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Managing for Resilience Begins to Pay Off

By   /  April 20, 2020  /  1 Comment

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I am a fairly young man seeing things I never thought we would. In the midst of a global pandemic we’ve all been shaken out of our normal. I am hunkered in my basement (mostly hiding from a 2-year-old) while making an attempt at teleworking as a soil conservation district technician. My wife is putting together online lesson plans for her high school ag science class. Our daughter has not been to the babysitter in four weeks now, and anything that was routine for her has shifted dramatically. With all this going on, the farm has become our place of solace. It is our firm footing that keeps us grounded in the midst of chaos.

The past several days has presented me the opportunity to catch up on some farm work. While going about moving cows and fixing fences I realized something: On this whole 60-acre farm my wife and I are the only ones that know we are in the midst of global chaos. The cows don’t know that the economy just melted down, or that we are now supposed to stand 6 feet apart. I wish our farm dog would have understood social distancing when she found a skunk on Saturday. Shoot, the flowers in the greenhouse were so unconcerned that they bloomed.

A little tractor time on Saturday gave me some time to think. I’d guess that if you are reading this website you are implementing some form of “adjective-inserted” agriculture that separates you from the status quo when it comes to farming. I assume that you have already heard of problems other operations are facing that you are not. We knew we were putting resiliency into the farm, but we didn’t realize it would be resiliency towards these circumstances. Don’t take us wrong…we are not being bigheaded or coy…we will face our share of problems…we just have a different set of options. This is a moment in which we see how resilient focused ag practices have truly made an impact on the farm.

Years of working toward optimal soil health and fertility combined with nutrient cycling instead of removal on the farm means that a delayed fertilizer truck won’t delay grass growth.  Several years of good injections of “trailermyacin” has left us with a herd that probably won’t die if they miss a spring working. A quick herd reduction combined with some good stockpile will help on how much hay we need for next winter. Plans and goals that were put together months and years ago are suddenly making an instant impact.

We are facing our challenges too. We must now make decisions for what this year on the farm will look like based upon what lies in front of us. We may not have the same options that we did a few months ago. That does not mean we panic. That simply means that we adjust our plans. We scale back or ramp up as needed. We understand that this may not be what we desire, but it is not about us. It is about the land, animals, crops, and our community. This is our moment of unselfishness. This is where we realize we cannot force things to happen on the farm and in nature. We work with it and trust in its abundance and resiliency.

Writing this article about resilience on the farm got me to thinking about our farm itself. It was purchased by our family in 1918. My pa grew up here and became a teenager in the heart of the great depression. They weathered that on this farm. Then my grandpa went to WWII, and his father kept the farm going. It weathered that. It watched a town that would field 3 teams for Sunday evening baseball on the banks of its stream dwindle down to nothing more than a slow-down in the road. It raised my grandfather, then my father and his 3 sisters, a sharecropper’s family, me and my cousins, and now my daughter. It has grazed cows, sheep, hogs, horses, and mules. Corn, tobacco, wheat, soybeans, hay, peppers, orchards, and tremendous gardes have pulled life out of its soil. We have our storms today, but I have no doubt this old farm will weather them too.

Resiliently.

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About the author

My name is James Matthew Craighead. In 2011 my wife, Amanda, and I established LearnGrowInspire Farms, or LGI for short. We have a forage based cow calf operation as well as a small greenhouse. We also run a few sheep, and do some custom top hogs. We also assist our parents on the day to day operations of their farms as well. I work for our local soil conservation district, and my wife teaches agriculture and chemistry at our local high school. In 2017 we welcomed a baby girl, Ember Kate, into our our life.

1 Comment

  1. Chad Fisher says:

    Great story, James!

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