Minnesota Farmer

The Romance of the Farm
August 13, 2010, 11:42 am
Filed under: family, Family History, Farm, farm animals, garden, genetic modification, GMO, harvest | Tags: , , ,

Most Americans are at least three generations from the farm, so many no longer have a family farm to visit, but they still want to get out and live the romance of the farm.

Trips to the farm for people who live in the city are a big deal.  Some of those “farms” are even in zoos.  Winery tours, fall pumpkin patch and corn maze or any other chance to get to see “real” farms are great experiences for families, but they are not the real thing.

There is a romantic notion of the farm.  It is not the commercial family farm of today, it is grandpa’s farm.  A farm where there was a lazy dog, an assortment of cats, chickens and maybe a horse or cow.  Grandpa’s farm was small, as were his machines.  Most of the buildings and machinery had stood the test of time.  The hay mow (upper level where hay was stored, pronounced “mou”) needed care to keep from falling through the holes in the floor, and the stalls on the main floor had more spiders in them than the cows, pigs or sheep they were built for.

Grandma always had a garden full of veggies and flowers.  There were fruit trees and berry patches to harvest.  Food fresh from the garden is one of the most beloved of memories of the farm.  Perhaps that is why farm fresh food stands and farmers markets are such a big hit.

The reality of today is seldom the reality of yesterday.  Today’s big iron and mile long fields are just not as romantic as a quaint old house in the country.  Yet the reality today is that farm families of today are not the same as the farm family of yesteryear.  Yes, there are still small farms out there.  Many farm folks have a job in town to help support their life on the farm.  Those who do not have town jobs, or wives who work in town, must cover large amounts of  ground to feed their families and pay the bills.

Today’s farm families may include several generations on the farm who are all hard at work using the technology of tomorrow to produce food for America and the world.  The farm they live on is nothing like the farm grandpa grew up on, although grandpa may still be there to help out.  They do have one thing in common with grandpa’s farm.  They are still using the best technology of the day to feed the family.

It was grandpa’s use of his generations technology that kept the farm going and the family fed.  When his children took over the farm, they also used the best technology available to them to keep going.  Today the grandkids are using computers and GPS technology to become ever more efficient and productive.  Many have embraced genetically modified crops for the same reason they use computers, it works.

Today’s family farmer has the same challenges as generations before them did.  They need the best seed, the best animals and the best equipment if they are going to feed their family.  Today’s family farmers manage large amounts of information and money.  They must know the places they can cut costs, and where they must spend to get the best.

This is not the world that grandpa and grandma grew up in.  Grandpa did know that if he was to keep up with demands of the world, he had to keep up with the times.  If grandpa’s grandkids are still farming, it’s because he did his best to keep up.  The romantic family farm so many remember is not a modern farm, it is a museum piece.  Grandpa lives on a much nicer farm, or has moved to town so his grandkids can live there.

My children all now make their living in town.  The farm my grandkids remember is not going to be the farm of your romantic dreams.  It is, however, a farm  of the past not of today.  I do know that my grandkids,when thy look back, will still love grandpa’s farm.



5 Comments so far
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Love the post! I will be visiting a family farm and will experience the romanticized version that you write of. Since my dropsite for raw milk was ousted, I haven’t been able to buy this romanticized version of milk, fresh from the cow. In this instance, I will be visiting a farm with goats as it is only half hour drive instead of an hour for cows milk.

It is important that people understand the way their food is produced is rarely what’s depicted on that package of open green pasture. Quality has seemingly taken a backseat to quantity, and while the green revolution has done wonderful things for the amount of food we have produced, it hasn’t been able to keep up with the nutritive side of producing food. For instance, pasture raised chickens (that scratch and peck for bugs and spend a significant amount of time outside) have much higher levels of carotinoids like lutein, and have more vitamin d and vitamin e. So many people these days are exceding their calorie requirements, yet starving for vitamins, minerals, and other health promoting substances. The romanticized farm of yesteryear many times offered quality over quantity. With today’s technologies, I’m hoping we can bridge the gap between quantity and quality can be built.

Comment by skj

excuse the typos … I shouldn’t be typing anything at length on my iPod!!

Comment by skj

The farm of our grandfathers was hard work. That’s why so many left. Yes, the quality may have been better, but we lost more animals to injury and disease. Small farms were more likely to just feed what they had on hand. Today’s farm animals have a nutritionist to make sure that they have all they need to produce their very best.

Comment by Michael

Yes, our grandfathers’ farms had more volatility in animal health because of the absence of veterinarian assistance. Yet today, having the new technologies, knowledge, and testing procedures to assist with safety and quality control, I think it would be wise to feed animals their natural diet and correct when need be. Feedlot nutrition is quite inferior to FERTILE pasture and shouldn’t be thought of as optimal nutrition for the animal.

Weston Price (a dentist, early 1900’s)found that animals feeding on fresh, rapidly growing grasses produced very high quality milk rich in fat soluble nutrients. A deep golden color as opposed the the almost white butter from factory farms. You can see the difference, you can taste the difference! I buy Organic Valley pasture butter in the half pound, green foil package. I recommend you try it at least once in your life! It’s SO bucket list worthy:) The taste is phenomenal and makes it hard to eat ‘conventional’ butter anymore. Weston Price found high rates of cavities among those who were not getting the nutrients in these high quality foods (fats). About butter, He says this in his book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration: “One large distributor whom I asked to cooperate by maintaining a stock of high-vitamin butter to which I could refer people, told me frankly that he wished I would stop telling people about the difference in the vitamins in butter. He did not wish them to think of butter in terms of its vitamin content.” Looks like it has always been a struggle of quantity over quality.

Comment by shawn

What is an animals natural diet? Cattle in one area of the country will eat a certain type of forage, and will eat something else in another area. Here in Minnesota fresh rapidly growing grass is only available for two to four months. The other months are either too cold or too dry. We have no choice but to feed them what is available to us. Many cattlemen in the corn belt will winter their beef cows on dry corn stalks with a few ears of corn that the pickers missed and a mineral block. It makes an excellent feed for producing healthy beef calves. This is natural in the winter here. In parts of the southwestern U.S. cattlemen burn the spines off of prickly pear cactus. It is a good food source when conditions are dry. It’s another natural food source for cows. Cattle can survive on many different types of carbohydrate sources, but they thrive when they have all of the proper nutrients available all of the time. Very little of what a cattleman feeds his cows is not natural.
Sorry, I’m not a butter snob. I don’t have to have only one kind, I get by on margarine most of the time. Food is food. High priced food to me was never worth the extra price.

Comment by Michael

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