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Showing posts from March, 2012

A Matter of Perspective

We're working with some homeowners near Auburn to try to control yellow starthistle using sheep.  As part of this experiment, the homeowners are also spraying some of the starthistle patches.  Several weeks ago, I heard second hand that the man who is applying the herbicide told the homeowners that grazing wouldn't work.  I didn't feel too bad - I feel the same way about the long-term effectiveness of spraying!

His comment, however, made me think about the difference in perspectives that would lead one to favor grazing over herbicides (or vice versa).  I'm not necessarily opposed to using herbicides as a tool (if they can be used safely).  To me, though, herbicides are often used to treat a symptom rather than a disease.  Let me explain.

Yellow starthistle is often a symptom of larger land management issues. Infestations seem to occur where there's been soil disturbance, un-managed grazing, or other problems.  Starthistle, with it's deep tap-root, can often out…

Plow to the End of the Row

Perseverance and discipline are characteristic of most of the successful small farmers I know.  The work of farming requires us to work until the work is done - there's no "in basket" that can wait until tomorrow.  A job that's started must be finished.  We all must plow to the end of the row - I can't quit shearing a sheep halfway through the job.

Sometimes the perseverance and discipline that we apply to the physical work of farming doesn't extend to the business and economic work of farming.  Small farms are small businesses, and the sustainability of our farms requires us to be profitable over the long term.  Indeed, a farm that doesn't make a profit will not be able to care for the animals, natural resources and people that depend on it's proper management (at least over the long term).  Many of us farm because we've rejected the typical American embrace of material wealth, but this does not excuse us from the necessity of "knowing the …