2020 Starting an Organic Grain Farming Operation - Dave Welsch Presentation
Starting an Organic Grain Farming Operation – What You Need to Know Program held Thursday, Jan. 30, 2020 at the University of Nebraska Eastern Nebraska Research and Extension Center. The Mental Transitioning from Conventional to Organic Farming, Dave Welsch - Certified Organic Farmer since 1993 – Milford, NE
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[00:00:06.040]Our first speaker today is Dave Welsch.
[00:00:08.830]Dave's been farming organically since 1993 or so,
[00:00:14.530]he's over by Milford, south of Milford,
[00:00:16.980]in-between Milford and Dorchester.
[00:00:19.170]And Dave also direct-marketed chickens,
[00:00:25.230]poultry, chickens, sheep, lamb, hogs,
[00:00:29.660]so that was part of the thing,
[00:00:31.180]but they've been organically raising
[00:00:33.200]a lot of different crops,
[00:00:35.770]corn, beans, wheat, milo, alfalfa,
[00:00:40.517]and in pasture as well they also have a small cow herd
[00:00:44.250]and everything, so him and his wife Deb,
[00:00:47.260]we'd also visit their farms on several tours at the time
[00:00:50.330]and we had this beginning farmer class
[00:00:53.320]mainly for people that are doing small farms,
[00:00:56.600]and they had Dave's, he's good at numbers,
[00:01:00.020]so he must be doing well, he's not that old,
[00:01:01.790]and he's retired, so must have made some money
[00:01:04.480]farming organically over the years.
[00:01:07.190]So he's actually transitioning his farm
[00:01:10.130]to some other people,
[00:01:11.430]so I'm gonna let him tell you about that today.
[00:01:14.550]So he's got a lot of good experience,
[00:01:15.950]it's good to have people that have been doing it,
[00:01:18.160]and know the problems that happen,
[00:01:20.180]and Dave's gonna be able to do that.
[00:01:21.950]So go ahead Dave, thanks for coming.
[00:01:26.680]Can everybody hear me okay?
[00:01:27.513]I've got the mic on here.
[00:01:33.050]Well, it's great to be here,
[00:01:34.120]and it's great to have a good turnout like this.
[00:01:37.610]I asked my wife to come along.
[00:01:39.110]She comes to most of the meetings that we present at,
[00:01:42.590]and so during the breaks it's great to go first,
[00:01:46.560]so during the breaks, during lunch,
[00:01:48.480]if you have any questions for us,
[00:01:50.750]get ahold of me, get ahold of Deb,
[00:01:52.330]so you've got twice the opportunities to ask us questions
[00:01:57.230]about what we're presenting today.
[00:02:00.000]We started farming organically probably in the late '80s,
[00:02:04.120]and actually became certified organic in '93.
[00:02:08.940]And just a little bit more of our history,
[00:02:11.720]we were originally certified
[00:02:13.240]through the Organic Crop Improvement Association,
[00:02:16.350]it's an international organization,
[00:02:18.740]and back then when we first became organic
[00:02:22.450]they had like local chapters that you would make
[00:02:24.630]your application through.
[00:02:26.380]They'd have a local review committee
[00:02:28.720]that would review your application,
[00:02:30.500]make a decision on if you were certified organic or not.
[00:02:33.910]And so Deb and I were the program directors
[00:02:36.540]for Eastern Nebraska, probably handled
[00:02:38.580]about 80 applications a year,
[00:02:40.970]and back then there wasn't a whole lot of stuff done
[00:02:45.610]on the Internet as far as doing it all electronically,
[00:02:48.350]so we'd have these thick packets
[00:02:50.480]that we'd make six, eight copies of 'em on a copy machine
[00:02:54.330]and distribute them out to the committee members.
[00:02:57.000]So we got to see a lot of applications,
[00:03:00.750]and learn a lot about a lot of different types
[00:03:02.660]of organic farms in Nebraska,
[00:03:04.370]so that was a big plus for us.
[00:03:09.980]Then I think it was about 1998,
[00:03:14.400]usually every chapter would send a member
[00:03:16.900]to the international meeting,
[00:03:18.860]which typically were one year in the United States,
[00:03:22.090]the other year might be in Central America,
[00:03:24.680]or up in Canada.
[00:03:26.150]And I think it was about '98,
[00:03:30.030]I became the international president for a couple of years,
[00:03:32.740]and served on the Board of Directors for that,
[00:03:34.850]so then I got to meet a whole lot more organic farmers
[00:03:38.450]across the country and internationally.
[00:03:45.250]A little bit more of our background,
[00:03:48.410]our people, well, first, let me ask,
[00:03:50.100]how many in here are already certified organic?
[00:03:54.220]So see who's raising their hands,
[00:03:56.320]and if you have more questions,
[00:03:58.900]those are the guys to talk to,
[00:04:00.140]and maybe at the end we'll have you raise your hands again.
[00:04:02.422]You're all a little bit sheepish on the hand-raising,
[00:04:04.810]so we'll try to get 'em up higher the next go-round.
