Seeking sustenance in farming

Published 12:00 am Monday, February 12, 2001

CLARKS GROVE – After the farm crisis of the ’80s, Linda Noble and her husband had to try something different on their Kenyon, Minn.

Monday, February 12, 2001

CLARKS GROVE – After the farm crisis of the ’80s, Linda Noble and her husband had to try something different on their Kenyon, Minn. farm.

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&uot;After coming out of the farm crisis, we ate up about all the equity we had gained,&uot; she said. &uot;The banker was there and he said, ‘Well, what are you going to do?’&uot;

To answer the question, the Nobles began exploring sustainable alternatives for their dairy operation. They discovered that grazing and direct marketing was the answer for them.

Pasturing milk cows and hogs has improved herd health dramatically, Noble said. It uses less electricity, and cuts feed and fuel expenses. And since they have been pasturing animals, Noble has liked her job a lot more.

&uot;I enjoy raising them much more than I ever did in the barn,&uot; she said. &uot;It’s just fun, and a joy to watch.&uot;

Noble met Saturday with other local farmers interested in agricultural alternatives at the South Central Minnesota Sustainable Farming Association’s annual meeting and trade show in Clarks Grove.

&uot;What we promote is good farming practices in order that future generations of farmers have a viable way of living and viable way of feeding the world,&uot; said Wes Tennis, chapter president.

Most of the chapter’s 37 active members come from Freeborn, Mower, Steele, Waseca, Worth and Martin counties, but anyone is welcome to join, Tennis said.

&uot;We exclude nobody,&uot; Tennis said. &uot;Anybody who farms should be interested in sustainable, because that’s the future.&uot;

Sustainable farmers try to reduce pesticide use in their fields and work on building their soils, said club coordinator Marlene Vogelsang.

&uot;Sustainable is just reduced use,&uot; she said. &uot;Try to build your soil, try to protect the environment.&uot;

&uot;Sustainable practices improve the overall health of the soil so it can do more of the work itself,&uot; said member Lisa Dugger.

Dugger, a conventional farmer who incorporates sustainable practices in her operation, said members of the sustainable agriculture association are willing to try new practices to achieve those goals.

In a panel discussion,

Noble, amaranth pancake mix developer Wayne Applegate, and National Resource Conservation Service conservationist Chris Borden gave their thoughts on the future of farming and sustainable agricultural practices. The discussion was moderated by local humorist and &uot;recovering dairy farmer&uot;Al Batt.

Panel members agreed that the future of farming depends on better communication between rural and urban populations.

&uot;I guess I’m just amazed at the amount of ignorance out there,&uot; Applegate said.

&uot;Farmers do not have the respect,&uot; he said. &uot;Is it because you’re only 2 percent (of the population), or is it because you’ve been growing food forever and ever?&uot;

Agriculturalists will have to stand together to make sure their concerns are heard by the larger population, Borden said. Even though farmers don’t agree on some issues, there is a lot more uniting them then dividing them, he said.

&uot;I’m amazed by the productivity and the work in best management practices I see in Freeborn County,&uot; Borden said.

&uot;We’re concerned, because at the state they’ve cut sustainable funds,&uot; Tennis said. &uot;Nationally there’s been an increase in sustainable funds.&uot;

Incentives through the Soil and Water office encourage farmers to install field windbreaks and buffer strips, and to try strip tilling, Tennis said. The Sustainable Farming Association tries to encourage best management practices by sharing ideas in house meetings and field demonstrations, he said.

For more information about the Sustainable Farming Association, contact President Wes Tennis at 507-256-4888.