Work

To the Farm Momma Doing it All

I belong to a group on Facebook for women in agriculture. I often see posts or questions pertaining to children on the farm – how do you keep them occupied while doing chores? Do you baby wear? What carrier do I get? What creative ways do you have for strapping them in a tractor?

Lastly, how do you still make sure you are giving your child your most precious asset, time?

I have been struggling with figuring out this new role on the farm. Am I farm mom? A Farm wife? Am I farmer? Am I a full-time employee? Am I a student in agriculture? Am I a mom? Am I a wife?

Needless to say, I am all of those things in one form or another, and finding the balance among it all has been a tricky one. I have been having a hard time accepting that I am in a new season of my life, and as such, a season of my role on the farm. Things are more difficult (but fun!) when you throw a kid in the mix.

Last fall, Harper spent a lot of hours in the car seat in the tractor with Dad. I had taken on a second job because we had bills that needed to be paid, which meant Dad had to step-up his game and besides working full-time, farming, and being a Dad without Mom while she worked 2 jobs was part of that. He did beautifully. We only lost 1 toy and 1 changing pad, and had one feeding mishap in the 2 month harvest season. No tears over any of that.

Time with Daddy in the tractor. He drove grain cart most of the time so he could stop for bottle feedings!

Time with Daddy in the tractor. He drove grain cart most of the time so he could stop for bottle feedings!

This spring was not as easy. Especially with livestock chores. Packing up a kid in a car seat, to move her to a stroller for chores, to pop her back in the car seat to go back to where we were currently living since we weren’t at the farm full-time yet, was an interesting predicament. I quickly realized that I can’t just hop in a tractor anymore or  run a supper out to the field when bedtime is at 7. I felt a little isolated. A little disorganized, and out of sorts with my “normal.”

This fall, I chose not to pick up my normal second job. Could we use the income, oh most definitely yes. It seems like every other day something goes wrong with this renovation…not having a working air conditioner and a softener we are pretty sure just kicked the bucket a few days ago. Some projects are on the back burner…that new garage roof is going to have to wait another year. Strapping Harper into a tractor is a little different as an almost 1 ½ year old. I won’t be as easy for Mark to just take her a long if I had to work, and he is also traveling for his full-time job on top of it. I chose to focus on taking care of my family this fall. It may mean I get to run more meals out to the field, or it may not, if Harper has an early childhood class instead. It means I probably won’t be spending much time in the tractor, but instead attending Halloween parties, feeding the pig and chickens at home, and selling honey. Will I still strap her in her Tula for some tractor driving? Most definitely!  However, I am also recognizing that she’s little, and a mover, and hours in the tractor won’t last as long as they used to. A second carseat that was a little easier to remove and transfer in vehicles was purchased in preparation for picking people up, transferring equipment, etc.

Harper in the Tula while doing horse chores with me. This is how we get chores done now.

Harper in the Tula while doing horse chores with me. This is how we get chores done now.

It is strange, being in this new season of my life. It is strange trying to figure out my role as a mom, a wife, a farmer, a business owner, and so much more. But I also know these days won’t last forever. Before I know it, she’ll be learning to drive the tractor herself, feeding the livestock herself…these days are precious. I don’t want to take this time for granted.

So mommas struggling to do it all on the farm, here’s what I’m saying…Go easy on yourself. You are doing SO MUCH.  

I once got told that the most important job you can do on the farm is to raise the next generation. What an undertaking we have.

It can be really hard some days. When your baby is crying, and somehow you are still supposed to do laundry, feed yourself and your husband and the dog, write out checks for seed and fertilizer, and schedule the veterinarian’s next visit.

It can be really hard. But mommas, it is so worth it when you see those little munchkins checking fields with their daddy or riding next to you in the tractor or showing their first calf. You are not alone in your struggles, your feelings, your excitement, your celebrations, or the long, exhausting days. We are a strong group of women, raising the next generation. What an undertaking it is.

