I was asked to write a blog, sharing what farmers “do” during a given month.
So here it is March in eastern Whitman County, where field work won’t begin for at least a couple more weeks, maybe a month or more. A good thing, too, because for a full day and a half this week I will be sitting in meetings. Most of another day was spent on the phone talking to my parts guy and other mechanics asking the same question as most farmers, “do I fix it, or replace it?”
I have a shop building, where I can work in the winter, but mine is not finished, or heated. So when the temperature is amenable, I have many days of routine maintenance to do, and a long list of things that “could or should” be done. Can anyone tell me, how things that worked fine last fall, now require multiple days of overhaul? There is always work to be done!
One of this weeks’ meetings will help decide which of the $2.4 million proposed WSU research projects will be funded by wheat farmer dollars. Yes, we farmers give millions of dollars (in addition to our tax dollars) to our agricultural college and its researchers to help solve problems on the farm. The mechanism we use to gather these dollars is called a “checkoff” or “self-assessment.” Most every major commodity group has a checkoff system, such as apples, potatoes, milk and beef. These checkoff dollars help fund research, marketing and education among other things. When it comes to research, it seems there’s never enough money to fund all of projects. Personally as a wheat farmer, I would like our researchers to develop a wheat variety with better disease resistance, but not if that would sacrifice superior milling and baking quality. Without that, the world would rather buy Canadian or Australian or Argentinian wheat. In Washington, the quality of our wheat is what sets us apart from our competition.
I’ll spend another half day with my local grain co-op board – we will be deciding on a major remodel of 30% of our infrastructure. Actually, that’s a lame joke: we only have three facilities, (grains @palouse.com)and we are modernizing one of them. The old scale is too small for today’s bigger, more efficient trucks. The grain industry is not unlike every other industry in the state...as technology changes, so does our infastructure.
I’ll also spend too much time reading emails and other publications, participating in conference calls, and occasionally traveling for one of the other four boards and committee I serve. The beauty of small town living is knowing everyone in town. Sadly, this is also the curse of small town living...there’s always more work to do than people to do it, so we all serve our communities in multiple ways.
So, why am I at meetings when it’s time to get ready for spring work? It’s a choice, but I think it is worth it. I feel it’s an investment in my farm, it keeps me on top of the latest issues, and I learn better ways to do what I do. It is what I have to do to keeps this farm in the family for another generation, and leave it better than I found it. The misconceptions that continually pop up in the press and random conversations remind me that if we don’t explain what we farmers actually do, why we do it, and how we do it, someone else will. From what I see and from the science I know, live with, and work with every day, the story being told today about my life and what I do is a far cry from the real world where I live. Frankly, that scares the hell out of me - enough so that I agreed to write a blog.
It is now above 40 degrees and time to shift gears, literally. It’s time to get my hands off the keyboard and dip them back into the grease and dirt of the real world, or I really won’t be ready when the fields are ready. I welcome your comments or questions about what I do.