[00:04:09.590]Are people familiar with holistic management?
[00:04:14.190]I mean, it's a lot of grazing is involved in that.
[00:04:17.660]Also works with crop land, finances, goal-setting.
[00:04:22.250]Deb and I took several of those probably back
[00:04:25.250]in the late '80s into the '90s,
[00:04:27.530]and that help set the tone for a lot of what we ended up
[00:04:31.530]doing with all of our farming operation,
[00:04:34.380]but especially with the organic side.
[00:04:37.670]And as Deb and I have gone through our life,
[00:04:40.530]we got married in 1980, I started farming in '78,
[00:04:44.640]while I was still at the University of Nebraska.
[00:04:47.160]My degree's in Ag. Education.
[00:04:50.350]Fortunately I was able to farm right away,
[00:04:52.250]and I didn't have to teach,
[00:04:54.120]and I did do a little bit of substitute teaching,
[00:04:57.700]but I've been involved in education
[00:04:59.240]more on the school board side,
[00:05:00.830]so I've done that for 29 years.
[00:05:04.770]But the three main things that we focus on
[00:05:07.100]when we're trying to make decisions in our lives
[00:05:10.160]is our faith in God, our family,
[00:05:12.740]and how it will impact them,
[00:05:14.640]and then our farming operation.
[00:05:16.430]So those are kind of the priorities that we have.
[00:05:19.970]So when you ask the question,
[00:05:21.160]why did we become certified organic?
[00:05:25.250]First of all, we started with our faith.
[00:05:27.300]We just felt if we would get away from the chemicals,
[00:05:31.470]start doing a more intensive crop rotation,
[00:05:34.430]a more diversified crop rotation,
[00:05:37.040]incorporate livestock into our operation,
[00:05:39.960]which we already had at that time,
[00:05:42.140]we just felt for us that we would be farming
[00:05:45.830]in a way that was more consistent
[00:05:48.000]with how God created nature,
[00:05:50.270]and just the interactions that take place there,
[00:05:52.930]and it's been interesting to,
[00:05:55.050]as you get more into the soil biology
[00:05:57.325]and crop rotations and how everything interacts,
[00:06:00.910]it's pretty amazing how this world was created.
[00:06:05.830]Also for our family, we had pretty young kids.
[00:06:08.620]Our kids were born in '83 and '85, I guess,
[00:06:12.820]so they were pretty young when we started
[00:06:16.610]the transition to organic.
[00:06:18.400]It was just nice not to have
[00:06:21.107]any chemical residue on your clothes or on your hands
[00:06:25.470]when you would come in for a meal, or...
[00:06:30.090]I was pretty hesitant early on
[00:06:31.720]to even really have Deborah, the kids,
[00:06:33.460]come out to a field and bring me lunch
[00:06:35.560]or things like that when we were using more chemicals.
[00:06:39.443]Just didn't think it was right.
[00:06:41.700]So that was for our family's health,
[00:06:43.870]that was one reason that we wanted to go over to organics.
[00:06:48.740]And then as far as farming,
[00:06:51.542]probably the main word that we use is sustainable.
[00:06:54.710]And sustainable can mean a lot of different things
[00:06:58.640]to a lot of different people,
[00:06:59.920]and there are different aspects to sustainability.
[00:07:02.950]One is with the land and with the soil.
[00:07:05.920]We felt that by farming organically
[00:07:07.840]that we could do a better job of taking care of the soil,
[00:07:11.600]building up organic matter, that's key.
[00:07:14.140]In organic farming, organic matter,
[00:07:16.810]you're working with that same word, organic.
[00:07:19.820]Organic matter, no matter what type of farming system
[00:07:24.110]you're using is key.
[00:07:25.970]Especially if you want to be sustainable
[00:07:29.030]to the point where you don't have to continually
[00:07:32.240]bring inputs into your soil,
[00:07:35.080]to allow them to grow a crop.
[00:07:36.900]So building up organic matter has been key for us.
[00:07:40.700]And I guess just on a sidenote,
[00:07:42.210]we probably started on 1.8 to 2.2% organic matter
[00:07:47.800]on our farms.
[00:07:50.723]A few years back we were part
[00:07:51.820]of the conservation stewardship program,
[00:07:54.450]where we did soil testing again.
[00:07:56.200]We haven't really soil tested much
[00:07:57.910]over probably 20 years.
[00:08:00.250]All of our soils were up in the 3 to 4% range at that time,
[00:08:04.680]so it really kind of surprised me how high they were,
[00:08:09.600]but then looking back at the crop rotation we used,
[00:08:13.500]makes sense that it did increase that much.
[00:08:18.080]Always trying to eliminate or reduce soil erosion is key.
[00:08:23.220]Our farms are relatively flat,
[00:08:25.650]we do have some terraces and waterways on them.
