For us, farming is not like mining coal. It is not plundering or profiteering. It is not earning a living at the expense of the earth or the soil. Farming is responsibly surviving on Earth in a way which least impacts the lives of other animals and plants, as well as the future generations who will inherit this land from us.
There is seldom big money earned in small- or medium-scale farming, and to believe that we will get rich from raising a handful of cattle is a misconception which leaves many small farmers deep in debt and struggling to keep hold of their land. Modern agricultural markets are geared to a specific process which favors economy of scale. Despite the effort of many small farmers to diversify into direct-consumer sales, the major ag and food markets will take time to change—if they ever change at all.
Currently, the large farm is the favored mode for profitable ag production because its systems are most supported by the infrastructure in place throughout the world. Profits are more predictable at a large farm because technologies which facilitate accurate soil data, accurate chemical and fertilizer applications, large-scale irrigation, and labor-saving equipment allow one farm to control thousands and thousands of acres of cropland with greater precision and knowledge than the small farmer is capable of attaining. Even with advanced systems and large operations, farming is still a risky venture and one that does not see the types of profits that many other modern companies are capable of generating.
For large farms, the commodity markets will generally maintain a status of purchasing bulk grains and livestock animals. These commodity markets are more predictable purchasers than those purchasing from the small farm. If I drive a truckload of cattle down to the Acme Livestock Exchange, the commodity market will buy them. I don’t know what they’ll pay, but they’ll at least buy them. If I drive up to the farmers market with a cooler full of steaks and eggs, I may leave the farmers market at 1 p.m. with a cooler full of steaks and eggs. The small farmer’s market is less predictable when dealing in direct sales. There is no predictable big-money to be made in small or medium farming without years or decades of individual consumer enlistment and loyalty.
Fortunately, we do not farm for a living. We live to farm. This grants us the ability to focus on processes and quality instead of solely on earning a living from the land. Our ability to experiment in agriculture with the safety net of our landscaping business has given us the power we needed to create a more sustainable system for our farm and our consumers.
Our philosophy is quality of earth, air, soil, nature, animals, food, health, and life. It is founded in realism and built on modern and ancient principals of land and stock management. We cannot broadly claim any one allegiance to agricultural practices like “organic” or “natural,” because all of these words are misleading in some form or fashion and don’t make sense to us. We also do not seek to criticize other farming operations; all farming practices are valid in some way for other people or they would not exist. I am personally enamored by large-scale farming, no matter how destructive it may be, because the logistics and machinery are fascinating to me. This does not mean I intend to follow a path of mega-agribusiness, but only that I understand why these large farms exist and I have no hard feelings towards them.
Our farm does not frown upon the use of technology. In fact, we embrace it, because as technology grows and our understandings of the earth advance, it becomes easier to work with nature rather than against it. For instance, electricity has allowed for many advances in agriculture that are more eco-friendly than those in place before electricity existed—such as electric fences, which are easier on all animals, use less materials and can preserve more grass and soil than conventional barbed wire. The same goes for diesel-powered tractors and equipment, which have allowed for the quick conveyance of materials, and extended the life of our farmer’s spinal cords and thus their time in the field working, learning, and teaching. The key to responsible and successful farming practices in our industrial society is knowing where to draw the lines. We cannot overstep too far in any one direction, or we risk harming the earth and the soil.