My Favorite Part of Fall

My Favorite Part of Fall

There are so many things we love about fall. The final release from the oppressive heat of summer. Cranberry cocktails. Pumpkin shakes and apple donuts. The highly anticipated change of the fall leaves. Trick or treating and Thanksgiving turkey. Friday night lights. Who doesn’t love the site of a combine working away as the sun goes down.

In the last ten days we saw summer temps linger along with some of the unpleasant reminders of fall. One of the greatest challenges a cattle farmer faces in the fall is keeping your cows comfortable and dry. When I got up Tuesday you were hard pressed to find a nice and dry place for the cattle to lay down. We have not had an opportunity to bale any corn stalks yet this fall so I decided I would find out if any had come in to the sale barn. Sure enough they did and I hooked on to the to the trailer and made the trip.

Over the years I have bought hay, feeder pigs, baby calves, stock cows, and feeder calves at this particular sale barn. In recent years though I’ve not been to the sale barn at all other than to drop off loads of hay that we had to sell. At the hay sale I noticed most farmers only buying what they need to get by. Many bidding and going home empty handed probably due to the fact that demand is higher than supply. Notable too was the demise of the building. Take the time to visit most of the sale barns in NE Iowa you will find the same conditions. I assure you it’s not that the owners are negligent or lazy. In recent years the agriculture industry has been brutal to those brave enough to participate.

Also noteworthy that when I went into the barn to eye the livestock that day there were many dairy springers that had been brought in to be auctioned. As I walked the pens a studious ear afforded me the reason for them being auctioned. It was not by choice, but the lack of income in dairy and the rise in expense that had forced multiple farmers to partially disperse their herd. Words can’t describe the pain you hear in the voice of a farmer who is encountering such a dilemma. As a child I remember going to sale barns walking the pens, eating a home cooked meal, and if we were lucky we came home with our next project for the farm. Tuesdays events were not nearly as fun although it’s become a regular event in rural America. It was even more ironic being it was National Farmers Day.

Some argue the reason for the demise in the small farms. It’s true the meat packing and milk processing industries have not been fair with farmers and should struggle to sleep at night if their mothers raised them right. Blame could be put on politicians but many can’t agree whether the government is too involved or not involved enough. I believe we should ask ourselves what can we personally do.

One thing every American should do is know where your food comes from. Covid 19 caused several disruptions in the supply chain. Some of those disruptions were necessary others emphasized how incompetent the system really is.

We have many great farmers in our neighborhood that direct market many of the products you consume each day. There is no better way to understand the safety and quality of your food than to buy it directly from a farmer that you take the time to get to know. Terms like organic, non-gmo, and grass fed can be somewhat confusing but a visit to a farm makes all that much easier to see and understand. Then you can decide what’s best for your family.

Many who buy direct are under the impression you only should buy food from small farmers. Although our farm is small nothing could be farther from the truth. Being a small farmer does not make you a good farmer and being a big farmer doesn’t make you a big bad greedy person. I’ve been to small farms where animals were neglected and we have friends and neighbors who are large farmers who are wonderful people.

Monica and I were excited to begin to offer our farm raised eggs and look forward to the day when she’s able to offer bar soap from our cows milk along with beef, pork, and dairy products in the near future. And as far as National Farmers Day goes I had a great one I finished the long day working with the herd. I cleaned the cow yard and spread out fresh corn stalks. Turned them loose and listened to the stalks rustle under their feet in cool fall breeze. My favorite part of fall.