Spring is one of my favorite times of year here at the farm. Usually because it leads up to my most favorite time which is summer harvest, but also because we can finally start to open the shop doors, let some winter air out of our bones and feel some sun on our face.Read more...
We farmers have very seasonal jobs, at least that is what I'm sure it looks like from the outside looking in. You grow your crops all year, wait for them to produce, harvest and call it day right? Not quite...so what is it that we do while at the farm in the middle of winter?Read more...
This time of year I am always reminded how important that crop rotation is for our farm. We are lucky to have many options of what to plant. OUr farm for instance has grown over 10 different crops through the last 5 decades. Right now we have only five crops that we rotate through our thousand acres every year.
One very important rotation crop has been crimson clover. We can plant the crimson in the fall, get a crop off in the summer of seed. But the important rotation benefits come this time of year for us. When we are able to go out and spray for weeds. It may sound strange, but allowing us to kill off grasses in a broadleaf field is a huge advantage when one of your main crops in grass seed.
When you're farming for seed the cleanliness of the crop is always very important. So when we plant crimson clover (a broadleaf plant) it allows many grassy weeds to grow, and in turn allows us to kill them off more easily using grass killing herbicides. I took a few pictures when we were spraying those herbicides just the other day. This field should have rows of clover with dirt in between...as you can see, we have quite a bit of grass that is growing in between the rows that is left over from crops of past and weeds of past.
We are lucky to have options for crop rotations, and we are lucky that we can use them to our advantage to not only keep our fields cleaner, but also keep our soils healthier. Crimson clover is also a very good crop for our soils.
One of the best parts of being a farmer for me is that our job is always changing. Each day is different, and each season brings it's own unique challenges and successes. My favorite season has to be summer though, there is something about harvest, the long days, the dust and dirt, and finally finding out how all of your decisions throughout the year have effected your yields, it's something that is always my favorite.
This time of year though it's dark at 4:30pm instead of 10:30. We work in a shop that has the door closed and the heater running. We winterize hoses after using them, we are fixing things that have been broken over those long summer days, and we are preparing for the next set of challenges that will arise with another season.
This year I have spent most of the winter trying to catch up on paperwork and getting our new office organized. I have also spent a fair amount of time training Matt (our newest employee) to do a lot of the jobs that I can't do now that I'm pregnant. This week learning how to spray is on the list. I'm the main sprayer operator and fertilizer operator on our farm, so with this new "condition" I've gotten myself into he is stepping up to learn the ropes.
We also get a lot of orchard work done this time of year. The hazelnut trees have all lost their leaves and we are out scouting for blight, pruning up branches and making sure that we are taking good care of our orchards. This is also the time of year that they are pollinating, you could say that a hazelnut tree never sleeps, well in a way neither does the work required to keep them healthy and growing for the next year.
So although this is a "slower" time of year for us farmers, it's still plenty busy getting prepared for the rest of what the year's seasons will bring our way this year.
This past year has brought about a lot of changes in my life. And as I look back on 2013 I have realized that what I have learned most is how being a woman in farming is way different than being a man. I know this seems like an obvious moment, but honestly it's never been more in my face than in the past year. I have hit on this topic a little bit on my personal blog, about how I never really thought of myself as an innovator in my industry just because I was a girl. To be honest, my being a girl had nothing to do with me wanting to be a farmer. I think I was naive to the fact that this is a man's world, mostly because I have seen my whole life how women in ag, although not checking the box of "farmer" on the survey, are so much a part of the farm. So the question never occurred to me, "Can you be a female farmer?"
That being said, my girl-ness so to speak has never been more apparent to me than in the past year of my life. I have been farming for seven years now full time. I check the box that says "farmer" on the survey, I feel like the real deal here folks. But last year I was sitting in my boyfriend's hotrod, watching the sun go down after finishing up a season of harvest, and he pulled out a ring. It was the most incredible moment, it was the start to our lives together. I spent the next several months juggling how to be a farmer, dirty, grungy, no makeup by day while trying to choose out lace, be pretty, clean-up and for goodness sakes be around a lot of things that are white. Me and white things don't mix, I get everything dirty! I started to care how I looked, thinking mostly of the 500 people I would have to walk down an aisle in front of. I showed up that day and you would never have guessed that I was a farmer. There wasn't a speck of dirt or grease on me, my dress was perfect, my hair took hours to do and makeup right behind. The big day happened, it was wonderful, and perfect, I was definitely all girl that day.