Mark with Harper checking bean fields earlier this year.

Mark with Harper checking bean fields earlier this year.

-Sara

River Valley Woman – Today’s Faces of Farming

Who would have thought…I’m now a cover girl, and at 8.5 months pregnant none the less!

I was recently asked to be part of the Women in Ag Issue “Today’s Faces of Farming” put out by River Valley Woman, a local publication that serves the Mankato/New Ulm area region.

April issue of River Valley Woman

April issue of River Valley Woman

I was pretty honored when they asked me to be the feature. Their reasoning? Because I am doing so many different things in agriculture! Maybe it is because I’m interested in it all, or I just love agriculture that much or that I thoroughly enjoy giving back to my ag community, but I never really thought of myself as “busy.” I just do it all because I love it. Yes, I work a full-time job in ag. Yes, I farm. Yes, I volunteer my time on boards in my community. Yes, I help do all the communications for our farm and our businesses. Yes, I am going to school for a Master’s in ag. Yes, I am in the FBM program. Yes, I am completing a rural leadership training. Yes, we are expecting our first child smack dab during planting season and honey bee arrival. But honestly, none of it ever feels like work because I thoroughly enjoy doing it all, learning more every day, doing the research, interacting with others, and being in the tractor.

Ag is in my blood. I grew up on a Century farm and continue to farm that same exact land today. I hope to be able to continue that farm far into the future, and pass the same love I have for the land, animals and livelihood to my children. I did not take a traditional route of ag education, but I think that helps give me a very different and often consumer driven perspective to agricultural issues. I also think agriculture needs to embrace those who don’t take the traditional route – we need everyone working in ag to make a difference and help feed the growing population.

I am lucky enough to be able to work alongside my best friend and husband as we work to build our honey bee business, Sweet Cheeks Honey, continue our education through Farm Business Management, operate farm land with his brother and contribute to the family business. We are both passionate about agriculture, and the legacy we are working to continue, that it doesn’t make any of it ever seem like a job.

I love working along side my husband, who is one of my biggest encouragers!

I love working along side my husband, who is one of my biggest encouragers!

If you are in the area, I invite you to pick up a copy – there are some amazing women in Ag featured as part of it, including my friend Wanda from Minnesota Farm Living, and you’ll even catch a photo and information from some of our relatives, the Annexstad’s who operate a family dairy in the county over from us!  I love that there are so many amazing women in ag featured in this magazine. Honestly, there were far more deserving ladies I work with and know for the cover and feature story than me. There are days where it doesn’t feel like we can move our ag dreams ahead fast enough or get where we want to be. We still have so much we want to do in agriculture and with our farm dreams! I just sincerely hope more women will consider a career in agriculture be it in communications, IT, finance, education, procurement, seed sales, soils and plant health, engineering…the list goes on! We need everyone, and we need good ideas & perspective.

Don’t forget to read the latest edition online!

A special thanks to Despres Photo and River Valley Woman for their work on the story and photos, and giving me a chance to be featured and tell my story.

Doing some online communications via the iPad for our businesses.

Doing some online communications via the iPad for our businesses.

Out with one of the hives before we start adding more.

Out with one of the hives before we start adding more.

P.S. For those wondering from the article, no baby update yet – I’m thinking rock picking in the skid loader this weekend might help with that situation. ;)

-Sara 

Things You Start to Worry About

Many of you know my husband joined the volunteer fire department in our town back in January. It was something he had been wanting to do for a while, and when an opening was available, he applied. He loves it. He jumps at the calls at 3 in the morning when his pager goes off from a hazy slumber trying to pull his socks on to me yelling his coat is by the other door. Really, it is quite comical. Someone should probably come video tape it. He has fallen over more than once on the wood floors while making a dash for his keys. Some times I wake up before him and he is sitting straight up in bed in a daze, like the call isn’t for him, as I yell at him that yes that was a call for you guys, now get moving!

