Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Rethinking Baker Heritage Farms

ReThinking Baker Heritage Farms

I like farming because it gives me quality time to think. While they are mostly good thoughts, sometimes they can be frightening.

Several weeks ago I was out preparing one of the plots for seeding (still have not been able to seed that particular plot) and I was thinking of our farming venture, the time and money we have already invested in the farm. Farming is not easy, it is a lot of work. I was prepared for the work, but as I was working on the plot, I had to wonder if we were taking the right approach.

Our mission is to use sustainable farming methods that respect ecosystems and promotes a livelihood for those that work the land. We believe in following a system that maintains and supports the natural fertility of the soil, promotes diversity of flora and fauna, and adapts to regional conditions, maintaining the natural ecological cycles, conserves energy, and reduces chemical input to a minimum.

Our goals include determining the best use of the land while maintaining good stewardship, gaining knowledge of agricultural principles through education, experimentation, and work experience and passing our experiences on to others with the same desires and goals, and being an integral part of the community. Our immediate goals also included determining the best produce and stock for improving health, decreasing expenses, and remaining sustainable and environmentally friendly.

As I said earlier, I started to think about what we were doing as I prepared the plot for planting. This lead to me wondering why we were doing what we were doing, when it would be so much easier to simply go to the farm store, buy commercial seed, use machines to prepare the land, input chemicals to ensure our crops grow, and obtain seed that pretty much guarantees success (Genetically Modified, with insecticides and pesticides included). How much easier we would have it. Just think, an instant farm.

Then I got to thinking about why we were really farming. It was not for the money, in fact, that is not even in our short term goals. The primary purpose was really to promote the health advantages (for us and others) of naturally grown crops while providing sufficient on-farm income to support our family. We started Baker Heritage Farms to provide healthy and wholesome food products using traditional, non-mechanical equipment in respect of the land we worked.

Yes, buying Hybrid seed that has been genetically modified would provide more assurance of successful growth, and would be easier than trying to find heirloom seeds that are certified organic (as well as substantially less expensive). Using commercial pesticides and insecticides (or even buying seed where these are already imbedded) and commercial fertilizers would further reduce the manpower necessary to maintain our crops until our cover crops become effective. And there is little question that exclusive use of mechanized equipment would make our job much easier and allow us to get the job done quicker. But ...

How would all of that affect our real mission? It would not maintain or support the natural fertility of the soil, nor would it promote diversity of flora and fauna. It would disturb the natural ecological cycle while increasing chemical input substantially. Most of all, we might as well continue to buy our food from the grocery store as it would then be just as healthy (unhealthy?) as what we would be growing.

But how do we get our farm up and running quickly when we find ourselves short of time, low on finances, and just worn out? Then the lightbulb lit up - RETHINK BAKER HERITAGE FARMS!

Once I grasped the concept of rethinking the farm, I quickly realized that it was not the idea that was wrong, it was our approach - we were not following our own plans!

We got greedy. The success of our test garden was the jumping off point of our greed. We learned from the test garden, which was planted late on ground that was not properly prepared, that we could be successful farmers with proper planning and execution of the plan.

We spent a good deal of the winter planning, and as the plan came together, it became evident that we could farm, and, with the help of our faith in the Lord, we could be successful. And then we really started farming. We fenced off our three plus fields and started to prepare the plots.

Having owned several businesses in the past, I knew that a successful business (yes, a farm is a business) needs a plan, funding, and time. The plan is the first, and most important part of any business. Funding is also important, but funding can be controlled with a proper plan. Time is an absolute necessity to be successful, but must also be a part of the plan. We had a plan. We thought we could fund the plan through cash flow. We had the time. We were ready to go. We were going to have a fully operational farm in 2013 ... and then disaster struck.

For the past several months, it seems we suffered one set-back after another, our mental and physical health being challenged with each set-back.

And now, we are suffering what all farmers do, weather. While the rain is a blessing and much needed here in draught country, it is also a curse. It has now rained long enough that I pray the draught is over, but planting will be further delayed until the ground can be worked. In addition, we have poultry that will not wait until things dry out, so we need to concentrate our energy in that direction temporarily. The positive side - historically, weather of this type at this time of the year, in this area, usually means a mild summer (we hope).

In preparing to rethink Baker Heritage Farms I soon realized that we were trying to do to much at one time. In farming, the old saying, "In the business of farming, it is not so important who gets there first as who gets there at all," is very true. So what did we need to do to ensure a viable farming operation - stop, look, and listen, and do it right the first time.

Yes, we are taking the right approach with the farm, and that is why we are Rethinking Baker Heritage Farms.

And we want you to join us for the ride. While having a backyard garden is one thing, small acreage farming is another, and we want to do it right, for you, for us, and for future generations.

I hope to be providing more frequent updates to this blog as we go through the process of reviewing our plans, adjusting our schedule, better controlling finances, and improving management of our time.

Stay tuned for updates. We will even be posting our "To Do" list on the blog so that everyone can see what our priorities are and how well we are meeting them. Please feel free to add your comments, suggestions, and recommendations. This will be a community effort, and hopefully everyone will learn and be a better farmer for it.


Donald Baker

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