[00:08:29.460]Mainly, that kind of came from my dad and my grandpa,
[00:08:32.930]they were very conscientious on soil stewardship,
[00:08:35.640]so we tried to maintain that as well.
[00:08:40.920]One principle in organic farming
[00:08:42.900]that you'll have to kind of shift from, you know,
[00:08:45.020]in conventional ag it's like, okay.
[00:08:47.570]What do I need to add so that I can grow a good crop?
[00:08:50.960]Our focus is on the crop.
[00:08:52.960]We need so many pounds of nitrogen to grow,
[00:08:55.500]you know, 200 bushel of corn, you know,
[00:08:57.320]phosphorous, potassium, trace minerals, things like that.
[00:09:01.820]When you shift over to organic farming,
[00:09:03.660]your focus is more on feeding the soil
[00:09:07.490]so that the soil can feed your crop.
[00:09:10.660]And so that's kind of a shift,
[00:09:11.787]and maybe some of the speakers later today
[00:09:13.800]will focus a little bit more on that.
[00:09:18.660]We had already had livestock on our farm,
[00:09:20.780]so that wasn't a big shift for us.
[00:09:23.950]You don't have to have livestock on a farm
[00:09:26.640]for it to become certified organic,
[00:09:29.300]but we do feel that that is a key component.
[00:09:33.280]You know, especially today with cover crops
[00:09:35.940]that both conventional and organic farms are using.
[00:09:39.420]Livestock are able to utilize the above ground
[00:09:42.410]portion of that cover crop,
[00:09:44.580]while the underground portion of that cover crop
[00:09:46.930]is building your soil.
[00:09:48.690]And by grazing a cover crop,
[00:09:50.920]most of that, they say 80, 85% of that's,
[00:09:54.750]gonna get pushed back out the other end of the animal
[00:09:57.960]and stay right there on the land.
[00:10:00.230]And so we feel that livestock's a pretty key component.
[00:10:07.230]Is anybody farming to make money?
[00:10:10.420]We're trying, so...
[00:10:13.140]And that certainly was one of the reasons
[00:10:16.150]within our operation was how could we be profitable
[00:10:21.840]and sustainable, financially sustainable?
[00:10:25.270]And we felt that moving to organics,
[00:10:27.930]even at the time back in the early '90s
[00:10:30.790]there really weren't any premiums
[00:10:32.420]for the organic crops we were selling.
[00:10:35.320]There might have been a dime on the corn,
[00:10:37.100]or maybe 25 cents on the soybeans.
[00:10:39.920]So trying to get rich by becoming an organic farmer
[00:10:45.910]was not really even on the radar for us.
[00:10:48.540]There were the other reasons that I mentioned
[00:10:50.930]were a much higher priority.
[00:10:59.670]Along with the profitability,
[00:11:03.950]even back in the '80s and '90s, well,
[00:11:05.960]if any of you were farming back in the '80s,
[00:11:08.390]that wasn't the best time to start farming in Nebraska,
[00:11:11.450]and somehow we survived.
[00:11:16.224]There were a couple years in there
[00:11:17.057]we couldn't make our land payments,
[00:11:18.640]and so we had to restructure some of that,
[00:11:21.229]and we bought two different pieces of land in the '80s,
[00:11:25.730]one from my parents, one from a neighbor lady.
[00:11:31.090]We were kind of redoing our wills here a few months ago,
[00:11:34.690]and I got back to looking at some of the original contracts.
[00:11:37.360]The contract with the neighbor lady,
[00:11:40.050]back in '88 we bought that.
[00:11:43.580]Who would guess, what was the interest rate on that?
[00:11:46.669]It was a 15 year amortization with a 10 year balloon,
[00:11:49.290]what do you suppose the interest rate was on that
[00:11:51.200]for buying land?
It wasn't double digits,
[00:11:54.810]quite, but it was 9%, so I think she liked me,
[00:11:58.500]I don't know.
[00:12:00.211]But, she was a nice lady, we'd take her,
[00:12:04.310]I don't know, about a $10,000 check every year,
[00:12:06.700]we'd take her the $10,000 check,
[00:12:08.470]she'd give us a nice bag of cookies,
[00:12:10.180]and so we'd just kind of kid her,
[00:12:11.840]oh, we got our $10,000 cookies here.
[00:12:13.900]And they were pretty good cookies, but...
[00:12:18.340]So what we found kind of in the '80s and '90s,
[00:12:21.863]we were trying to lower our input costs.
[00:12:25.400]And like I said, there wasn't much
[00:12:27.860]of an organic premium back then, but there was a little bit,
[00:12:31.090]so we were just trying to lower our costs
[00:12:34.770]as much as we could.
[00:12:36.630]One of the areas where we lowered costs,
[00:12:39.310]and also was part of our philosophy.
[00:12:40.910]We really didn't like writing a check to a chemical company,
[00:12:44.970]and naturally, it maybe goes through your local coop,
[00:12:47.990]and feeds seeds stores, things like that,
[00:12:50.940]but eventually a lot of that money ends up with Monsanto,
[00:12:54.248]or Dow Chemical, or whoever the latest acquisition's been.
