Sunday, April 30, 2017

5 Things We Do On Our Farm To Be More Sustainable

I was raised in a farming family and now being in a farm family with my husband as well as being a consumer, my thoughts about how we contribute to our environment have matured a bit since I was a young girl.




I have to think about things a lot differently than I did when I was young.  I am making decisions for my family each and every time I go to the grocery store and every time I decide how I am going to get from Point A to Point B.  My husband, The Farmer, makes decisions daily for our farm that will impact what happens for us (and our community) over the course of the year, and years to come (keep in mind that many things are beyond our control in the business of farming).

I always remember my mom pondering over which cereal to purchase while the four of us kids picked away at each other...mom muttering words like, "we don't even get this much money for a bushel of corn sold as what they are charging for me to purchase it" (side note, corn and soybean market prices were really really bad in the '80's).  The '80's were a time when many farming families didn't survive the financial downturn.

So while, there are more things than 5 that we do on our farm to be more sustainable and prepare for those downturn times, I want to share these for now...

1.  We purchase Soy-Biodiesel for our tractors and semi's.  Soy-Biodiesel burns more cleanly in our tractors, therefore, effecting the overall condition of our environment.  The added bonus is that Soy-Biodiesel also helps use to have a means in which the soybeans we grow on our farm are put to use.

2.  We practice no-till and minimal till practices on our farm.  What this means is that we believe in soil conservation on our farm.  It's kind of two-fold, we don't disturb our soils as significantly as if we tilled (ie: disked, plowed, cultivated) every acre that we own and these practices also mean that we use less fuel, man-power, and equipment labor.

In 2016, this field was planted with corn.  In 2017 this field will grow soybeans.  The corn stalk residue left behind will in turn revert to organic matter, richening the soil.

 3.  We utilize GPS and Precision Planting technologies.  What these types of applications provide to us to be more sustainable is that we are able to monitor seed usage and any chemical usage very closely.  We only use what needs to be used in each specific area of the field.  We don't "double pass" across the field which wastes resources, use more than we need, and can be much more efficient on lesser acres that are available to us now vs 10, 20, 30, 40 years ago.  We can be smarter with our resources and much more effective at the same time.

4.  We commit to conservation practices.  We make choices on our own accord to place waterways (ways in which water can flow freely and cleaning through low areas of the field that would normally erode without preservation) and we also work with our local Farm Service Agency to implement waterways that allow us to better protect our soils.  We make decisions for specific conservation practices based on the needs of each field.

This is a large waterway that we worked with our local Farm Service Agency - Soil Conservation program to build.  The waterway helps with water movement from the field, reduces soil erosion and also provides a natural habitat for wildlife

5.  Crop Rotation is another way in which our farm creates sustainability. Even though we don't raise livestock, crop rotation is extremely important for us because it allows us to provide organic material back into the soil from one year to the next (especially with our no-till practices in place), allows for "natural" fertilizer to be put back into the soil (as is the case when we plant soybeans after a year of corn), and also provides us with better optimization of our soils from one year to the next.

We usually plant a few acres of Soft Red Winter Wheat in the fall after crops have been harvested.  The wheat creates a cover crop in the Spring and once harvested allows us to fix issues that we may have in the field (ie: fixing drainage tile, etc)

I like to think as one that is responsible for the "chuck wagon" many days and evenings during our busy spring and fall time, that I provide sustainability to my family working in the fields.  I like to provide meals that are quick, tasty, as healthy as possible for a group that largely consists of men (yes, that includes the younger farmers), and robust enough to hold them over for the long hours that are spent during these busy times. 


Below is a favorite recipe of my family that originated from a blogger friend of mine, Cris Goode (Recipes That Crock!).  This is a hearty meal that can be served over rice, in a taco shell, lettuce wrap, with potatoes - you name it, it would go with about anything.  And the good thing, if you have leftovers, you can change up the way you serve it to try different options.  I use my Instant Pot to cook mine, so cooking times will vary from that of the crockpot version that Cris shares on Recipes That Crock!


Photo provided with permission by Cris Goode "Recipes that Crock!"


MISSISSIPPI ROAST BEEF



INGREDIENTS:

3-5 pound chuck roast

1 packet dry ranch seasoning (like Hidden Valley or store brand)
2 T Worchestershire Sauce (or 1 packet brown gravy dry mix)
1 cup beef broth
1 jar sliced pepperocini's (I dump the entire jar 12 oz)
1/4 cup butter (I prefer unsalted butter)

* I do not recommend adding any additional salt during cook time or when eating.  The ingredients above are all salty in nature.

DIRECTIONS:
Brown, thawed chuck roast on both sides in a large saute pan with 1 T oil of choice.  Place roast in Instant Pot.  Mix dry seasonings  (or Worchestershire sauce) with beef broth.  Pour mixture over roast.  Place butter, in slices, over beef.  Then add jar of pepperocini's.  Cover Instant Pot tightly with lid.  Select "manual" and set timer for 90 minutes.  Let Pot do it's thing and release naturally after 15 minutes.  Serve up the roast over rice, in a taco, over a baked potato.  Let your creative juices go!

Cris' Original Recipe Here

*  Please note that my recipe is altered from that of "Recipes that Crock!".  Please check out the link above for the original recipe and cooking guidelines.

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