As we learned during our shoot, John is farming basically as it was done 100 years ago. This refers primarily to multi- crop farming, employing methods of simple crop rotation, and growing both food and animals without the use of herbicides, pesticides, growth hormones or genetically modified feed. We even learned that some degree of weed cover in the cornfield, contrary to being huge concern, can actually keep the soil more moist so it can naturally better withstand periods of drought.
So here I am pretending to do hard work on the farm. While most of John’s techniques hearken back to times past, there are some new-fangled machines on his farm now that make the hard work a bit more palatable – like the cute Kubota tractor I’m sitting on in the picture. And the sporty four- wheeler John uses to move more quickly between the far-flung grazing pastures and the pig barn.
But there is no escaping the fact that a farmer’s life is one of hard work from dawn to dusk, and even through the night during the birthing season. It’s not just that it requires hard work; it also demands that one become a very resourceful jack- of- all- trades, because living on paper thin margins, as most small farmers do, you’d go broke if you didn’t get very creative.
John shared many stories that illustrated this to us. When he began to renovate the pig barn, he needed a new roof. Lacking the funds to hire a barn roofer, he improvised by “borrowing” an unused above- ground pool from his neighbor, split it in half and installed it as a waterproof roof. It has served its purpose very well. In the back of the same barn, John faced another very expensive project of creating a bridge from the raised ground behind the barn into the upper level of the barn to allow for heavy deliveries. While pondering the solution, one day he passed an unused flatbed trailer on the side of a road that was for sale. The lightbulb went off and he managed to haul it back home and down to the pigbarn. Next, through a harrowing, gravity- defying maneuver, he was able to extend it across the gap until it was anchored securely on the floor of the barn. John’s makeshift bridge withstands loads of over 15,000 pounds!
I confess that I was not able to perfect unloading the hay during my time on the Kubota, but I did get to watch John move thousands of pounds of hay into the barn for the cows to enjoy all winter. It is inspiring to watch a farmer do his work!
- Nancy Vick,
Producer & Writer