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COLUMN: Farming fads come and go
I was thinking about all of the fads in farming I’ve come across over these many years.Blue potatoes, the potato of the future. Grow Earth-friendly chard instead of corn. One acre can earn $100,000. You can make a living off one quarter-acre of garlic.Grow switch grass and produce energy. This one ignores the fact that any organic matter fermented will produce methane, which can be combusted in one way or another.Start an aquaponic farm using the latest equipment from Aquaponics are Us.Then there are the buffalo, emus, rabbits, square-foot gardening, growing the lazy gardener way, and so forth.Now the big thing is hemp and marijuana.The one thing every agricultural fad has in common is the get-rich-quick aspect, and the person who seems to already have money to burn is the one who most often touts his success.I’m not saying you can’t have success with almost any fad or trend. Or that you shouldn’t grow blue potatoes, chard and garlic. It’s just that the idea of a thing, and the first burst of enthusiasm, doesn’t necessarily lead to a successful conclusion.In the end, all farming and all gardening is actual work, and that work continues until the crop is successfully harvested and sold, no matter how much money you’ve put into it.I saw a video the other day titled “No-Till Gardening.” Oddly, the first thing the guy did to prepare a garden bed was to rake, and then break out a small garden catalog tiller to mix “the top layer of the soil,” before he added bagged fertilizer, and applied seed with a specialized garden catalog planter.Sorry, that is not no-till. And when you look around, he’s got thousands of dollars worth of stuff to operate what looks to be less than a single-acre setup.That’s all good, but not profitable or necessarily a good way to grow food.I saw another one a few years ago about alpine hay-making in Switzerland. The guy mowed with a beautiful walk-behind, hillside machine. Then later everyone, it looked like a bunch of friends, raked the hay with vintage wooden rakes into rows and gathered it onto a cargo net. The crop was about the size of a loose pickup truck load.After a while, a helicopter arrived picked up the load and flew off.Jeez, either hay prices are really high in Switzerland or this was another video of a privileged someone who has just cut hay for the first time, indulging in the time-honored history of people who don’t really know what they’re doing telling people how to do things.I call this Trust Fund Farming. In some short interval they will announce the sorrow with which they are leaving the farm to get back to the life of being privileged and affluent.In some cases they will take up selling information, equipment and supplies so that you, too, can duplicate their experience. In some cases they will succeed in some way and be the better for it.I’m as guilty as anyone of being attracted by a fad. When I was a kid, it was “getting back to the garden.”I’m guilty of plugging away at it with a lot of failure and a little success for over 40 years.I sure never got rich quick, but I’ve learned a few lessons along the way.Forrest Hartley lives in Hadley, N.Y. If it’s not raining he’s probably hoeing or chasing goats. Leave a message at [email protected]
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