[00:12:58.240]But we said, we really don't like sending money to Monsanto,
[00:13:02.880]we'd much rather invest that money locally.
[00:13:05.990]And so we've hired from junior high, senior high kids.
[00:13:10.190]We're about six miles south of Milford,
[00:13:12.510]where Southeast Community College is.
[00:13:14.970]A lot of those guys were driving nicer pickups than I was,
[00:13:18.250]and I knew they needed to make money for pay for 'em,
[00:13:20.530]so they were more than willing to come out
[00:13:22.290]and walk our fields and pull weeds and cut 'em out,
[00:13:25.910]so that was a great resource for us,
[00:13:28.840]for finding labor to help with our weed control.
[00:13:34.510]So yeah, we're trying to lower,
[00:13:36.540]over the years it was basically lowering our cost,
[00:13:39.530]having higher income through the premiums that we had,
[00:13:42.630]and therefore we had increased profits.
[00:13:45.850]And Deb and I have said this for years,
[00:13:49.140]going through the tough '80s,
[00:13:50.920]if we hadn't have transitioned to organic farming
[00:13:54.100]in the late '80s, early '90s,
[00:13:55.800]we probably wouldn't have farmed much longer.
[00:13:58.150]There just wasn't any profitability
[00:14:01.290]in a conventional system for us.
[00:14:06.670]So then we kind of move on to ask you all the question,
[00:14:08.870]why do you want to become an organic farmer?
[00:14:13.090]And if you're looking at the handout,
[00:14:14.610]the first thing I put is profits.
[00:14:17.230]And then I put wrong answer.
[00:14:20.860]And I know that's probably what has drawn many of you here
[00:14:25.020]is the potential profitability of organic farming,
[00:14:28.790]and that's fine.
[00:14:30.470]Really think some of the reasons that I gave up above,
[00:14:33.250]you really need to take a look at those,
[00:14:35.430]and see if you can be committed to those
[00:14:38.540]before you're committed to the profits
[00:14:40.730]that might lay out ahead of you.
[00:14:44.860]As I mentioned, Deb and I,
[00:14:46.530]we handled a lot of certification files over the years,
[00:14:50.281]and we've seen people, diehard conventional farmers.
[00:14:58.500]Everything needed some type of input,
[00:15:01.170]you needed some answer in a bottle.
[00:15:02.920]And there are answers in bottles
[00:15:05.660]for organic agriculture, in a bag,
[00:15:09.470]but it's really nature that you're trying to work with.
[00:15:11.480]You're really trying to feed the soil,
[00:15:13.620]so the soil can feed your crop.
[00:15:16.160]And the guys that came into it
[00:15:18.030]with more of this high input mentality
[00:15:20.410]from their conventional operation
[00:15:22.670]thought they needed to use that same rationale
[00:15:25.100]in an organic operation.
[00:15:27.790]They went for awhile, they'd have a tough year,
[00:15:32.410]like last year when it rained all the time,
[00:15:34.510]it was hard to get out there in a rotary hoe
[00:15:36.400]and cultivate and keep weeds out of your fields,
[00:15:39.310]and they just threw up their hands and said to heck with it.
[00:15:42.010]So hopefully as you're entertaining the idea
[00:15:47.740]of becoming an organic farmer,
[00:15:50.390]you go beyond just the profitability
[00:15:53.140]and see if you can really get behind
[00:15:54.970]some of the other reasons on becoming an organic farmer.
[00:15:59.320]I get close to my 15 minutes here?
I'm trying to,
[00:16:02.960]I'm halfway through, so I'm doing pretty good,
[00:16:04.910]but I'm hoping to leave some time at the end here
[00:16:06.810]for some questions.
[00:16:09.690]So kind of the title here was,
[00:16:12.240]how does your mind have to change.
[00:16:14.450]You know, mentally, what is the shift
[00:16:16.230]that needs to take place?
[00:16:18.550]Most of us in Nebraska raise corn and soybeans.
[00:16:22.040]In a typical organic operation,
[00:16:24.030]you'll be incorporating small grains, cover crops.
[00:16:27.690]We used a lot of alfalfa in our operation,
[00:16:30.780]and so it's more diversity, typically,
[00:16:34.160]is what you'll find in a certified organic farm.
[00:16:37.220]If you don't have livestock,
[00:16:39.190]that may be something you want to introduce
[00:16:41.000]to your operation as you consider becoming organic.
[00:16:46.300]Adding more equipment, you know.
[00:16:48.600]With today's day and age of no till,
[00:16:51.656]if you've got your planter, you've got your sprayer,
[00:16:54.230]you've got your combine,
[00:16:56.950]you're gonna have to diversify in that area as well,
[00:16:59.300]and I just listed some things
[00:17:00.590]that you'll find on typical organic farms.
[00:17:03.140]A rotary hoe, for early weed control.
