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Settling the Dust

Posted 7/8/2011 7:30am by Julie Hurst / Roy Brubaker.

After several weeks of having thunderstorms and showers miss us by only a few miles, we finally received nearly an inch of rain yesterday.    Everything looks brighter this morning.   The feeder pigs that are out on pasture have resumed their mining of the earth for grubs and worms.    Bob has been lingering on pasture instead of heading for the coolness of the barn at the break of dawn.  A mere almost-inch of rain will not last long in mid-July, but it is a welcome reprieve from  the dust that had settled on the bristled grass.  

Over the last several years our market demand and animal numbers have begun to increase significantly.    This is mostly a good thing except the amount of time Roy has to put towards farming has actually decreased and my time... like yours I'm sure, does not magically increase even as our lives get busier.    Knowing we couldn't continue on this trajectory we began thinking of ways we can reduce our work load while continuing to supply our markets.   It was early this spring that we got a call from Jim Shenk.   He and his wife are crop farmers and their crop of choice is grass.    His offer to us, along with other cattle farmers, was that he supply grass for our feeders steers.   Knowing our time and grass supply would be more than maxed out this summer, we decided working with JimRay Farms was a great option for us.   We sent 19 feeder steers to their organically certified farm only 15 miles north of us.   They rotationally graze them and make a lot of hay on other organic or transitioning farms around the county.   Everytime I drive up to Village Acres I pass their farm and see our steers out on their pastures and am relieved that I am not the one moving fences for them!   We get to do what we enjoy most -- for me that's marketing and for Roy, building our registered herd by selecting from good genetics - basically choosing good mama cows, quality bulls, and being around to see the beautiful little calves that come as a result.  The wonderful part of this arrangement is Jim and Rachel get to do what they enjoy most too.   Growing good grass and providing a service to farmers like us who are marketing grassfed beef.   Building relationships with other like-minded farmers is really the only way we can grow and stay sane.   Actually even if we just want to maintain our current size it is the only way we can stay sane and farm with integrity.    

When we moved to Shade Valley twelve years ago one of my fears was that I would not develop a sense of community with the people around me.    In college and immediate years following,  that sense of being part of a shared community was so easy and felt so necessary.    What I've learned since living here is community comes in many forms and it is necessary, perhaps for different reasons.   It doesn't look like the homogeneous community of a college campus and it may not be built on easy friendship per se, but it is strong because it is built on the necessity of cooperation.    We've lucked out -- we been able to work closely with so many good farmers and supportive businesses.   It's not always perfect or easy, but it is very satisfying.