DEAR NEW FARM:
At 28 years of age, I am a fifth generation farmer living
in northeast Nebraska. Our farm is primarily livestock based,
which means a large portion of the crops we produce are fed
to our cattle. In short, generations of "conventional
wisdom" have led to a staunch belief in conventional
farming on this farm and throughout this area. All the hype
about ethanol, etc., has done well to increase everyone’s
focus on conventional farming as we plant more corn-on-corn
acres and implement all the genetics and chemicals (not cheap)
available to force the land to give us what we want. Any talk
of organic around here is basically blasphemy, and I find
very few to talk to who can speak about the subject thoughtfully
or objectively. As a young guy, I have not yet lost the ability
to think outside the box. I feel strongly that organic is
really on to something; It just makes a lot of sense to me
on many different levels. Knowledge is power and if I had
more knowledge about how to implement organic in my region
I might be more empowered to pursue it. If there is any information
specific to my region or similiar regions I would be glad
to have it.
Scott J. Uecker
The first thing you need to know is that you are not alone.
While it may very well feel that way to you as you talk to
other farmers in your area, there are many farmers your age
who are thinking outside the box. Knowledge is power, as you
say, and we’ll do what we can to supply you with some
basic information to bolster your arguments. We have seen
that farmers can do anything they put their minds to. If you
or any of your neighbors wants to make organic work, you can.
There are strong and growing markets for food products of
all types including beef. Of course there is a real shortage
of grains across the country as more and more farmers are
transitioning their livestock (dairy, beef, poultry) to organic.
You’ll certainly need to do your homework in terms of
finding the market if you work on transitioning your operation,
but they are definitely there.
The other thing to consider is that a transition process
can, and should, start slowly—one piece at a time. By
that we mean you can transition one field, one crop, or a
portion of your herd at a time. You don’t need to do
everything all at once. This way you can ease into the new
markets and learn as you grow. This is often a good way to
bring the rest of your family into the process as they can
see your success.
We encourage you to keep thinking and working toward this
goal. You do have some great folks in Nebraska, such as John
Doran, Ph.D., a semi-retired USDA-ARS soil scientist. You
might contact him to discuss your ideas. Also, check out our
Locator for other farmers growing and raising sustainably
in your area. A quick search resulted in nine farms in Nebraska.
In the meantime, we’ll send you some reading material
to get you thinking, and we suggest you keep reading New Farm
as a source of more information. Opinions about agricultural
practices change slowly, but they do change—even in
rural Nebraska. Farmers, like most folks, need to see success
and will watch very closely as those first risk-takers move
out into a different arena.
We wish you the very best and know that you are on the right
track, even if it is less traveled.
us with comments, suggestions and questions.