[00:17:06.970]A grain drill for either planting small grains,
[00:17:09.680]or cover crops.
[00:17:11.740]Typically other types of tillage equipment.
[00:17:14.150]Disks, field cultivators, those types of things.
[00:17:17.280]Just a plain old row crop cultivator.
[00:17:23.860]I'd say if there's one reason why people
[00:17:26.540]don't become certified organic
[00:17:28.480]is because they don't want to cultivate.
[00:17:30.600]If you're old enough that you used to cultivate,
[00:17:33.800]and now you just swipe it with an 80 foot wide sprayer,
[00:17:37.410]and you're done, going back to running a cultivator
[00:17:40.580]probably isn't high on your,
[00:17:42.530]that's what I want to do with my life list,
[00:17:44.730]but I did a lot of cultivating when we started out.
[00:17:53.140]My son was an excellent on the cultivator
[00:17:56.690]through high school and through the college years.
[00:17:59.240]He came back, helped us every summer.
[00:18:04.560]I don't know, when our kids were getting out of college,
[00:18:08.360]the premiums were just really starting to show up
[00:18:11.010]at that time, I don't know,
[00:18:11.843]did they graduated in the early 2000s I guess?
[00:18:16.870]But up until that point, I mean,
[00:18:18.400]we'd live pretty frugally,
[00:18:20.090]there wasn't a lot of money there,
[00:18:21.530]and so maybe they said, I'm not sure we want to live
[00:18:24.710]as tight with our money as mom and dad did,
[00:18:27.250]so our daughter works for the Veteran's Administration
[00:18:30.910]in Lincoln, works from home four out of five days a week.
[00:18:34.560]Our son is a high school math teacher,
[00:18:36.900]Hastings Public School,
[00:18:38.600]so they're both contributing to society
[00:18:41.060]in a very positive way,
[00:18:43.650]but they are not coming back to the farm,
[00:18:45.550]but we have found a young couple
[00:18:47.960]that will be taking over our operation,
[00:18:49.920]but that's kind of a whole 'nother presentation.
[00:18:55.645]Another thing, let's see...
[00:19:02.010]You're probably gonna have to add more labor
[00:19:03.450]to your operation,
[00:19:04.760]it's gonna take more time to grow an organic crop
[00:19:08.000]with labor costs than what it does conventionally.
[00:19:10.140]There'll be more trips across the field,
[00:19:11.880]there might be hand weed control,
[00:19:13.330]which we talked about a little bit.
[00:19:15.540]You're gonna have to talk to your neighbors
[00:19:16.960]about spray drift.
[00:19:19.000]That is crucial in organic farming to work
[00:19:21.320]with your neighbors to explain to them
[00:19:24.930]that they can't just come out and spray
[00:19:27.290]any old time they want to,
[00:19:28.690]because if they drift upon your field
[00:19:32.050]and cause contamination,
[00:19:34.120]it will take you three years
[00:19:35.740]before you can certify another crop on that field.
[00:19:39.490]Three years of organic premiums
[00:19:41.570]is a very costly mistake by your conventional neighbors
[00:19:45.520]or by a commercial applicator.
[00:19:48.000]So be proactive and talk to your neighbors about this
[00:19:51.960]to prevent spray drift on to your field.
[00:19:55.405]I have a question on that.
[00:19:57.680]What is the legal liability there,
[00:19:59.220]and what's the precedent for spray drift damages?
[00:20:03.762](sighs) I don't know if I can answer that
[00:20:06.380]in a short amount of time here,
[00:20:07.770]but let me see if I can get through this,
[00:20:10.710]and maybe we'll come back to that.
[00:20:15.630]You'll have a lot more paperwork.
[00:20:17.470]There are enough paperwork with conventional ag,
[00:20:20.450]certifying your acres and everything at FSA,
[00:20:23.410]taking pesticide training, and things like that,
[00:20:25.710]documenting your spraying.
[00:20:29.265]But that's the reality,
[00:20:30.098]that there is technology available today
[00:20:32.460]to help with a lot of that.
[00:20:33.640]Maybe some of you are already incorporating that.
[00:20:36.710]The organic certification applications are usually online,
[00:20:41.050]and there's ways using technology to document
[00:20:43.900]everything that you do in an organic field,
[00:20:46.920]from prepping the soil to planting,
[00:20:49.880]cultivating, harvesting, what grain bin does it go in?
[00:20:53.720]What fields are commingled in that same grain bin?
[00:20:56.240]You'll need a lot number when that grain leaves the farm,
[00:20:59.330]for each truckload that leaves the farm.
[00:21:02.070]It's not that difficult,
[00:21:03.660]but you will have to be trained on that
[00:21:05.820]to make sure you're doing it accurately,
[00:21:07.400]and that's typically what we call the audit trail
[00:21:13.630]Can you handle the peer pressure?
[00:21:15.480]That's probably for a lot of us the biggest the thing.
[00:21:20.500]You are gonna have weeds out in your field.
[00:21:22.950]They're not gonna be picture perfect.
