Healthy Regenerative Lifestyle
The Farm left me with many memories and a desire to be involved in agriculture. It placed in me a dream of how I could make it on a farm. I knew the method had to be different from conventional farming because all the farmers I knew were selling out or had gone under.
From Seed To Fork, Egg To Plate.
We may not live on a farm, but we can grow where we live.
by David Proctor
November 16, 2017
Urban Farm Lifestyle Magazine Published Weekly
The dream I had was how to make it on a medium size farm without all of the huge investment in land and equipment. I looked at what I felt was the problems with agriculture back in the 70’s and even today, that was you had to get bigger or get out. Why do you have to get bigger, that is because everyone one was specializing in just about one crop or one breed of livestock.
High School Year Book Picture
I studied different scenarios in agriculture. I wanted to be like my grandparents except actually make money at farming.
In other words, the farmers were looking for cost efficiency with scale, since the products sold are commodities, you get commodity pricing. Farming is the only business that buys retail and sells wholesale. That is why the small guy goes under and the big farmer can spread his debt out across more assets. Who really wins in this scenario, the banker.
This is one of the big reasons we have industrial farming, for quantity efficiency. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
I wanted to find a way to get into farming without the mountains of dept. The only way I could see doing that is to buy scrug land, hilly, rocky, something a goat would have trouble walking on. But it had to have a good source of water, which back in the 70’s, in Missouri you might find for around $250/acre. I wanted to have cattle on the farm. So, if I had a few hundred head of cattle how would I feed them?
My dad got involved with a company that leased dairy cattle to farmers. Some of the farmers used a system that was totally new to me to feed their dairy heard and that was hydroponics. They would grow oats in an enclosed building with florescent lights. The seed would be laid out on growing trays in a medium that would hold the seeds in place. Water with nutrients would periodically run through the trays and keep the seeds moist.
In about eight days the oats would grow to about six inches and the matt of oats would be harvested by hand to give to the dairy cows. Cows require some roughage and to avoid using too much hay, plastic pellets were fed to them. The milk production stayed high even during the winter. The solution to owning land that couldn’t grow much was right before my eyes.
Around this time was when “AI” was starting to take hold and be used by more farmers. A started researching hydroponics and AI or artificial insemination. You could increase herd size by using AI in old scrug cows that could be purchased cheaply and inseminate say a good Angus-Herford cross called black baldies. My dream was taking shape.
I thought, how can I decrease energy cost? Running a hydroponics system can get a little expensive and with having a lot of cattle in a feedlot what would I do with all the manure? I started reading Mother Earth News in high school. The magazine had a lot of articles on how to be self-sufficient and be less reliant on others. They had articles on hydroponics, on farmsteads and what really caught my interest was anaerobic digesters.
An anaerobic digester will break down carbon and nitrogen rich materials in an enclosed environment without air. The result is methane gas and a very rich and productive fertilizer. Eureka, this would be the center of my farming operation. Every farmer I knew that had cattle, had to shovel and haul the manure out to the fields. The problem with that is the leaching effect into the streams and waterways. When the manure is already broken down the plants can utilize the product almost directly. The methane gas was a huge plus.
Methane can be burned for heat, and used to power a generator. In fact, the sewage treatment plant for Springfield MO has a large ball beside it that is used to store methane gas for the generators to run off of, to produce electricity.
A good friend of mine in high school Doug Dunnaway, had a farm he was inheriting down in Alabama. We were going to go in together and farm, since I didn’t have mine anymore. Every time I heard the song in college, Sweet Home Alabama, I wanted to dropout and head south. Probably a good thing I didn’t.
So, speaking of college I went in as a biology and chemistry major. I wanted to learn all I could about the biological and chemical processes of methane, artificial insemination and hydroponics. In fact, when I took botany in college, I was telling my professor about my seeing a working hydroponics setup and even had slides of the building and operation. I gave him my slides that I had of the hydroponic machine, since he had not seen one. I never got them back, he said he must have lost them! I’m sure that is what happened.
After a few years I decided to transfer to the University of Missouri into the ag department. I went in pre-vet to try to get into veterinary school. Didn’t know at the time that I had a better chance of getting into med school than vet school.
I left a four year all paid for education at a private school to transfer to MU. After a year at MU, I ran out of money and got a job working on a farm on the river bottom, below Columbia. This was a really good experience for me. I got to drive a huge tractor and help disk, plow and plant corn on a 600-acre farm.
They let me strap a tank to my back and walk out through the fields of corn spraying the Johnson grass with a new herbicide call Roundup. When we planted corn, we put a purplish red powder on the corn as it went into the planter hopper. I asked what that was for and was told it would keep the birds from eating the seeds. Of course, they didn’t eat very many seeds because the powder killed them. My first taste of working a large farming operation.
I lived in a very small trailer with no running water or bathroom. If I wanted to get cleaned up, the owner provided us a hose to hookup to the water in the barn where we kept the tractors. We threw the hose over a rafter so the water would spray down and you wouldn’t have to hold the hose. Cold water only of course.
One time I remember, while using this make shift shower, I looked up and a snake was on the rafter above me. I made that a quick shower.
The longer I stayed there the poorer I got. I had no money for food. I tried eating the corn that was in the fields and found out why you don’t eat field corn. It isn’t the same you buy in the store. I felt like the prodigal son.
I called a guy I met when I was having my phone installed when I was first going to school at MU. He was a telephone contractor. He said he would teach me the trade. He had me put on a pair of hooks and I climbed a little way up a pole, with that he thought I might have potential. I was allowed to ride with him and watch him work so I could pickup on how to be a telephone contractor. I did this for about two months with no pay. I then borrowed some equipment and went to Jefferson City to be a telephone contractor.
I swore I would never make a carrier out of the contracting work. Over forty years later I’m still a communications contractor. But this is beside the point I want to make. What I’m trying to tell in this story is how a person can make it in agriculture.
A few years after contracting I met the love of my life and we got married. I went from contracting to a company job. But still wanted to farm. By now almost no one that I knew that was involved in agriculture farmed without another job to bring in money.
Molly’s grandmother had a farm in Burns, Kansas that I’m sure she would have loved for us to take over and farm. Somehow, we just couldn’t see ourselves there. I’m sure a missed opportunity.
I kept researching on my methods that I envisioned that one could make it farming. I was laid off with deregulation of the phone companies and went back to contracting. I decided that now was the time to see the country and let contracting pay for it. We decided to take work in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
Not long after that we decided to start growing the family and ended up with three girls. Work slowed after about ten years and we moved to Fredericksburg, Virginia. All the time researching and reading about methane digestors, hydroponics and AI even when we went on vacation.
I had now over the years put all the pieces together on how to make a carrier out of farming.
Check It Out!
Cow Being Milked At The Farm
Cows Going In Barn
Hauling Cow In Back of Truck
Grandpa With The Hogs
Milk Cows At The Barn
Link For Above: https://foodbabe.com/2016/11/15/monsanto/
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