Sustainable Farms Need Sustainable Families

Friday, Aug 26th, 2011

My Dad died last week and I really miss him. I grew up on the farm doing something with my Dad everyday. When I came home from school, Dad and I would check fields in his truck, ride the harvester, or spend time in his office. My brothers and I could go to farm meetings or board meetings with Dad; no place was “off limits” when we were with him. I have countless fond memories of the time we spent together.

As I reflect on how Dad farmed rice, I realize he truly cared abut being a sustainable farmer. He never burned rice straw, he started farming a portion of his farm organically in the sixties, and crop rotation with cover crops was always a part of his farm plan. We worked long summers leveling fields with survey stakes and instruments to improve water management and rice production. Dad didn’t invent the term “sustainable farming” but he sure knew a lot about it.

For thirty years I had the pleasure of farming alongside my Dad, during which time we shared ideas about farming with nature and farming with family. Caring for the environment, protecting the farm’s finances, producing healthy food, and being a good neighbor: aren’t these the elements of a sustainable farm? However, what if no one from my family wanted to farm? What if my siblings and I had to get jobs away from the farm? If this were the case, ideas about sustainability would not be passed down from generation to generation. Sustainability needs to include a passing of values and wisdom from one generation to the next.

I am thankful Dad raised me with a love for the farm; with as much concern about how we farm as what we farm. It takes a combination of stewardship and family transitions for a farm to be sustainable…

Thank you, Dad.

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