Monday, November 18, 2013

Lucky man.

So yesterday, the upper midwest saw some of the most severe storms we’ve ever seen this late in the year. While the damage was nothing like what the folks in places like Illinois saw, it was still significant around our area as well, and my family was affected.

This morning, I arrived at the “main farm”, where my grandparents live, and saw for myself what had happened. One post frame building destroyed, debris around the yard, and no power. We spent most of the morning at afternoon removing building pieces so we could get equipment out, hooking up generators, and trying to get things up and running again. When the power went out, we had the grain dryers running, so we had thousands of bushels of wet corn in trucks and bins that would start molding quickly if we couldn’t get it dried, and fast. As I worked around throughout the day, one thought kept creeping into my head.

I’m a lucky man. 

My family is safe. My farm buildings and home are (for the most part) still standing. I didn’t loose any equipment.

Compared to many farm friends south of me, I’m damn lucky.

When I took to social media this morning with pictures and stories, it wasn’t about looking for pity, or a “hey, look at how bad this is” moment. I’ve decided that I’m going to share my farming life with the world via social media, and this was part of that. The good, the bad, everything.

Then, something even more humbling that I can put into words started happening. 

First it was text messages. 

Then the Facebook postings. 

Finally, the phone calls.

Other farmers and ranchers all over the country were reaching out, contacting me, wondering how we were doing, how bad the damage was, asking if there was anything they could do to help out.

Then it struck me. 

Compared to having a town leveled, or loosing half your cattle in a blizzard, or having an entire crop lost by flooding, this was a minor inconvenience. 

And these people, these wonderful friends, many of whom I know only on Facebook and Twitter, were asking if we were ok, telling me they were praying for us.
I was beyond words.

And then, it hit me.

This is farming. This is what I do. And this, and they, are why I do it.

I am truly, a very lucky man.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

An Idea, Not a Place.

Today is July 4th, the day we celebrate our independence; and if you’re like most Americans, you’ll celebrate it in similar fashion: burgers and beer, boating and the beach, bar-b-que, and of course, fireworks. But what are you really celebrating? I’m challenging you to think about what all this means a little more today...

On a hot July day in 1776, a group of men, the Continental  Congress, finished and signed a document that would change the course of history. In one swift move, and under penalty of certain death, they gave the most powerful man on the planet, King George, the finger. They informed him, and the rest of the world, in no uncertain terms that they were starting a new nation, based on some very basic principles:

  1. People have the right to express themselves, worship their personal God, and live without fear of government.
  2. Said people also have the right to fair treatment if they screw up, and have the right to keep the government at bay with the use of deadly force. 

There, I’ve summed up the declaration of independence and constitution in four lines. 

But what does it really mean?

It means that America isn’t a place. It’s an idea. America is about freedom, liberty, and personal responsibility. The American ideal says “we don’t need the government to take care of us, we can do it ourselves”. Today, I fear some of that is lost, which is were I get to the most important part of this blog: You.

What are you willing to do to preserve the American ideal? If we don’t keep it alive and defend it, those men did that work for nothing. 

If we don’t defend it, then the soldiers who fought in Pennsylvania 150 years ago this week, did it for nothing. 

And if we don’t defend it, then the thousands of young men who grew up in the depression, and traveled half a world a way to storm beaches in France and on Iwo Jima, they too, did it for nothing.

So here’s what I’m asking: As you flip burgers, or crack open another beer, or take another lap around the lake, ask yourself:

What am I willing to lay before the alter of Freedom to ensure this idea lives on?

If we are willing to sacrifice, in some way, then this Great Nation of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not parish from the earth.

Happy fourth of July everyone.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Why Food Democracy isn’t really about Democracy.

Right now, a group called Food Democracy is urging folks all over the country to try and stop the continuing resolution passed by congress last week from being signed. They claim there is a piece in the CR called the “Monsanto Protecting Act” (which, I might add, is a made-up BS term). What they are really pissed about is the fact that this small piece of the CR protects farmers from activists and activist judges. Let me explain...

This small piece allows the USDA to allow for the cultivation and harvest of a crop, even if a judge or court has ordered it to undergo further review, and be removed from the market place. And we aren’t talking about some wild ideas here-we are talking about a group who wants to remove all traces of GMO crops from the planet, by any means necessary (kiss your seedless watermelons goodbye). 

For me as a farmer, this small piece provides me with much needed security. Without the USDA stopgap, a judge somewhere could rule that my corn crop growing in the field would have to be destroyed, with no recourse or remuneration for me as a farmer. A single judge in California could rule that my Roundup Ready corn, which has nearly 25 years of testing, regulatory approval, and real world experience could be banned, and I would be forced to destroy my entire crop, costing me millions of dollars. It would bankrupt my family overnight.

But here’s a real world example for everyone:

Let’s say you buy a lot and build a new house. 2 months after moving in, a neighbor says that your house is too close to his, and he doesn’t like it. There’s no scientific or logical basis for his gripe, but he takes you to court anyways. In court, the judge rules that he’s not sure about the neighbors complaint, but just to be safe, you need to move out of your new house and bulldoze it. If he decides the neighbor is wacky, you can rebuild your house, but in the meantime, you must tear it down and find somewhere else to go.

This is the world of uncertainty we live in. I would LOVE to have the time to talk to everyone in America about technology, Monsanto, GMO crops, and why I farm the way I  do, but I can’t. So please, try to trust us, just a little, and try to trust the USDA. Anyone who thinks the USDA is in bed with bio tech companies, well, I’ve got some ocean front property in Indiana for you.