Our kitchen counter is covered with farming and agriculture industry magazines and news papers. On average we receive about two-three publications each week. In addition, we receive several publications via email or subscribe to their RSS feeds. The information that is available to process is overwhelming at times. This week when I was purging our counter for the recycling bin, I got to thinking “Shouldn’t we know everything there is about agriculture? Shouldn’t we have this figured out by now?” I mean come on, humans have been cultivating plants and raising animals for over 10,000 years. Agriculture is an old science.
Of course I am being sarcastic. Science by definition is systematic knowledge of the physical or material world gained through observation and experimentation. As cultures, economics, and other societal pressures change, our “observations,” facts and knowledge do to. We don’t live in a static world. Our earth is a living and ever changing thing.
As farmers it is hard to keep up. Culture and society constantly change what is in demand and science is always changing what is fact. Sometimes it feels as if us farmers are caught between a tug of war of demands. One side tell us to produce what the customer and markets wants and the other side knowing limitations of our land, animals and our human strengths. We cannot be everything to everyone all the time.
Research is also constantly changing what is “fact.” Sometimes it feels like science is a never ending circle. Take for example calf feeding. Dairy calves were traditionally fed from bottles. Then science “showed” that calves who drank from pails were just as healthy. Farmers changed their methods (because pails are easier to feed from). Then science said “ohh never mind, we were wrong.” Now science “shows” that calves that drink from bottle digest the milk better due to the saliva they produce while sucking. I can give you hundreds of examples of science that is constantly circling around its self. IT IS MADDENING!!
What is really maddening, is when you invest thousands of dollars in the latest and greatest new findings in science. New facilities, technology and equipment can cost tens of thousands of dollars. A few years back compost barns were all the rage. These barns gave cows the freedom to roam as they please and all the farmer had to do was add new bedding material to keep the bedding pack dry. The barns were cleaned out twice a year. MIRACLE, no more scraping manure every day. The bedding just naturally composted. These barns worked (and still do) for many farmers, but not all. Some are experiencing higher mastitis rates and are shaking their heads at the $100,000 building they put in.
The truth is we humans do not know it all and probably never will. I know that God and I will have lots of funny stories to swap some day. The best we can do, is listen to what our soils and animals are telling us and do what we feel in our hearts is right.
Zweber Farms is a 4th generation family operated organic dairy. We are proud Organic Valley farmer members and sell our milk under that label. We also specialize in sustainably raised beef, pork and chicken and sell it directly to customers in Minnesota.Visit our website to learn more, www.zweberfarms.com. Connect with us on Facebook, Twitterand YouTube.