is about Tyson recalling 34,000 lbs of mechanically separated chicken. The second is an announcement that the State of Maryland is considering decriminalizing raw milk.

In the first story, Tyson is voluntarily recalling 17 tons of potentially dangerous, salmonella affected chicken, unlike Foster Farms who recently refused to do so. (Side note, FF were at least partly right in citing proper food handling and cooking as the best way to minimize risk).

I congratulate Tyson on their action. My purpose is not to point fingers at the big chicken companies, but the inconsistencies of the system set up to monitor the food chain.

As a side note, the funniest part of the article was the reporter’s declaration that the food was destined for ‘institutional’ use and would not have made it into the public arena. Oh, good; instead of Kroger and Walmart, the chicken would have found its way into schools, hospitals, and nursing homes. That’s much better, considering the agencies’ propaganda machines consistently use protection of children and the elderly as justification for their regulatory over reach.  Hmmm….

Do your research, the overwhelming majority of food borne illness outbreaks come from Big Agra sources rather than small, local farms; yet it is the small producer who suffers the burden of the regulations.  Am I the only person who thinks that doesn’t pass the smell test? It is small dairies, farms and meat producers who are raided at 0 dark thirty, with their families terrorized by armed authorities wielding power like an invading army. Produce and livestock are confiscated, fines levied and sometimes arrests happen. Families are left in tears, their lives and livelihoods shattered while Foster Farms and Tyson hire a cleaning crew and production rolls on. What a great use of taxpayer money…not.

The second article, while encouraging, highlights the almost comical inconsistencies in the food regulatory system.

We all want food to be safe to consume (There’s a d’oh moment for you), but do we need to resort to Govt over reach and propaganda to achieve food safety? Again, the historically serious health risks have come from big rather than small, local operations.

For thousands of years, and still today in agrarian societies, humans milked their livestock and consumed the milk and cheeses without mass deaths to them, their neighbors or their children. Oh, did I mention that they did it all without even refrigeration?  How did people ever survive without Government regulation?  Thank goodness Nanny is here to rescue us from ourselves.

As people left their rural existence and moved to the city, enterprising farmers moved their dairies closer to their customer base and grew larger. Eventually, due to overcrowding and lack of sanitation or good handling practices, things like e-coli, listeria and giardia became an issue.

Fortunately, Louis Pasteur, learned that heating the milk would kill the bugs and make the milk safe again. Similarly, Alexander Fleming, living and working in overcrowded London, discovered penicillin and we could fight the bacteria already invading our bodies. Problem solved.  Or not.

What we now know is that the proliferation of antibiotics (we take them like candy), has compromised our immune systems and has promoted the rise of super strains of antibiotic resistant bacteria. This is good for the pharmaceutical companies, but not so good for people.

We also know that pasteurization kills the vitamins and the good bugs in milk  as well as the bad ones.  Therefore, we have to fortify our dairy products with the vitamins we killed and we have to add probiotics to our yogurt to replace the ones that existed naturally in the milk before we pasteurized it.  How do you spell, ‘irony’?

Common sense is dead!  So is critical thinking!  Ok, if not dead, both are certainly on the endangered list. Today, we have abdicated our thinking to Government oversight and have sacrificed our liberty to their agencies. Shame on us.

I have nothing against pasteurization or antibiotics. They have a place.  So does raw milk, cheese and yogurt. Chances are, when a person switches to raw milk, she/he will suffer some digestive challenges as the body builds up a new set of probiotics, in the same way beginning a regimen of exercise after a long spell of inactivity leaves us sore and tired.  After a while, though, we are healthier than ever.

Please, do your research. Think for yourself. You are more capable of making decisions about your life, your health and your diet than any Government agency ever could be. King George would be very proud of our current reliance on our Government benefactors.  I on the other hand, take my lead from Patrick Henry (in the misquoted version), “Give me liberty, or give me death.”  First though, I think I’ll have a nice cold glass of raw milk.

(p.s.) Stay tuned for my next feather ruffling installment, ‘Why I’m opposed to mandatory labeling of GMOs”.  He said WHAT?

