We Are Going Back To School

Reader Contribution by John Sales
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I’m going back to school. In fact, our entire family is. See, that is exactly how we embrace the growing season. As a process of education. I figure the average concert pianist has the opportunity to practice thousands of times. The painter whose masterpiece hangs in the gallery, no doubt he could not number the brush strokes that came before.

However, the organic farmer has a unique situation. They only have a limited number of seasons in which to perfect their craft. But they continue on and seek to learn during the process. I greatly fear there is a lack of proper education in our food system. All the way from the field to the table. Real in-your-face, hands-in-the-soil type of education. Wisdom passed down and on. Knowledge gained from a lifetime embracing nature’s patterns, not simply how to follow a spray application chart or directions. Most large and “successful” farms have become simply nothing but factories whose output is nothing but mono crops. Mill and feed corn. Soybeans and wheat. At least that is the norm in our region. I’ve heard said that sustainable farming cannot feed the world. I don’t agree with that. For its example comes from history. It’s far too easy to not realize that grocery stores are a relatively new invention as compared to the history of our planet. But on to a more local subject, our humble, small, family farm.

Things have fully awakened here at Achenback. The green has finally replaced the brown or gray when we gaze across the landscape. I make mention several times that a farm “sleeps.” And a growing-for-market farm like ours truly does to a very large degree. But it is now wide awake. And our sore backs and tired eyes reflect such. You see, friends, a farm like ours doesn’t awaken like a gentle breeze blowing from an open window on a cool Saturday morning. No, it’s more often like a dazed driver once they slip across the yellow line over onto the “drunk bumps.” One minute it seems as though you have plenty of time and winter will never end. And then almost in an instant, you’re exhausted, finding there is not enough time in the day to finish the chores needed.

Planting has begun and seedlings started. Fields have been turned over and compost spread. Muddy boots have become the norm as even the chickens announce the coming season by increasing their egg production.    

Speaking of chickens, they truly are a “gateway” livestock. I remember back several seasons past, we brought home little fuzzy butts in high hopes of raising our own birds and eggs. And then the education started up. We found ourselves in need of learning all things poultry related. So we went back to school. Now I’m not foolish enough to state we now know everything there is to know about chickens, but I can tell you we have learned enough to successfully increase our flock to close to 75 birds, and they fully support themselves with the fresh eggs we market. But how is it that they are a gateway?

Well, you see, not long after we brought home chickens we discovered ourselves in need of a duck. Yes, we “needed” waterfowl. Oh, and geese too. I say needed because that’s how it felt. It seemed as real as any other addiction you read about. We HAD to have them. So after bringing home a bunch of ducklings and goslings, once again, school started. Only this time the subject was waterfowl. All the while trying to increase our knowledge of growing and producing organic vegetables. So you see, school is in. Indeed, it seems as if there is no close of its semester for us. And we like it that way. Now granted, it would be wonderful if we could get more “practice” but that’s what the growing season is for.

Recently, my dream of adding pigs to our little endeavor came true. Remember what I said about chickens being a gateway livestock? Consider yourself warned. So no doubt now any “extra” time will be spent learning about pigs. As with all things on our farm, we will seek out those who did it the “old” way. The traditional way. And under their instruction, school will once more be in.

While we do not have all the answers to everything, indeed the more we discover and attempt, the more we realize we have so much left to learn. I’d like to invite everyone to join our daily adventures and lifestyle as we begin a new season. Check out our Facebook page, Achenback Farm.

So yes, we are going back to school. But honestly, we never left. Be blessed, John.

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