Then comes a few months later. We're slowly finishing up harvest, it's back to the dirt, back to the dust, no more white dresses for this farm girl. And I find out that I'm pregnant! What amazing news...in only 9 short months our lives will really change, until then life as usual! Or so I thought! I turns out that when you're pregnant your body is not your own, and it's great that you want to move boxes that weight 50 pounds, and bags of slug bait that weigh 40, because after all you are a farm girl. But reality hits, your doctor gives you a lecture and you realize that this job of having a baby, isn't something that starts when it comes out, it starts right away. I was put down to a 10 lb limit on lifting (basically a jug of milk) and my whole life as a farmer, as a woman, changed right before my eyes.
It was a struggle, because I have spent years doing things on my own, proving that I'm strong enough and a hard worker who can get things done. But reality plays a bigger role than what I think in my head, and I found that I have a lot of support around me. I have plenty of guys around me that at the drop of a hat will move anything I ask. My husband who recently started farming with me, for about the first three weeks just walked around behind me moving whatever I needed, putting chemicals away, lifting seed sacks, telling me to take it easy (I'm a lucky girl).
I guess all of this being said. This year of 2013 has reminded me so much that as much as being a woman in agriculture wasn't a really big deal to me, I just wanted to be a person in agriculture, it still has it's challenges and struggles. I'm glad that I am in a time when women have more freedoms than they used to, and I feel like I "get it" a little bit more when people think it's great that I'm a woman in agriculture. These small (or really very large) moments in my life have given me a little bit more of a handle on why maybe so many women were in the background of their family's farms. From someone who has taken more of an office and light duty job on my family's farm, I'm starting to understand it a bit more.
I hope that everyone has a wonderful New Year's...and cheers to the start of another wonderful adventure of a year, bring it on 2014!!
Last week I took a trip east with my family to the DTN/Progressive Farmer Ag Summit in Chicago. It was all of our first time to the windy city (in which case it did not disappoint whatsoever!). We had a wonderful time, and while attending the conference and listening to many different and distinguised speakers covering topics from grain prices to land sales, and the federal reserve to the weather, there was another main reason that we made the trip.
I was very honored to receive an award from DTN, Progressive Farmer Magazine & John Deere for being one of America's Top Young Farmers and Ranchers for 2014! This was the fourth year that they have given out this award. What makes it incredibly special and unique is that it recognizes not only your work on your own farm or ranch, but also what you do in your community, for your industry, and beyond just the day to day tasks that keep you plenty busy on a farm. I was happy to hear that this was part of the award recognition, because many times in our industry all the work that we do on our operation is common place. But all the work that people do behind the scenes, or right infront of the public (ie blogs, testifying at the legislature, social media, etc) are all also important to our industry and something that I think will continue to make a diffrence.
I have to say that being honored for something that I am so passionate about, was very humbling. And as I was sitting up there listening to the short bios of the other award recipients I kept thinking about how each and every one of us, award or not, wouldn't change a thing about what we're doing. All of us are doing what we love, we're working hard because we're passionate about being good stewards of the land. Although all of our stories were very different, all of our backgrounds diverse in many respects, the one thing that remained obvious is that we all are proud of what we do, and we all were genuinely grateful for this honor. And even beyond that, we're all under 40 years old; this is the next generation of farmers that you're looking at right here in the photo above.
It was a wonderful trip that I was so grateful to get to share with my family and hopefully a great honor to other Oregon farmers. I know that many are doing just what I am and there are many top American farmers in just my small little town! You can see what else we were up to in Chicago by going to my personal blog, NuttyGrass.
There are days, like today, when I'm heading to work and thinking only of all the "inside" jobs that I can do to keep me out of the cold. It's something I realize most people don't really contemplate on their commutes. Usually probably just imagining how they are going to get from their car to their office, then at some point have to get back from the office to the car.
But when you're a farmer, you really have to save those inside jobs for days, just like today. You see it's pretty dang cold here in Oregon. Actually it's pretty dang cold all over the country right now. So I'm guessing I'm not the only farmer brain storming for those shop jobs.
A very frozen orchard of hazelnut trees.
So today we have two of our guys working in the shop on equipment. Winter is the best time to go through everything you have used the past year and didn't have time to fix. Meanwhile I am catching up on a weeks worth of snail mail, e-mail, voicemail and any other kind of mail that people drop off when you're out of town. While I sent another guy, who happens to be our newest employee and my husband Matt, to go dig out a beaver dam, check gopher traps and set coyote traps. Unfortunately I think he realized this morning that he had the only outside job of anyone...so far he has survived.
Four year old Hazelnut Trees, nice and icy!
It's looking like it will un-thaw a bit next week. Enough for all the ground to become slick with mud, and also warm enough for the slugs to make another appearance at the table we call our crops. So for now we're going to just enjoy this little break, enjoy those "inside" jobs, and have coffee ready for Matt when he comes in off the prairie!!