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For me, the pager going off scares the living daylights out of me every single time. I think I jump out of my skin, figuratively speaking of course. I’ve had some wives tell me I’ll get used to it…I’m still waiting for that part! I also worry like crazy the entire time he is on a call then too. I am usually awake the entire time he is gone, praying for his safety, the safety of the other guys and gals on the department, and for the people involved. The longer he is gone, the more I worry and the harder I pray it seems like.

firepager

I think all families with a firefighter in them can relate!

I couldn’t be more proud of my husband for joining the fire department, and helping others when they need them most. He definitely loves what he is doing. I know if I was in some of these situations, I would want people just like him responding in a minutes notice to help them and their families. I’m thankful that there are men and women who will answer these calls during times of pain, confusion, sorrow and emergency. I respect the men and women who answer our emergency calls and wear the pager, without hesitation.

But it got me thinking, with a baby on the way, what do other fire, police, etc. wives do in regards to newborn babies and pagers?

We are planning on having a bassinet in our bedroom for the first few weeks while we figure this whole baby thing out, and I’m literally fearing a sleeping baby being awakened by an emergency page blaring across our room. Even with turning the pager down, I’m worried that Mark won’t hear a page and miss a call. He gets the calls on his cell phone as well, so no matter what, something will be going off (including a crying baby probably!) Do you just adjust your newborn baby to the life of a firefighting family at a week old? Or is there a trick I’m missing?

All the things you begin to worry about when a baby comes along…

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098-Sara 

2014 Crop Season Update

#plant14 has been interesting so far. Mother Nature and Gremlins seem to have been against us all spring so far!

We had multiple things go wrong. Everything from flat tires to oil leaks to wheel bearings going out on the roller to bent cylinders and wire harness issues. I won’t go into detail on those. You’d probably cringe. I’m convinced Gremlins have found their way to the farm.

Replacing shovels on the cultivator

Replacing shovels on the cultivator

We also had very wet fields. Everything would look dry and crusty on top, then a few inches down…BAM…mud. This makes it extremely difficult to plow or plant, and our tractors were getting stuck left and right. With wet muddy fields, we can’t create the seedbed we need to either for our seeds.

We got most of our fields planted, except there are parts that we didn’t plant within the field. We had to pull up at the risk of getting stuck. We still have 1 field to finish. That is it, just one.

The Cat

The Cat

Mother Nature decided to open up the skies the last few days. Some areas got 7 inches of rain while others only a 1/4. We had flash flood warnings for our county. I drove past fields yesterday with water standing covering 3 acres or more. My heart hurts for those farmers that now have to make a decision to replant or take a crop loss.

Needless to say, its has been a difficult and trying spring. We still have a few hay acres to plant and one field of soybeans. I’m hoping this week/weekend we will be finished.

Cultivating a field getting it ready to plant

Cultivating a field getting it ready to plant

My handsome husband filling up the fertilizer spreader

My handsome husband filling up the fertilizer spreader

This spring has been SLOW going!

This spring has been SLOW going!

I hope your spring might be going a little better than ours! We are still hanging in there though!

-Sara 

 

 

February…My Favorite Month of the Year

February-my favorite month of the year! Now mind you, I said month, not season. I don’t like winter. However, February being my favorite month really has nothing to do with the winter weather, unless you count the fact that we are supposed to get up to 35 degrees this week! Going to be breaking out the flip-flops and rolling down the car windows!

See February is a busy month for me. When people ask how do farmers stay busy during the winter season, oh boy do we stay busy!

February Calendar

February is a busy month! Not including homework, social activities and family birthdays!

Every star on this calendar marks something ag related I am attending be it a conference, board meeting, speaking engagement, committee meeting, symposium, or volunteer activity.

Yeap, that is a lot of agriculture in one month when everyone thinks farmers are on “vacation.” I am learning just about everything I can about upcoming ag issues, polishing leadership skills, helping with policy development, getting bee keeping questions answered, going to legislature meet and greets, giving speeches about my farm, volunteering to help out with other ag activities, and more.

