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Forage vs King Corn

 
Nicholas Covey
Posts: 180
Location: Missouri/Iowa border
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Chris,

After you returned from your internship in Missouri I heard you speak to the effect that grazers could not compete with corn farmers. Since that time with your other internships and further experiences, does that still ring true to you?

I feel that in order to really destroy the grips that Big Ag has on this country, and on the farmers, is to make it profitable to do things a better way. Thus it's my goal to find a way to convert flatland row-crop fields into something both profitable and sustainable. Without profitability, converting farmers to the cause is a lofty goal as sustainability to them is a largely irrelevant novelty unless it's profitable.

My thoughts have been some sort of polyculture of high density perennial forage mob grazed with a polycultural mob of cattle, sheep, geese, chickens, and is some areas swine and ducks.

Thoughts anyone?
 
Chris Stelzer
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Nicholas Covey wrote:Chris,

After you returned from your internship in Missouri I heard you speak to the effect that grazers could not compete with corn farmers. Since that time with your other internships and further experiences, does that still ring true to you?

I feel that in order to really destroy the grips that Big Ag has on this country, and on the farmers, is to make it profitable to do things a better way. Thus it's my goal to find a way to convert flatland row-crop fields into something both profitable and sustainable. Without profitability, converting farmers to the cause is a lofty goal as sustainability to them is a largely irrelevant novelty unless it's profitable.

My thoughts have been some sort of polyculture of high density perennial forage mob grazed with a polycultural mob of cattle, sheep, geese, chickens, and is some areas swine and ducks.

Thoughts anyone?


Nicholas,

Good questions. In a way I still feel that it's very hard to compete with crop farmers. After all, the subsidies they get are unbelievable(free money for poor management). A lot of it also has to do with the price of Corn. The required Ethanol in gasoline now really drove up the price of Corn, so many people are clearing all sorts of land to plant corn. So, I think it might be more worth your while to get some land that is in hilly country. Not necessarily extremely steep hills, but in a place where crops cannot be planted. This will just make it easier on you financially. However, there are some people doing really cool things with Cover Crops on cropland. They are grazing the cover crops and seeing great benefits. So, you could partner with a farmer that is interested in cover cropping. Just google "Gabe Brown" or listen to the interview I did with him here: Gabe Brown Interview

You bring up a good point about profitability of these big farmers. Yes, if they are going to do permaculture stuff or sustainability stuff, they are going to need to be profitable. But they fail to make the distinction between profitability, something that you actually earned, VS a government handout (subsidy). Why would they work harder to maybe achieve profitability when they can do what they've been doing for years and still get that check from the government or crop insurance provider?

I think most of the farming issues in this country are directly related to government policy and printing money out of thin air... although those are just my opinions.

Your thought on the polyculture in the old crop ground are right on. Many farmers using cover crops refer to this is planting "cocktails" which are 5-25 species of plants to improve the soil, hold water, stop erosion and provide feed for livestock.

Hope that helps!
 
Xisca Nicolas
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Posts: 1277
Location: La Palma (Canary island) Zone 11
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Chris Stelzer wrote: I think most of the farming issues in this country are directly related to government policy and printing money out of thin air... although those are just my opinions.


I share the opinion... Nothing is free, even subsidies.

I have heard some farmers calling themselves "bounty hunters"
And they were not so happy to live from subsidies instead of living proudly from their work.
 
Nicholas Covey
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Location: Missouri/Iowa border
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Chris, Let me give you a more detailed background...

In January I found myself unemployed so I went back to work for my father, who is a rowcrop/cattle farmer. I have helped around the farm for the last few months, as I did before I went off to college. So with many many hours locked in a tractor I discovered your podcast after listening to your Jack Spirko interview. Having also listened to Paul (In small doses... ) I have come to question the procedures that we spend so much time and effort on. I heard the Gabe Brown interview and took a lot away from it. However, the interview regarding the actual issues with glyphosate was what really lit a fire under me. If nothing else, we are spreading a large quantity antibiotic all over the place, and our farm is no exception.

I know that I have an opportunity to make a change here as I have access to land. However, as we are from Missouri... you have to show us. I have to make it look good, pay out, and in reality it has to outproduce what we have already. I am pretty sure that I can produce well on our pastures (which are on hilly ground consequently) but I feel like if the farm is to be truly off the hook to the USDA/Monsanto/Dow Chemical subsidy cow then we need to get out of the rowcrop business completely. Thus I feel that I need to be able to produce something comparable in "value" on that same flatland... without Roundup.
 
Chris Stelzer
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Nicholas Covey wrote:Chris, Let me give you a more detailed background...

In January I found myself unemployed so I went back to work for my father, who is a rowcrop/cattle farmer. I have helped around the farm for the last few months, as I did before I went off to college. So with many many hours locked in a tractor I discovered your podcast after listening to your Jack Spirko interview. Having also listened to Paul (In small doses... ) I have come to question the procedures that we spend so much time and effort on. I heard the Gabe Brown interview and took a lot away from it. However, the interview regarding the actual issues with glyphosate was what really lit a fire under me. If nothing else, we are spreading a large quantity antibiotic all over the place, and our farm is no exception.

I know that I have an opportunity to make a change here as I have access to land. However, as we are from Missouri... you have to show us. I have to make it look good, pay out, and in reality it has to outproduce what we have already. I am pretty sure that I can produce well on our pastures (which are on hilly ground consequently) but I feel like if the farm is to be truly off the hook to the USDA/Monsanto/Dow Chemical subsidy cow then we need to get out of the rowcrop business completely. Thus I feel that I need to be able to produce something comparable in "value" on that same flatland... without Roundup.


Yeah thats an interesting situation you are in. So many farmers and ranchers are traditional type people who like to keep certain traditions their family has done for generations alive, when sometimes this is not the best management practice. I think taking your Dad to some workshops/schools/classes in Missouri would be a great thing to do, to expose him to new ideas and meet other farmers/ranchers who were once in his shoes. Monsanto can't really say anything to you if you decide to start grazing cattle on your crop land, or start growing non-gmo crops (in some cases, I know people have been sued). Best of luck to you!
 
Xisca Nicolas
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By "row crop", do you mean corn?
How great if you can help toward change!
I understand more and more that it is not so easy to change from what financially work, and that farmers are somehow prisoners of a system.

Is your father happy about what he does?
Would he change were it not for the relatively comfortable / easy situation of going on as usual?
I mean also, would he like to do something he already find more ethic, if he knew how to do it efficiently and profitably?

keep certain traditions their family has done for generations alive


Well... they think so, but it has been proved by anthropology that what most people feel it is "traditional" is only 1 generation old in most cases.
Tools have changed, and even traditional recipes use ingredients that were not available before!
And the way they plan their year's work with round up use is not even 1 generation old...

Might be good to have a look at the way Big Corps have managed to make people change so easy.
And do the same in the other direction?
 
Nicholas Covey
Posts: 180
Location: Missouri/Iowa border
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Yes, Corn. Plus soybeans. Sometimes wheat.

No he's not totally satisfied with the status quo, but I'm not entirely sure what if anything he's willing to change without seeing it working for someone else. The reason it works so well now is that the powers that be have the farmers in what they perceive to be a nice safety net. No one wants to walk the tightrope without a net after all...
 
Xisca Nicolas
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Great input there for me!
The need for changing and for anything is A NET !

Personal money is not enough for safety, a net is.
 
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