Making Hay
Week of April 7th, 2002 | The weather was nice.

James with Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

James with Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

I hope you had a happy Easter! My family and I spent Easter with my Grandpa and Grandma, uncles, aunts, and cousins. We had a great dinner and had fun visiting. Jess had to go back to school on Sunday. I enjoyed the past weekend with her. Time is flying by on our place, but I think that's good because I really like spring.

Monday, (I was on Spring Break until Wednesday) I worked ground with the disc. It did snow Monday morning, but it didn't bother us much. It was only enough to cover the ground. After I worked ground, Dad planted more barley. Dad has about 18 acres of barley left to plant. In the afternoon, the snow did stop fieldwork so Dad and I worked on records on the computer. Most of these records were about farm payments and income.Tuesday, Dad and I replaced a very important gatepost in the cattle yard. Dad sold 9 hogs and 6 sows on Wednesday. Like usual, Dad uses our livestock trailer. After unloading the hogs and sows, Dad went to the Fort Atkinson tractor salvage yard to purchase tractor weights. These weights will be used for the John Deere 7405 tractor. The tractor needs rear wheel weight to prevent a rollover. Then, Dad unloaded 11 1/2 ton of a tofu manufacturing soybean meal byproduct when he got back. He put two of the loads in a hoop building used for storage.

Thursday, Dad had a local contractor come to place in drainage piping. As a new glossary term, drainage pipe is a flexible plastic pipe placed underground to reduce the excess moisture in the soil. You can see a picture of the operation in the glossary. The excess water is usually dumped into nearby streams. It would be better for the environment if the water went first into ponds. Some of our drainage pipes dump into our pond, when the pond is full, the purified water drains into the nearby creek. Now, on an organic farm, this water is okay to be dumped into a nearby stream because the water is not contaminated. On a chemical using farm, there are problems with contaminated water being dumped right into a stream.

After the drainage was installed, Dad unloaded a semi load of barley that came in. Then, he loaded it back out on wagons and trucks. This barley was sold to pork pool members. That night, Dad planted 9 more acres of barley in our last barley field. While he planted that night, Mom and I went to a public concert of a high school music class touring the Midwest from Douglas, Wyoming. The director of this group was Mom's music teacher when she was in high school. They sang jazz, gospel, blues, rock-n-roll, and a little bit of everything. They were great! Very professional and very well received by the audience. Mom enjoyed visiting her old teacher after the performance.

Friday, Mom, Dad, and I went to a public Hog Summit meeting in Clear Lake, Iowa. This meeting lasted all day and into the evening. The meeting was sponsored by the Waterkeeper Alliance. Waterkeeper Alliance is an organization that helps fight pollution and protect water areas like rivers, streams, etc. They are really strong on fighting against factory farms and their pollution of our natural resources. There were videos, presentations, and speakers through out the entire day. People came from 18 different states, plus Canada, and a university researcher from Sweden was also on the agenda as a speaker! His talk was about their development of humane care for farm animals. Dad and Mom met him when they visited Sweden a few years ago. They enjoyed visiting with him and seeing him again. Dad was the keynote speaker at the luncheon and his presentation included slides of our farm and how it's changed over the years. He spoke about alternatives in farming and that there is room for the family farm operation to exist. He explained how we changed our system of farming from metal farrowing crates to deep-bedded facilities. Dad had many compliments after his talk. That night, the protesting really happened! A former hog farmer in North Carolina spoke. North Carolina has BIG problems with these factory farms. He spoke out of his heart. Dad and I sat in the front row that night and heard the cheering and applauding that followed a GREAT speech. The hog farmer explained how to be a true American farmer. His neighbors were suffering the ill effects of his confinement hog operation and so he stopped raising hogs. He asked that we all come together and stand strong on the fight against factory farms. Good Christians and good Americans would not abuse animals, would not be greedy, and would not allow corporations to take over our communities.

The next speech was the evening keynote given by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., President of Waterkeeper Alliance. He spoke for about 1 1/2 hours. In the picture above, you see Robert Kennedy and I meeting each other earlier that day. Mom and Dad also met him and were very appreciative of all his efforts in the fight against factory farms. Kennedy explained how factory farms polluted our air and water and threatens our democracy. We have to fight to get it back now. Our children should not grow up dealing with these problems. Personally, I thought the day was fantastic. It gave me great encouragement to continue supporting the fight against large-scale operations and promote sustainable practices and the livelihood of the family farm. We need to continue to ask questions, especially to our elected officials and rally for better farming practices and proper care to our animals. The animals have feelings, too, just as humans do.

Saturday, Dad and I went to the Organic Valley Annual Meeting. Here, Dad and I learned about Organic Valley's accomplishments, marketing, sales, costs, pools (for example- pork pool), etc. I met with Carrie (my instructor), and Miekal (my editor) and we talked about James' Journal. I also met a lot more people who were very interested in James' Journal. After the meeting, Dad and I had to get home to plant the rest of the barley (only about 9 acres). When we got home, we went to the hoop building with the loads of soybean meal in it. Saturday was a windy day and like usual, both ends of the building were open. The wind was so hard that it blew the light soybean meal out of the wagons! We lost about 100 dollars (300 pounds)! The soybean meal was scattered all over the place and we decided not to pick it up because we might collect too much dirt. This was a big scare and a good lesson to be learned. After viewing the mess, Dad finished planting barley in the field and I followed him with the drag.

As you recall from last weeks journal, there has been land sold near us to a business that wants to build a hog confinement site just north of New Hampton and southeast of our place (about 6 miles from us). Many area residents and neighbors are trying their hardest to fight back. As I go to school, I see many signs hung up recently saying factory farms are not welcomed here, we don't want polluted pork, etc. People are concerned about what will happen to their property value. They are concerned about the smell and what will happen to the environment.

Farm Fact: I have noticed that school students living on a farm are made fun of. Some kids don't think farm kids are very cool and they aren't that smart or not important. They live boring lives and have nothing to do living out in the country compared to living in town or a city. I don't believe this. I think there is a real advantage living on a farm. Living on a farm can be interesting. There's lots of space and open air to breathe. The sounds of birds chirping, the beautiful sunrises and sunsets to see, the growing crops, and the animals running in a green pasture is fun to watch. If you are a good American farmer, you'll know how important farms are and you can really become in touch with the land and animals. Farmers are the backbone of society. We feed the people. We help create other jobs. We raise products to eat and to make other products that are used daily by everyone. A quote I wrote a while ago relates to what I am talking about. ?I believe that God created land and animals for a purpose. It is our job to be good shepherds of his creation.? Farms can also be very fun to live on. There is always something new to see and do on a farm. In our county, many farmers created rock piles from picking rock from their fields. This way, machinery will not break from hard rock. Someone started creative art with the rocks on their piles in their fields. They took cement and used it as glue to pile the rocks up like towers. They are not piled high, only about 2 to 3 feet. The rock towers are interesting to view and looks like they'd be fun to build. I think we should do something like that! What an attraction to a farmstead or field. I have learned so much living in the country that I don't think I would have learned if I lived in town. The biggest thing I have learned to appreciate is God's gift of the land and animals and how to treat them with respect and not to abuse it.

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