I love February because it is a busy month full of ag related business, and I love every minute of it. As a farmer, I consider it my duty to learn as much as I can about agriculture be it changes to technology, new research, better communication skills, or updates on new laws. If I’m going to be not just a good farmer, but a great farmer, I consider all of that part of my farming responsibilities. It isn’t an addition to my “farming job,”  it is part of it and an integral part at that.

Now, I have my mom’s birthday, my sister’s birthday, and a few close friends’ birthdays in February too. So it is a busy month for celebrations! See that big pink heart on the 14th, you might think it represents Valentine’s Day, and it does kind of, but that is my birthday too! So this month is busy with cake in my family! Although we typically get a variety: cupcakes, DQ cake, cheesecake, you get the idea! Cake is how I keep my sanity during a busy February. And yes, the hubs gets off easy with Valentine’s and my birthday on the same day!

Yes, I have a favorite month. Not a single thing has to do with weather, but the opportunities surrounding ag that present themselves during that month. February is full of experiences that I am excited to participate in. Oh and the cake!

Do you have a favorite ag meeting or conference you go to? Or do you volunteer your time to help increase ag awareness? Or maybe you are super busy with family responsibilities-basketball and danceline?

-Sara

How Time Flys: 2013 Recap!

I can’t believe 2013 is almost over! Sometimes I really wonder how time seems to move so fast.

Some days, I feel like I’m just getting older! Case in-point: my niece turned 16 and got her drivers license this year, my vehicle hit 155,000 miles and is now over 10 years old, we bought a house, and I got excited about getting a water softner installed! Yeap, definitely getting older!

I wanted to do a little recap about what we all did in 2013. Sometimes I can’t believe the things I’ve already forgotten! I think my resolution for 2014, will be to start a journal so I won’t forget everything! It truly was an amazing year full of wonderful blessings and busy schedules!

Cabo San Lucas, Mexico!

I started off 2013 with a trip to Cabo San Lucas with my friend Karrie and her parents! Her mom & dad have been like a 2nd family to me since about 4th grade! They are organic farmers in my hometown and I’m still fascinated by how they do weed control! Her dad calls my hubby for troubleshooting on their combine too :) It was my first “real” time in Mexico (I’ve been across the border at Progreso) at a resort with drinks, whale watching, fancy restaurants, pool and beach sitting and so much more! It was fantastic and a much needed vacation away from Minnesota weather!

Cabo San Lucas

Cabo San Lucas – January 2013 with my friend Karrie!

P!NK in concert! The Xcel in St.Paul!

So normally, a concert probably wouldn’t warrant special attention for me in a year. We go to a few every year. But frankly, P!nk’s concert was pretty darn amazing! The acrobatics involved were crazy and she sang a wide variety of her songs so it brought me back to middle school! I was able to go with a large group of friends. Pictured below are my friends Liz and Karrie. The other reason this warrants a special mention: get out of your bubble! We couldn’t find a place to sit in a restaurant as all were packed downtown St. Paul, so Karrie just sauntered on up to a booth full of women and sat down. We made some great friends (paid for their meal for letting us sit with them) and had a blast!

P!nk concert

P!nk concert in St. Paul!

Traveled to Seed Savers in Decorah, Iowa

So for whatever reason, this year I decided to try out this whole heirloom seeds thing. Needless, to say, my garden did not have much success other than radishes, some spinach, carrots and green beans. No tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, lettuce or pumpkins grew. I’ve never had any trouble with them before and my mom is a garden whisperer as she has worked for two different greenhouses, and has never had trouble with her plants before. My mom chuckled and gave me a big old “I told you so” when it came to that one. From now on, I will be sticking to getting plants and seeds that are conventionally grown and are from our local green houses. We have 2 fantastic ones in my area: Donahue’s and Drummers.  On the plus side, we were able to learn a lot from our trip down there. I even wrote a post about it. I learned my lesson, and my mom was right…again.