[00:21:25.700]With some of today's weed resistance,
[00:21:28.830]fields aren't very picture perfect
[00:21:30.450]on conventional farms anymore either,
[00:21:32.340]so we've had times when our fields
[00:21:34.880]look better than our neighbors that were spraying
[00:21:37.810]because we were very conscientious about it.
[00:21:39.860]We had times when we had to tear up a field and replant it
[00:21:43.860]'cause we couldn't rescue it with some herbicide.
[00:21:48.603]On a lighter note, your friends'll ask you,
[00:21:50.300]why weren't you out at the recent pesticide training?
[00:21:53.690]And you can just kind of grin and keep walking, I guess.
[00:22:00.840]You won't have anything to say at the local coffee shop.
[00:22:03.660]For one, you probably won't be there,
[00:22:05.290]'cause you're home cultivating, or bailing hay,
[00:22:07.400]or doing some of the other diversified things
[00:22:10.010]that come along with an organic farm.
[00:22:12.570]And secondly, all your buddies are complaining
[00:22:15.230]that corn went down a nickel,
[00:22:16.770]and you're saying, whatever the conventional price is,
[00:22:20.430]generally, you take it times two
[00:22:21.870]and that's kind of the ballpark
[00:22:23.090]of what organic prices are.
[00:22:24.560]So no reason to go and complain about prices,
[00:22:27.940]'cause you're probably sitting pretty good in that category.
[00:22:33.390]The biggest thing, you know,
[00:22:34.670]most operations aren't just a one person operation.
[00:22:37.680]You've got either a father-son, or a couple brothers,
[00:22:41.250]uncles, a hired man.
[00:22:44.030]You all have to be committed to farming organically.
[00:22:48.100]If one person in the operation just isn't buying in
[00:22:51.200]to becoming certified organic,
[00:22:53.860]it's really gonna be tough,
[00:22:55.470]'cause when an operation needs done
[00:22:58.260]on a certified organic farm, it has to be done that day.
[00:23:02.670]Obviously, weather permitting.
[00:23:04.960]And sometimes, you have to put in really long, hard days,
[00:23:07.860]and I know everybody that farms put in long, hard days,
[00:23:11.170]but the timing of operations in an organic farm
[00:23:15.480]is absolutely critical.
[00:23:18.090]If you miss that window of rotary hoeing, especially,
[00:23:21.670]or if you miss that window of the first time cultivating,
[00:23:25.720]you're playing catch up the entire rest of the year.
[00:23:28.150]So everybody being on board is very very helpful.
[00:23:32.950]What's the best perk for being an organic farmer?
[00:23:36.200]Your wife and kids give you more hugs,
[00:23:38.340]'cause you don't have chemicals all over ya
[00:23:40.230]when you walk in the house.
[00:23:42.050]And again, that was a high priority for us,
[00:23:44.960]just to keep the chemical residue out of the washing machine
[00:23:49.360]out of contact with our family and our young kids.
[00:23:53.670]Whether that's one of your reasons or not,
[00:23:55.610]that's for you to decide,
[00:23:57.110]but for us that was pretty important.
[00:24:00.280]And most of all, mentally,
[00:24:02.620]you really have to be positive
[00:24:04.350]when you try to become a certified organic farmer.
[00:24:07.550]Like Henry Ford said, "whether you think you can,
[00:24:10.797]"or you think you can't, you're right."
[00:24:14.340]So if you think you can succeed
[00:24:16.040]and become an organic farmer, that's the first step.
[00:24:20.660]And then from there you kind of figure out the rest.
[00:24:23.300]But, so, made it through my sheet.
[00:24:29.181]About seven or eight minutes.
[00:24:30.330]Okay, so go back a little bit
[00:24:32.160]to your question on liability,
[00:24:33.610]we've never had a situation on our farm
[00:24:35.950]where we've had spray drift where we had to,
[00:24:39.950]you know, seek compensation from a neighbor,
[00:24:41.980]so I can't speak personally from that situation.
[00:24:45.900]And it's a little bit tricky
[00:24:49.320]trying to prove the spray drift.
[00:24:54.730]You can probably look up and find it,
[00:24:56.360]there's some state organization,
[00:24:58.020]I don't know if that's Department of Ag that you turn to.
[00:25:02.940]People will come out and document
[00:25:04.410]whether or not there's been spray drift,
[00:25:06.160]and lawyers will probably get rich,
[00:25:08.850]and the farmers on both sides will break even
[00:25:11.210]on the deal at best, so...
[00:25:14.010]It's a tough deal, but be proactive, talk to your neighbors,
[00:25:16.980]talk especially to your commercial applicators,
[00:25:20.090]your coops and places like that.
[00:25:23.070]I mean, that was our biggest challenge,
[00:25:26.015]and my son in law works for one of the coops,
[00:25:29.140]he's their dispatcher for all their grain trucks now,
[00:25:31.570]but he used to one of the big spray applicator rigs.
