Like all farmers, we spent the last couple weeks of a successful year talking about what to do with the fruits of our labor (that would be profits, which can be rare in the farming world) and decided to come up with some priority items for 2012. Now, I’ve heard lots of chatter from other farmers about the new combine or tractor they wanted to pick up, or about pre paying for some of their fertilizer for next year. Our list, however, looked a little different.
Item number 1 on the 2012 goals list: obtain MAEAP (Michigan Agricultural Environmental Assurance Program) verification. For those that don’t know, this is a voluntary, grower-initiated stewardship program under which your farm goes through an extensive third-party audit to certify that you are using the best environmental stewardship practices. It can be costly, and is time-consuming, but it is worth it to know we are doing everything possible to protect our natural resources. We needed to complete a couple of major items before we could proceed, so that’s where the money went first.
Item number 1: New orchard sprayer. Our old sprayer worked, but this new machine is the most state-of-the-art sprayer available. It will allow us to better control where we spray, and also allow us to use lower use rates of our pesticides, because the coverage is so much better. Expensive, but very, very worth it.
Item number 2: Fuel containment diking and a loading pad. Now, this is something that we could have applied, and waited around for, government conservation funding, but this is important. We decided to make it a priority issue, get it built, and move on. In reality, this was the one major item that was holding our verification up, so now we should have no trouble obtaining our certification.
When it comes down to it, we will end up making the same business investments that other farmers make; more grain storage, maybe a newer semi tractor, or a even a new combine. But right now, we’re going to make sure we’re doing whatever it takes to protect our natural resources, because at the end of the day, if we don’t have our land, then that combine is going to be a really expensive lawn ornament.