To start, we think of sustainable farming in terms of our farming operation, not the industry as a whole. We can't possibly control what happens in the entire agriculture industry. But we can control to some extent what happens on our land and on our time
To us, it means getting the most out of our crops with the resources we have. It means finding new ways to be more time-efficient.
And, it means being able to break even and grow a little at the end of day, so that we can go on doing the job we love. That’s our definition. So, how do we make it work?
Our top three sustainable “musts”
We can’t go into all aspects here. So, we’ve picked the three most important:
Land care is #1: Our land must be taken care of. To get healthy plants and good yields, it's essential you put back into the ground more than what you take out. This means taking the time to fertilize and lime in the spring.
We plant cover crops in the fall to ensure that the soil stays in place throughout the winter. Be good to the land, and the land will be good to you.
Time is #2: Planting and harvesting windows can sometimes be very narrow. It’s important to have a real plan – not just a hope – so things get done in a timely manner. Nothing gets done when there's no plan, except for people standing around with their thumbs up you know where.
No-till is another way we save time. It's good for the land, and eliminates endless trips across fields.
Time efficiency is of the essence to any farm operation. We like to take short day trips. But for that to happen, the work needs to be done first.
Finding newer, more efficient ways to do things is important. As Ben Franklin said, “Time is money.” But it's more than that – an investment in family.
Economics is #3: This is, by far, the most important. Without money, it doesn’t matter how nice you are to the land or how good your time management skills are. It won't be sustainable.
If you read our March blog/column, you know how we feel about budgets. Yes, they can be a pain. Sometimes, they're hard to stick to, but we do our best.
The first thing we ask is: “Do we really need this?” If the answer is yes, and it means going over budget, we have to answer these questions:
- What does it mean if we go over budget?
- Where's that “extra” money going to be pulled from – the grocery fund, the vacation fund?
- Are we going to have to put buying something off that we planned on? Can we make it work?
We all know it takes money to farm, lots of it. It’s important that we spend our hard (very hard) earned money wisely.
Ben Franklin said: "A penny saved is a penny earned." We say a buck saved is 100% better!
The Reskovacs farm near Uniontown, Pa. Read their "Two Hearts, One Harvest" columns in American Agriculturist. This opinion is not necessarily that of FarmProgress.com or the Penton Farm Progress Group.