[00:25:35.450]And I don't know about in your area,
[00:25:38.440]but in our area those guys change about every year or two.
[00:25:41.610]They're young guys out there,
[00:25:43.400]and they're getting paid by the number of acres
[00:25:46.010]that they cover.
[00:25:47.620]So they don't really care which way the wind's blowing
[00:25:50.260]if they can get out there and spray another 160 acres.
[00:25:54.030]And so you really have to communicate
[00:25:55.980]with the commercial applicators
[00:25:57.530]probably more so than your neighbors.
[00:25:58.990]We've had really good neighbors.
[00:26:01.110]They've really done a good job of not overspraying on to us
[00:26:05.340]and so we appreciate that.
[00:26:06.860]You can put up signs as reminders, things like that.
[00:26:10.410]What about areas?
[00:26:12.820]They call us every time they're in the area.
[00:26:15.290]They say hey, 'cause we had,
[00:26:17.690]not recently, but in the last few years,
[00:26:20.240]we used to have a lot of seed corn production,
[00:26:22.870]and I don't know how many times they spray those fields,
[00:26:25.650]probably a half-dozen times.
[00:26:27.930]And we've had like organic farms or fields
[00:26:30.610]on both sides of a quarter section that's in seed corn,
[00:26:33.450]so they'd maybe, the wind's out in the south,
[00:26:35.600]so they'd spray the south halfway across,
[00:26:38.270]then when the wind would shift to the north,
[00:26:39.840]they'd come back and spray the other half.
[00:26:42.330]And you know, they've got a window in which
[00:26:45.730]they need to make applications as well,
[00:26:47.790]but they try really hard, but,
[00:26:49.470]again you just have to communicate with 'em.
[00:26:51.860]DriftWatch is a program that you can register
[00:26:56.450]your organic farms on.
[00:26:58.590]If you raise bees, things like that,
[00:27:01.290]any sensitive crops can be registered on there,
[00:27:05.300]and just about any commercial applicator
[00:27:07.550]is using that as their resource
[00:27:09.350]to make sure that they're not spraying
[00:27:10.800]on to sensitive areas.
[00:27:17.110]I don't know if they're required to or not,
[00:27:20.020]but if they're a smart person,
[00:27:23.020]they would certainly go there.
[00:27:24.280]I mean, it's limiting your liability
[00:27:26.360]is kind of the name of the game
[00:27:27.650]with what especially a commercial applicator, so.
[00:27:32.158]Yeah, you should definitely register there.
[00:27:35.330]Organic people definitely should register for that.
[00:27:37.680]Yeah, all our farms are listed on that registry,
[00:27:40.550]so they'll pop up.
[00:27:42.408]This question might be from long ago for you,
[00:27:44.490]but if you're a conventional and you're changing to organic
[00:27:48.760]there's probably gonna be some time
[00:27:50.070]when you're running two operations.
[00:27:52.595]Can you comment about the difficulty, or?
[00:27:57.300]Yeah, if you've got some conventional and some organic,
[00:28:00.120]I mean, you're gonna have to document cleaning of equipment
[00:28:02.860]between a conventional field
[00:28:04.580]before an interstitial organic field.
[00:28:08.020]The guy that's here from one cert,
[00:28:09.600]I think later today he might have some more
[00:28:12.320]suggestions on that as well.
[00:28:14.490]Probably the biggest thing you really need to clean down
[00:28:16.660]is your harvesting equipment.
[00:28:18.560]I mean, there are so many nooks and crannies
[00:28:20.570]in a combine to clean out,
[00:28:23.060]especially going from conventional to organic,
[00:28:26.340]you gotta strip the whole.
[00:28:27.520]Every cover plate or any access point
[00:28:31.920]to get inside that combine and vacuum it out, blow it out,
[00:28:36.450]you really need to put a huge amount of effort into that.
[00:28:40.510]Even for us, going from corn to soybeans,
[00:28:45.110]we try to get as much corn out of there as we could
[00:28:47.420]because the guys that were taking our soybean crop,
[00:28:51.110]especially if it was food grade,
[00:28:53.670]they didn't want any corn in there,
[00:28:55.010]whether it was organic or what.
[00:28:56.700]So clean out of a combine.
[00:29:00.160]You get pretty good at it after awhile,
[00:29:02.380]and I'm not saying you get fast at it,
[00:29:04.840]but it can take half a day to a day to clean out a combine,
[00:29:08.900]just depending on how tricky it is to get in there,
[00:29:12.400]and get access to it.
[00:29:15.190]Any other, way in the back?
[00:29:16.390]Is it true you gotta store your boat
[00:29:17.980]in your lake house, 'cause you're never gonna use it?
[00:29:21.259]I never had a boat or a lake house.
[00:29:26.120]Basically, Deb and I, like Gary said,
[00:29:28.270]we retired about two years ago.
[00:29:29.940]Before I turned 60 we retired.
[00:29:33.170]And it was due in part to the premiums,
[00:29:35.780]and our ability to generate income
[00:29:38.160]by being a certified organic farmer.