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veggie2014 arrived right on schedule a few hours ago.  Funny, in all my life I’ve never seen one arrive late.  The same thing can be said of Birthdays, darn it. Birthday CARDS are sometimes late, but never the birthday itself. Shame, really.

I wanted to begin the adventure that is 2014 by formally announcing we will be attending at least 1, and probably 2 Farmers Markets this year. We will have a stand in Cartersville on Saturdays, and possibly Calhoun on Thursday nights.  Please stay tuned for changes and additions.

Also, may I have a drum roll please?  After three years of threatening, we are offering a limited CSA option this year.  Since its our first CSA program we are offering an incredible price. Therefore, the earlier people sign up, the better the chance of taking advantage.  The 2014 membership is $400.  Members who pay in full by March 25 will receive a $50 ‘earlybird’ discount  ($350 total).  After March 25, the membership reverts to the $400 price, while shares are still available.  There is one other option. Memberships can be reserved with a $100 deposit and paid in 20 weekly installments of $17, from June 1 – October, making the total $440.  We’re making this offer now, because it’s a first come, first serve basis.  Feel free to use the contact page or email any questions.

Oh, before I forget, Happy New Year.

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bunniesDecember is ‘retrospective month’.  Turn on the radio, the television or the internet; open a magazine or newspaper and you can find a nearly infinite number of ‘best of’ and ‘worst of’ stories for the year that was.  I think I’ll give that a miss.  2013 was a tough year, mostly because of the wet winter and my surgery.  Poor Brittan was left virtually alone to keep this ship afloat.  She did a great job.  She is one incredible woman.

Fortunately, the year is behind us, I’m 90% healed (and probably can’t expect more than that) and the new year awaits.  I am psyched and ready.  I hope you can keep up.

Here are some of the plans:

  1. In January, I plan to apply for a live plant license in order to sell seedlings to the public.  Oddly, you can sell basil leaves a farmers market, but the plant requires a license. It’s ok to sell tomatoes by the bushel, but you better have a plant license to sell that seedling for a buck and a half.  I know, it’s weird, but that’s life and we’ll comply.The idea was born from two seemingly coincidental events. First, we had so many starter greens and herbs last year that we had to feed hundreds of them to the compost heap.  Secondly, a nearby shop experienced a lack of interest from a well-known starter plant distributer.   The truck would drop off the plants, but the company didn’t come around to attend to them or keep them freshened.  As a result, many plants bolted or died.  I thought to myself, I bet that if seedlings were grown locally and naturally, they would have a stronger appeal and be able to be cared for in a better manner.  Since one of my favorite parts of gardening is starting and transplanting seeds, it seemed serendipitous.  I’m only hoping the State of Georgia agrees. seedlings
  1.  We will be expanding our garden considerably.  The addition of aquaponic and hydroponic systems is going to allow us to greatly increase the amount of produce we grow and make available.
  2. More Rabbits, Fewer Goats is the name of the game.  We’ve already reduced our goat herd considerably and may move a few more.  We didn’t have the market for goats and goat meat I had hoped for, so we are cutting back to a smaller herd that will still be large enough to provide plenty of meat and dairy, but will not overburden the pastures or pocket book.  The freezer will remain full and we may occasionally still have some goats for sale.  At the same time, we are increasing the number of rabbits.  The manure alone makes the decision worthwhile.  The rabbit waste is like gold when it comes to producing good compost.  There is nothing better.  We can raise 99% of all the food the rabbits need and the meat will feed us AND our dogs/cats.
  3. We will be cutting the number of hens, adding ducks and bringing back turkeys.  Basically, we decided that the broiler chicken business was too much work for no money.  We will keep a few hens for eggs and pasture maintenance, but just a few.  We have missed eating good turkey this year. Those rubbery, greasy things from the grocery store simply don’t cut it with us anymore, so we’ll raise a few birds this year for fall consumption.  I can’t wait.  The big thing, though, is Brittan want ducks.  She likes to watch them waddle and hear them quack.  She wants to try cooking with duck eggs. Who am I to argue?  Besides, I want to keep a few meat ducks (the OTHER red meat).
  4. tilapiaTilapia and Crawfish have been added already.  The Tilapia are doing nicely in their winter tank and we expect them to be ready for a nice autumn harvest.  In March or April, I will separate a breeding colony and begin breeding my own.  That ought to be an adventure.  My crawfish are surviving.  That’s better than the last time I tried raising them.  My fingers are crossed as I really want to be able to make a go of them.  They can be great food, good fish bait, and the carcasses are awesome for the compost heap.
  5. You Tube Channel is on the drawing board.  I’ve toyed with the idea of a channel for a couple years and even made some episodes that I never posted.  Brittan has convinced me that it would be a good idea, so I’m looking at “Gardening With The Village Idiot”, or something similar, to be released this spring.  The concept is, if I can do it, anyone can.