At Seed Savers Decorah Iowa

Traveled down to Seed Savers in Decorah, Iowa.

We bought a new (slightly used) camper!

We bought a new camper! This was so exciting for us as we love to camp! We had been camping in a 1979 pop-up. Retro orange interior and everything! We sold it for what we bought it for, and purchased this baby: a Jayco Quest 5th wheel! We camped in our yard the first weekend we brought it home.

New Camper

Our new camper!

I Graduated!! (Insert cheers here!!)

I finally graduated! I received a B.S. in Sport Management and a B.A. in English Literature from Minnesota State University, Mankato. I seriously thought I would be done with school. Then I decided to further my education and started my graduate studies during the fall.

Graduation from Mankato

I graduated!

We put another crop in the ground.

This warrants a huge mention in 2013 because we literally didn’t know if we would be able to get a crop in the ground this year. We worked in our crop insurance guy, our seed salesman, a implement dealer and the big Guy upstairs to make it happen. In MN and surrounding states we were involved in a situation called prevented plant. It was a mess. The fields were way too wet, acres were left unplanted and equipment broke. Luckily for us, we were able to change out some of our fields to soybeans, and in some areas of our fields we just pulled up and left it unplanted. However, neighbors weren’t so lucky with whole fields going unplanted.

Corn coming up

We put another crop in the ground

We completed three 5K’s, including the Warrior Dash!

Here’s what happened this year in my training for running. I ran my first 5K in early May which was a hills 5K through a State Park. I didn’t do too terrible all things considered, but ended up pulling a muscle in my back-I know weird. Since then, It made running and doing everyday things difficult. I completed 2 more-one I walked with someone who had never done one before-my momma! Plus, she completed hers with a knee replacement! You go mom! Then I completed the Warrior Dash, which thankfully my friend Nicole stuck with me throughout it because my asthma kicked in full force after the first hill. Go me. But I did finish them all, and the Warrior Dash was a blast. It left me bruised, bloodied and full of mud, but it rocked!!!

After completing the Warrior Dash.

After completing the Warrior Dash.

We traveled! Vacation to South Dakota!

We took our camper across state lines into South Dakota this year for vacation. Mark had not been back to see Mt. Rushmore since he was a kid, so I decided it was time he saw it again through adult eyes (I have been there various times growing up because we stopped on our way to see family in Idaho). We were able to visit Mt. Rushmore, the Badlands and Custer St. Park. We visited 2 different wineries: The Naked Winery and Prairie Berry Winery as well as visited Firehouse Brewing Company in Rapid City. We went horseback riding, hiking and swimming! It was a blast and a very busy vacation.

South Dakota- Custer St Park

We traveled to South Dakota!

We purchased our first home!

So there’s a ton of things wrong with it: location, it’s not in the country, its tiny, there’s no fenced yard, no heat registers in the main room of the basement, we trip the circuit breaker every time we plug in the vacuum and the kitchen is definitely not big enough. BUT it is our house, our own space and we’ve already made many memories there. It does have good qualities like original hardwood floors, all brand new appliances, a brand new kitchen, new bathrooms, new carpet, and a new furnace, plus a small heating and electric bill. It is closer to Mark’s family’s farm, but further away from my mom’s. In the future, we hope to build somewhere in between the two. It works for now, and it is a big accomplishment for us too!

New house

We bought a house!

Minnesota Farm Bureau

There’s a few things to say here. We completed another year doing the Speak for Yourself program! We were elected to the LeSueur County Farm Bureau board. I completed an internship with the Farm Bureau. We were also chosen to be featured in the Minnesota Farm Bureau building at the Minnesota State Fair! Below is the photo that was used. We also worked up there in the building too, helping answer questions about farming. Most were surprised to find out we were young farmers, and I had a moving conversation with one lady about farm protection and land protection so we can keep farming. It has been an awesome year as members of the Minnesota Farm Bureau!

