As a brand new farmer, I farmed conventionally for two years and broke even both years on one quarter section. Not so good. No profit. Farming has to make money or there is no point in doing it, right?
I decided I could make a little more money if I converted to organic, plus I didn’t like spraying all those chemicals. So I began the next year with a crop of oats, and I didn’t spray. Well, in the spring, what popped out of the ground was a beautiful field of wild mustard weed. Again not so good. The oats did grow, but they suffered under the canopy of the wild mustard.
From a distance, the field looked like a canola field. I hung my head in shame thinking that once again, I would not make a profit. Some farmers laughed. Some jokingly commented on how beautiful my canola crop looked. And some probably thought I was one bale short of a hay stack! In desperation I searched the web for a solution, but could find nothing. I resigned myself to just let it grow and harvest whatever I could in the fall instead of plowing it under.
That summer I spoke to many farmers and eventually met up with an old timer who used to farm organically. Over coffee at his place, I told him about my field and all the things that went wrong. To my surprise, in one hour he gave me more info on how to farm organically than I had learned in months of searching on the net.
With this new-found knowledge, I purchased a few more pieces of old farm equipment to help me out. Fall came, and the oats, wild mustard, wild buckwheat, and all the other weeds that offered me their seed were pouring into the combine. It was a mess that looked like a dog’s breakfast, but, thanks to my friend, the old timer, I used an old-fashioned screening system I had found for $400.00 at a local farm auction to separate the small weeds from the larger oats . It worked so well, I was able to remove 99% of all the junk from the oats.
With this new found hope, I felt confident I could farm organically. But what was I to do with all these weed seeds like wild mustard? Most farmers just dig a hole in the field and bury them four feet under. I did some brainstorming and research, and then it came to me. I could crush them like they crush canola seeds to make my own fuel.
Since then, I have designed and built my own bio-diesel reactor, purchased a grain burning stove, and purchased a small canola crusher. My tractors and trucks run on my homemade bio-diesel, a major reduction of my fuel farming costs. I also heat my home on weed seeds, saving even more money.
The second year I planted wheat and was able to keep the weeds to a minimum. During the summer, I noticed I had a wheat midge problem. (A midge is a little bug that eats the wheat.) It wasn’t an all out devastating infestation, but I asked around to a few farmers who all told me I should spray to get rid of the pest. However, I knew if I sprayed, I would no longer qualify to be organic. So I went back to the web in hopes of an answer. I found nothing but chemicals used to kill the bugs.
I once again resigned myself to just letting the crop grow and harvesting in the fall if the bugs left anything to harvest.
I once read a quote by Ambrose Bierce, “Patience: A minor form of despair disguised as a virtue.” That sort of summed it up for me. But this story gets better. Much better! I have to tell you! Are you sitting down in your chair?
A miracle happened. About a week later, I noticed a new critter in the field. Lady bugs. Lady bugs and more lady bugs. What seemed like millions of them. Everywhere I looked and everywhere I walked, lady bugs would land on my arms, hands, and hair. I wondered what in the world they were doing in the field because I had not seen them there before. To my amazement, they were eating the pesky wheat midge. Just when I thought all hope was lost, the small seemingly insignificant lady bug came to my rescue.
Every day I would walk through the field and marvel at the tiny creatures that were now living in my field creating balance the way it was designed to work. You know the best thing I ever did was choose not to follow the conventional wisdom. Had I sprayed the first year for weeds, I wouldn’t have all this free bio-diesel. Had I sprayed the second year for the bugs, I would have killed the wheat midge, but I also would have indiscriminately killed many other critters like the amazing lady bug. I wouldn’t have let the natural cycle of the field follow its course. I would have missed out on a major blessing.
Organic agriculture is sustainable. I can’t help but wonder what we as a people could accomplish if we were just a little more patient.