There are other projects and dreams in the oven, but I hope these will be enough to pique your interest enough to keep dropping back in on us here.  We love it when you come visit our site.  We’d like to see you come by more often.  And…we’d love to hear from you.  Don’t be shy.

 

 

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I’ve mentioned a few times that we are needing to downsize and reorganize some of what we do.  As a result of this decision, we’ve had to say farewell to several beloved animals.  Jasper (the friendly goat), Laverne and Shirley, the two most wonderful mules in history, my Kiko goats, just to name a few.  Each has left a hole in my heart as he/she drove away to their wonderful new homes.

Well, it happened again this week.  A few more of my goats went to live in new digs.  We are very happy with the new owners, but my heart aches when I go to feed and they don’t come up to give me kisses.

I always thought farming was supposed to be an objective, matter of fact business, where animals come and go as the business needs demand and that is that.  I thought wrong.

On a small farm, and I suspect on larger ones, too, bonds inevitably develop between farmers and livestock.  I was talking via email earlier this week with a small farmer who simply cannot bring himself to process any of his hens, because he’s grown so attached to them.

I’ve always thought of myself as immune to that sort of thing.  For example, I’ve heard people talk about ‘buck fever’ during hunting season, when they just can’t seem to pull the trigger even with an unmissable shot.  I have never even has an inkling of such a condition.  So you can imagine my surprise when farming revealed a whole new side of me.

Most of our livestock is merely that, livestock.  We buy them or breed them, raise them, process them. It’s what we do.  It’s part of the circle of life.  But once in a while…

Exhibit A: Miracle the chicken.  Miracle has not laid an egg in at least a year.  She should have been in a crock pot or dog food a long time ago.  When she was only about 8 months old she caught her leg on some rusty barbed wire and got gangrene.  I found her in a pasture unable to stand.  The green went all the way up her leg.  I was sick about it, but was convinced that putting her down was the right thing to do.  Brittan persuaded me to try nursing her instead.  Her logic was, if she dies, she dies, but if we can save her it’s worth the effort.

My own thinking was, chickens don’t recover from gangrene and she’s suffering.  A responsible farmer doesn’t let the animals under his care suffer.  We’d had a lot of loss to predators that spring and many of the chickens weren’t quite dead and I had been forced to put them down.  I was really weary of killing, so I agreed to nurse the hen.  We put her in a corner of the barn with a water bowl and feed dish in easy reach.  For weeks she lingered at deaths door and didn’t move an inch.  She would, however, eat and drink a little.  Then one day we went out to gather eggs and the chicken was up.  She was limping badly and had lost quite a few chest feathers, but she was on her feet.

Each day after that she showed steady, observable improvement until she was back to normal with the single exception that the injured leg was twice as big around as the other one.  That’s when she got the name, Miracle.  Many chickens have come and gone since Miracle’s injury, but she remains, and will until old age finally takes her.

Exhibit B: Patty the Pig.  Patty is a Vietnamese Potbelly and should have been sausage ages ago.  She had one litter and all the other potbellies have been processed and forgotten.  Somehow, Patty never found her way to the freezer.  She now pretty much has the run of the place.  She sometimes sits by the milk bucket while Brittan is milking, hoping for the excess to make it into her bowl, or hoping B will look away long enough for her to pull down the whole bucket and steal the entire contents; all the while, wagging her tail and looking ever so innocent.