[00:29:40.960]It wasn't due to any inheritance.
[00:29:43.720]We both still have one parent alive,
[00:29:45.740]so we didn't get rich through inheritance,
[00:29:48.400]we got rich through a lot of hard work.
[00:29:50.760]And if you look at our kids, they both know how to work,
[00:29:55.100]because they both helped a lot on the farm,
[00:29:57.445]and a lot of pluses there.
[00:29:59.910]But we hardly ever, in the summer time,
[00:30:02.570]when our kids played baseball and softball,
[00:30:05.100]hardly ever missed a game.
[00:30:07.300]And so it's not like you're stuck on the farm 24/7.
[00:30:13.502]Unless you're gonna have an organic dairy,
[00:30:15.280]then you probably are.
[00:30:17.851]But there's life choices there.
[00:30:21.440]There's priorities that you choose everyday,
[00:30:23.590]whether it's priority on which operation am I gonna
[00:30:26.850]accomplish on the farm today?
[00:30:28.850]What's the most critical?
[00:30:30.620]Where am I gonna get the biggest bang for the buck,
[00:30:33.060]or basically where am I gonna get the biggest bang
[00:30:35.320]out of my eight hour day or 12 hour day?
[00:30:38.050]Where am I gonna focus that time?
[00:30:40.530]And for us, part of that time was focused on our kids.
[00:30:43.890]It was a priority, and so...
[00:30:46.180]We had hay crops that got lost
[00:30:47.930]because we weren't out there to bail 'em,
[00:30:49.710]because we went to a ball game and it rained that night,
[00:30:52.980]and as you know, sometimes the rain storms pop up,
[00:30:56.325]we'll get that tomorrow morning, and then it rains.
[00:30:59.640]Storm pops up.
[00:31:01.280]That's just life.
[00:31:03.220]But it's a life choice that we made,
[00:31:05.110]to be at our kids' ballgames,
[00:31:07.340]and when we budgeted every year at the start of the year,
[00:31:11.150]we'd budget for yields prices, all of that.
[00:31:14.740]We went, as probably most of you do,
[00:31:17.030]you'll budget high on your expenses,
[00:31:18.860]you budget low on your income,
[00:31:21.080]and we intentionally budgeted low on income,
[00:31:23.340]because we knew, because of life choices like going
[00:31:26.180]to a ball game, maybe the income wouldn't be as high
[00:31:29.250]as what we could have had, but...
[00:31:33.030]In the long run it was the right choice to make.
[00:31:37.750]One more question on the documentation.
[00:31:41.780]Probably get some training on that,
[00:31:43.730]or do you need get trained on it?
What type of resources
[00:31:48.111]are out there?
Yeah, I'm guessing the guy
[00:31:51.830]that talks about the certification
[00:31:53.440]might have a little input on that.
[00:31:57.327]I kind of quit doing the day-to-day field documentation
[00:32:02.420]quite awhile ago.
[00:32:06.570]I don't know, I wish I could say,
[00:32:09.010]go to www.whatever, and there's a great resource out there.
[00:32:14.220]I think there are a lot of places
[00:32:17.720]that can help document all operations
[00:32:20.130]on individual fields using technology.
[00:32:22.690]We just used a three-ring binder with a sheet originally,
[00:32:27.160]and then I just took all the,
[00:32:28.680]you know, you got planning date, crop variety,
[00:32:32.610]when you cultivated, when you rotary hoed,
[00:32:34.820]all the field operations.
[00:32:36.100]Then what date did you harvest,
[00:32:37.590]how many bushels did you harvest,
[00:32:39.140]what bin did it go into?
[00:32:40.670]All that we did just on a foldout piece of paper,
[00:32:45.390]and then I put it just on a spreadsheet,
[00:32:47.360]and that's kind of what I did for many years,
[00:32:49.450]I just recorded that on a spreadsheet.
[00:32:53.021]And you know it really --
It sounds like
[00:32:54.090]they train in this too, for people that came into
[00:32:57.991]the cabinet, they probably still do that now, I don't know.
[00:33:02.490]Yeah, I don't know
[00:33:03.323]if the certification organizations do that
[00:33:05.080]so much now or not, but...
[00:33:07.900]And like I said, I think on the front page of the handout,
[00:33:10.980]if you have any questions, comments, see us today,
[00:33:13.880]we've got our email and phone number on there.
[00:33:17.870]I'm retired and we love to talk to people
[00:33:20.490]that want to become certified organic.
[00:33:22.770]We don't charge anything,
[00:33:24.620]but when you make your millions of dollars
[00:33:26.900]and you look back and say, boy,
[00:33:28.080]Dave really helped us out there,
[00:33:29.380]just send us a check when you're...
We'll call it good, so.
[00:33:35.090]Thanks Dave, and we're gonna have a panel
[00:33:37.050]at the end, so they'll ask some questions there.
[00:33:39.750]Let's give him a hand.
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