When I grew up there was a prosperous agriculture society out there in rural America. There were lots of small and medium-sized towns full of businesses that supported farm families. You could find schools scattered across the countryside to educate the farmer’s children. Each community would have an elevator for the local farmer’s co-op. The farmers used this to store and transport their corn, grain and other commodities.
Abandoned grain elevator in Winnett, Montana
In the years since I was a child we have continued to become more efficient in agriculture as a results there are fewer farms and ranches, and the ones that are out there are larger.
Today producers, ranchers and farmers, are growing more food than their grandfather’s could have imagined. In spite of the changes of time one thing has not changed, the life of a producer is at the mercy of the winds of nature. A farmer works from sun up to sun down and livestock never takes a vacation. Today the economics of being in agriculture are hard and many people not only run their farm operation, they also hold a second job to make ends meet and even up the ups and downs of crop and animal prices, hail, drought, lost livestock and so much more we can’t imagine. Given a choice more and more folks are choosing to move to the city rather take on the challenges of being a producer.
Today with fewer folks choosing the rural life small towns are dying. When a small town dies not only are businesses loss, but many of the local elevators are being abandoned in favor of larger more centralized elevators. Small elevators are an icon of the past; an icon of agriculture. Just like barns, you see fewer of them across the countryside. They are being abandoned and falling into disrepair. Someday like old farm houses and old barns they will fall down and will no longer be there to remind of the all the people who came before and work out there today to feed the world.
Most folks have heard about colony collapse and bees. I had read about how this was going to impact our crops. Everything popped into my mind from berries to nuts and everything in between. Never though did I think about grass, pastures and rangeland needing bees until I took this job. I have seen hundreds, maybe even a few thousand bee hives out on on the open range. Bees impact more than I had imagined in agriculture and our lives.
One of the many bee hives out there on the open range.
Montana breaks the state up into regions. If you are coming here as a tourist there is a booklet for each of the regions, highlighting the history, things to do, places to stay and whole bunches more. I live in the southwest region of the state often called the Gold West region because this is where it all started after Lewis & Clark. There was gold found in the region and it was to be during those early times, people came in search of quick riches. Last week I was in what we call the Golden Triangle. Not because of the gold that you find in southwest Montana, but because of the golden wheat fields that you find in that region. It is a pretty spectacular place to visit at this time of the year, because the wheat is curing and it is gold as far as you can see. The sky was cloudy or full of smoke from the fire in Glacier park so it was hard to capture what I was seeing but here is my best shot looking at what I had to pick from.
There are thousands of acres of wheat the golden triangle. The points of the triangle are Havre, Conrad and Great Falls. Lots of wheat is grown outside the triangle as well. I wish the sun had been out so I could capture how golden it was.
I have blogged before about when you take on chickens you need to be prepared for the full cycle of life. I also have talked in this blog about when I have culled/butchered chickens and how it is a sucky part of owning a small flock. I haven’t done it to gross folks out or offend them, though some of the private offline emails have received indicated that I am a whole lot of nasty things because of some of the posts. I do it because I want to share with folks that there is a cycle of life to the food we eat and the animals that we own. When you fantasize about the farm life and how wonderful it would be to grow your own things and then harvest them, don’t forget just like your life agriculture isn’t all rosy. If farming or ranching was easy we would still have millions of families still in agriculture. Instead the number of people who grow the food we eat is smaller than ever. More and more of our citizens are so far removed from where their food comes from they can imagine how it all happens even if their logical mind tells the.
I am an advocate for folks growing some of their own food. I think it is important for folks to understand how hard it is to bring food to the table. But I hope you start small and think about what you will do if it is only a phase. Assume it is, it might be one season or a ten year phase, but odds are it will come to an end eventually. If you start with a small garden a little sod can put your life back the way it was. If you choose to have animals it is much more complicated to get started, but also much more complex to stop. With animals you need to be prepared to respectfully end it which in many cases involve butchering.
Remember if you want to be more self-sufficient you can’t be self-sufficient if you only do the easy things and leave the hard decisions for someone else to make.