I’m a farmer. My friends are farmers. When we get together, we talk farming. In our free time, we go and visit other farms. Hmm, does that mean we are dedicated or obsessed? Anyway, I really do enjoy learning about how other farms work, so this fall I went and visited my good friends, Curtis and Trish, who are pedigreed seed farmers. They grow cereal grains like wheat and barley and oil seed crops like canola and flax, but instead of selling it for food processing or as feed for animals, they have the seed cleaned and sell it to other farmers, who then reseed it to grow next year’s crop.
Sounds simple, doesn’t it? In addition to all that goes into growing grain like field work, seeding, spraying and harvesting, there is an amazing amount of extra work that is necessary. They need to register their farm and pay extra fees, track all the fields, varieties and plots, work out rotations, do endless germination tests and paperwork, super-clean all the equipment (trucks, combines, swathers) whenever they move to a different variety, and truck the grain to the seed cleaning plants to have all the weed seeds and poor kernels removed.
They cannot use chemicals to desiccate their crops before harvest, nor can they use grain dryers to help dry the grain when the weather is bad. They rogue their fields, which is fancy name for walking up and down the fields to pull weeds such as wild oats. Along with careful planning and timing, Mother Nature plays a huge role in ensuring that their crops mature and yield with high germination. As I write this (late October), they are still harvesting their crop.
I rode along with Trish as she was combining some barley the other afternoon. Many years ago we also were grain farmers and, during harvest, I miss the smell of combined grain as you drive down the road, seeing the dust as the chaff blows out the back of the combine, and the sound of the grain moving through the augers. I don’t miss the stress about weather (too hot, too dry, too wet, too cold) and I don’t miss the insanely long hours we used to put in during seeding, spraying and harvest.
Trish, like all farm women, plays an integral part in the whole farm. She works in the fields, answers the many phone calls and questions from customers, helps with the paperwork, feeds her family and crew, runs around for parts and ferries her kids to their activities, keeps the yard mowed, and provides support to all those who need it.
My harvest looks a bit different – my eggs are gathered every day and my pullets are delivered to their new homes every few months. Every farmer’s goal is to grow and harvest their crops: eggs, milk, vegetables, fruits, meat of all kinds, grains, and herbs. Every time you go to the grocery store, try to remember the long journey and hard work it takes to give YOU the best of what we do!