Patty has gone from livestock to pet.  It just happened. She will be with us forever.

This week, some more of our goats, a couple of them personal favorites of mine, went to live elsewhere.  I don’t know how, when or why I got attached to them, but I did.  It’s just not the same without them around.

Farming is not nearly as dispassionate as I thought, or hoped it would be, but it is realistic and reality says, things change.  We will go on.  Some of this year’s crop of kids will replace the ones we sold.  I’m going to try not to get so attached this time.  I expect to fail.

 

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Given the title of Jake Meader’s article on the Christianity Today website, “Did we love ‘God Made a Farmer’ Too Much?” my expectations were pretty much below ground level when I read it.  Even with the bar set so low I still feel he fouled off the pitch at best.

I realize his target was the modern ‘factory farm’ movement, consumerism and a potential misunderstanding of scripture rather than those of us who are small, diversified farmers, and that’s why I give him credit for making contact even if he didn’t quite put the ball in play.  I would encourage him, though, to watch the ‘game film’ and reconsider his conclusions.

Most Americans have no idea where their food comes from.  For them, it’s all neatly packaged at Kroger, IGA or one of a thousand other chains.  So for one fleeting moment, America’s attention was drawn to the men and women who make Kroger possible.

Yes, too much of our farming is industrial and destructive of God’s creation.  Yes, monocultures of flora and fauna are a detriment rather than a blessing to the earth we’ve been commanded to steward.  The American Industrial Farming industry needs to be outed and corrected.

The commercial, though, highlights those of us who are trying to bring balance back to an industry and a world that desperately needs balance.  America, and many other parts of the world, has multiple thousands of farmers exactly like the ones in Paul Harvey’s poem.

My wife and I are among that army of farmers, who rise early and rest late.  I remember staying on the phone with my bride as she helped pull a lamb when the mother couldn’t do it alone.  The late winter wind howled and the actual temperature hovered around freezing. By the time I raced across town from my day job, she had pulled the lamb and stripped off her own jacket and sweatshirt to dry and warm it, giving no thought to her own comfort.

I have searched pastures in the darkest nights during driving rain to find goats born in the storm.  I have buried them deep inside my shirt and wrapped my coat around us all to warm them and give them a chance at the life they were born to live.

We have labored day and night to save a hen with a gangrene leg and I have wept man sized tears over creatures I’ve had to put down to end their misery.

While our friends and neighbors slept late on their Sunday mornings, we have been up at zero dark thirty, so the goats could be milked, the animals fed and watered as well as the garden tended to so we could be ready for me to teach an 8:30 a.m. Bible class.

We have fought droughts and battled floods.  We’ve seen bumper harvests and withered fields.  We have savored the birth of countless animals and have awakened to find flocks slaughtered by predators the previous night.

My wife can decorate a table as fine as the fanciest establishment in New York City and she can build a stall in a barn as well as any carpenter.  Her dairy goats follow her like she fell from Heaven and they may just be right.

We know no greater joy than when our friends and customers (those are synonyms by the way) tell us that our eggs, milk, yogurt, chickens, beef, pork, vegetables or fruit are the best they’ve ever had.

We go to bed at night knowing that our farming methods are helping feed the world while we heal the land.  We are stewards of God’s creation and we take our responsibility seriously.  We are not alone.  We know many more like us, most of whom are far more skilled than we.

Last week I had serious neck surgery.  The nurses stuck me in 5 different places before they found a vein into which they could place my IV port.  The head nurse said, “I’m so sorry to do this to you.  I don’t mean to hurt you.  Your skin is very thick. You use your hands.”  I beamed.

During the Super Bowl, in an attempt to sell trucks, Dodge drew the world’s attention to a subculture often overlooked and under-appreciated.  My email inbox was full the next day from people saying, “I thought of you.”

Our lives are not romantic, they are real. Did we like “God Made a Farmer” too much? Maybe Mr. Meader surmises we did, but I’m thinking, that thousands of others thought a Super Bowl ad finally hit the right note. Y’all decide.  I’ve got chores to do.  I’m a farmer. And I thank God every day for the privilege.

 

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