2020 and 20/20

Reader Contribution by Keba M Hitzeman
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The last few years have been something of a blur, punctuated by unexpected (and a few unwelcome) changes. Seeing as it’s early in 2020, let’s look back at 2019 and look ahead to what 2020 may bring to our farm.

The exclamation point that started all of this was a significant health scare three years back, which was not a sudden event, but one of those things that you know will eventually happen, and you don’t feel bad enough yet to do anything about it. That is, until it sucker-punches you with a week-long hospital stay, enough meds to knock out a Percheron, the realization that life has irrevocably and permanently changed, and the even more sobering awareness that you may never be “well” again. Along with the consequences that ripple out from that one person to everyone in their sphere of influence.

Those ripples, not surprisingly, affected our entire farm. No longer were Angus beef cattle a viable option –people were not healthy enough, and, having worked those cattle by myself, I knew in my bones that I couldn’t do it alone. Well, I suppose I could have, but the safety margin was non-existent. I’ve seen what scared or confused cows can do to people, and it is not pretty. I didn’t want that for myself or for the people who rely on me. I returned to the farm full-time from having an off-farm job, and the fall of 2019 became “how many projects can I finish before winter?”. The answer is – a lot more than I expected! New fences, new shelters, old equipment sold, barns cleaned and reorganized for sheep, specialized maintenance projects hired out and completed, plus those thousand-and-one piddly things that lurk in the corners.

Turning the ship of a farm to a new course has been long, tedious, painful, rewarding, exhausting. In short, all the “feels” wrapped in a 185-acre package and tied up with sisal. But the ship is turning, and we are both pleased and content with where things are going. People are healing, we are learning what the “new normal” looks like, and I am more relaxed than I have been in, well, a very long time. Things are stressful, sure, but that’s farming, right? We say that phrase a lot around here.

Looking ahead to 2020, I have definite goals in mind – finish the “big” fencing project, make our farm more hospitable to native pollinators, make our forested areas a source of income, care for myself and my family, grow the fiber/meat sheep businesses, clear out the rest of the unused equipment. All of these goals are do-able, and all are things that will benefit humans, animals, and land. And for the first time in a long time, I’m not dreading the work to be done. I know 2020 will be as much of a “good” year and “bad” year as any that have come before or will come, but I can see the plan and the goals, and things just don’t seem as gloomy as they did even a year ago. May your 2020 be better than 2019 in all ways!


As communities seek greater resiliency in the wake of economic upheaval, job loss, climate change and global food shortages, local farmers are seen as a key resource to help reinvigorate (or create) a diversified, regionalized, ecologically based food system. Farms with a Future explores the passion, creativity and entrepreneurship that’s needed to help family farms find their niche and remain sustainable and successful in an age of agribusiness and consolidation. This title is available at our store or by calling 866-803-7096.

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