State of the Farm

Are you tired of hearing about The Drought. I’m tired of talking about it. So here is a sort of related report on the state of the farm without specifically mentioning the ‘D’ word.

When we were trying to figure out how to restore the grasses of the Great Plains many years ago, we were also subject to influences that suggested going another way - bring new seed and new varieties into our micro-environment. Of the many suggestions we received, we tried only one of them, Klein grass. Klein is native to Africa so its outstanding characteristic is its adaptability to hot, dry conditions. So we prepared seed beds and planted Klein on our west side. In normal rain years, Klein took up less than 5% of the grass population. The true natives were quite happy with the conditions. But of the few grasses thriving on our farm today, guess which one is clearly dominant? Klein. It took an African climate to spur the Klein’s growth. That’s a little scary.

Klein is a pretty grass. It makes tall, slender leaves and a beautiful seed head that glistens in the dew of the sunrise. I concede a point to the modernists on this grass in terms of its ability to grow in tough conditions. But I also note that the cattle eat it but do not prefer it. They will search out the natives to eat before getting to the African grass. They were raised on native so go to it first just like a Texan will go to beef before chicken.

Looking at the larger environment, there are some good things happening against this background of farmers’ angst. The dead zone in the Gulf is shrinking. Considerably less chemical runoff from the farms along the Mississippi Valley from Minnesota to Louisiana and all points in between are allowing the Gulf to revive in part. If ever there were doubters about what was causing the dead zone, this summer’s result should forever quiet them. When will we break Big Ag’s control over Congress and get some restrictions in place on the use of chemicals and pharmaceuticals in farming and feedlotting?

JVF