Mn State Fair Photo

We were featured in the Farm Bureau building at the MN State Fair!

AgChat Conference 2013

I was able to attend not one, but two AgChat conferences this year! Wow. Feeling so blessed. The first time I kind of went on a whim to the regional conference in Rochester, MN, as my fee was paid for with a scholarship. I learned a lot and immediately put it on my calendar to go to the conference! The actual conference was in Charlotte, NC. I met so many amazing people that are farming, blogging, and telling their stories. It was inspirational, motivational, and thrilling. I walked away with a renewed sense of self, and more reason to tell my story. I truly hope I can get to the next one!

AgChat 2013

AgChat Group…Ready to get loud.

We celebrated our 1 year anniversary!

In 2013, we were officially married a whole whopping year! We took 1 year anniversary photos and went to the Cheesecake Factory. I thought the photos would be a great way to commemorate a year and to see where we’ve come in our marriage every year. So from now on, I’m going to try and get photos taken around our wedding anniversary time. It will be fun to see the changes every year!

1 year anniversary

In September, we celebrated 1 year as a married couple!

I painted my own masterpiece!

Okay, so maybe not a masterpiece, but I had a great time painting my own canvas! My friend Nicole, invited me to go to a Wine and Canvas night up in the cities with her. It put me out of my comfort zone, and I had to struggle a bit with the painting, but in the end, I walked away with a new work of art that hangs in my office. I still think it is awesome how different our paintings look when we painted the same picture! I also was able to spend some much needed time with a friend I’ve had since high school!

Painting!

Wine & Canvas

We harvested a crop.

I feel like no matter what, having a harvest will always be a highlight of the year. You just never know if you will have a crop at the end or not. We were really worried about yields with the wet spring, and then having drought conditions in July and August, then having freezing cold temperatures in early September. I’m thankful we were able to get the crop in the bin with very few issues.

Harvest 2013

Harvest 2013

Had a blog post get lots of attention

Some days I write and wonder if anyone is even reading this. Then I wrote a blog post about women farmers wearing makeup. Needless to say, it got some attention. I can’t thank the blogging community enough for all their support and sharing of it. It was pretty awesome, and it gives me encouragement to keep writing.

Women farmers wear makeup!

Women farmers wear makeup!

We were in our first wedding together (not as bride and groom!)

I know, a weird milestone, but we come from two very different towns an hour apart with a very different group of friends. We were so honored to be part of our friends wedding as a bridesmaid and groomsmen (we even got to walk down the aisle together!) because it felt like a milestone for us as a couple. Both Amy and Aaron were my friends before Mark and I were together, so it definitely means a lot for the two of them to include and be friends with my husband. It was a fun wedding, even if it was freezing for the first weekend in October. We danced a lot, Mark told the story of Aaron eating one too many cream puffs at a party we had, and Amy had us take some sweet pics on her parent’s farm. So thank you to Amy & Aaron for letting us be a part of your big day and for giving us a new milestone as a married couple!

wedding photo

Our friends’ (Amy & Aaron) wedding!

Spending time with family

One of the many things I am thankful for in 2013, was being able to spend time with family. We (my mom, myself and Mark) were able to visit my aunt Linda, who is my dad’s sister, and pictured below. She has been battling cancer for, well as long as I can remember now, going through remission then it coming back. The doctors have told her they can’t cure her this time, but try to keep the cancer at bay, instead. Linda is a fighter, so she keeps going back for treatment. I treasured the time I was able to spend with her this fall, because frankly, you just never know.

Visiting my aunt with my mom

Visiting my aunt with my mom

Well, that’s all she wrote for 2013. Thanks for recapping some of my biggest moments with me. I’m ready for a new year though. A new year focused on our farm, my husband, my career, schooling, and personal growth. I have already signed up for a free online class (besides my graduate studies) about agriculture that starts in 2014 and 2 conferences. I also am making sure I include a little bit more time for fun this year as last year was consumed with school, work and internships. I’m also making sure I focus on my marriage, and how we can grow as a couple and bring God as a focus in our relationship. I’m excited for 2014. How about you?

one of the photos from our 1 year married session

one of the photos from our 1 year married session

-Sara

Sustainable- Is any farm truly sustainable?

“I had this blog post sitting in my “to post” later file. I originally wrote it a few weeks ago after watching the USFRA’s food dialogue. Tonight, I watched the Food Dialogues out of Iowa. The word sustainable was thrown around again. Here are my thoughts.”

Sustainable. It seems to be a word thrown around a lot lately in agriculture. Sustainable agriculture. Sustainable Farms. Sustainable businesses. Sustainable food.

I was watching a USFRA food dialogues live feed the other day when one of the panelists said that not a single farmer out there is sustainable because we are all using non-renewable resources unless you’re plowing with a mule.

Bingo.

I’ve always answered the question of sustainability this way: You are only sustainable if you are making money. If you don’t make money, you fold. You no longer exist the next year. You are not sustainable. To put it quite bluntly.

Woods and field

Woods next to our field, has stood there for the entirety of our family’s farm. Our farm is over 100 years old. Provides habitat for: deer, turkey, raccoon, pheasant, opossum, fox, coyote, squirrel, birds, bugs, and more!

When consumers think of sustainable, they often think of recycling, going green, less fuel use, etc. a lot of which are automatically associated with organic farming. Not all of those are associated with every organic farm though. And, conventional farmers are doing a lot of these practices as well.

Here are some of the things farmers of all sizes, types, and industry are investing in or doing already:

  1. Solar Power
  2. Wind Energy
  3. Recycling Water
  4. Recycling Compost
  5. Manure fertilizing
  6. Technology investments

And those are just a few of the things the farmers are doing. Farmers are also being resourceful in other ways like using as much as they can and not wasting. For instance, once farmers are done harvesting, many make bales out of the corn stalks left on the ground to use as bedding. A local farmer where I’m from has created a bio-refining business where they take scrap wood from homes buildings, farms and businesses and turn it into animal bedding. Technology utilizing autosteer in tractors has allowed farmers to use less fuel and reduce their emissions.  In fact, new tractors rolling off the assembly line have to meet new standards set forth by the EPA in 2015.

Farmers have to be resourceful. It is all part of operating your business both wisely and economically. Most of these improvements and actions farmers are making that I’ve mentioned just make sense both monetarily wise and environmentally wise. Farmers care about what happens to their environment so they seek information on things like water recycling, solar power and wind energy. In fact, most farmers I know are always seeking out ways to improve their farming practices.

Could we do more? We always can. Is every farm perfect? No.  Does something that works for my farm, work for everyone else’s? Not at all. Do farmers want to do more and are they taking the time to learn about these options? Definitely.

Wildlife habitat and conservation is one thing we practice at Hewitt Farms. We have land in both CRP and RIM, but also land we just keep as woods and prairie.

Wildlife habitat and conservation is one thing we practice at Hewitt Farms. We have land in both CRP and RIM, but also land we just keep as woods and prairie. In this photo, deer are checking out our field.

If there is one thing I have learned growing up on a farm, being a farmer myself, meeting other farmers, and visiting other farms, is farmers care. Farmers are doing so much, on their own farms, every single day to be kinder to the environment. Just because we are conventional or organic doesn’t mean that we aren’t all trying to do the same thing at the end of the day: provide safe, nutritious food while providing for our own families and making a living doing something we love.

So maybe we need to start evaluating what we all mean by sustainable. Small farms, larger farms, organic farms and conventional farms can all be doing great things for the environment. They are all just different. They do what works best for them in their situation.

How do you define sustainable? Can it just be about the environment? Does the definition need to be about business? family? money? Or maybe every farm needs to come up with their own individual definition of what makes their farm sustainable, rather than someone labeling it as “yes it is” or “no it isn’t” by their standards.

-Sara