Seeds — Why they changed – York News-Times


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Seeds -- Why they changed

By Kerry Hoffschneider
I was reflecting about the many different farmers and ranchers from all over the country I have interviewed, and I thought it would be fitting to compile a series of quotes from some of them about why they changed and pursued a soil health focus in their practices. The following are a few examples that really inspire me.Instead of growing the farm, Scott and Pam Heinemann are actually giving up a little bit of land year by year. Pam said, “We don’t have the desire to keep getting bigger and bigger. We just want to get better and better.”It’s also about the community, Scott added, “You hear the talk about the school struggling to stay open in Winside. We’re not going to have students if the farms just get bigger and bigger. We need to bring people back. We need more families farming fewer acres. The system is not working for communities. It’s driving people out. The neighbors will agree with me at times, but many of them just say, ‘That’s just how things are going. We can’t do anything about it.’ I say, ‘We can do something about it.’”“It’s about people,” Kayla Pollock of the JK Pollock Ranch said. “Kids being safe and happy. People come to me and say, ‘A farm is a great place to raise kids.’ Well, sometimes. It takes work to keep a place. I would like us to be professional about it enough that the farm is not a big headache when they are stepping into our shoes.”Josh Freiberger of Hague Angus Ranch said without a shadow of a doubt, “Much of where breeding philosophies have gone wrong is with all this technology. The cow/calf guys and status quo seedstock producers are relying more on modern conveniences instead of the instincts God gave them to raise an animal to function in a real-world environment.”Katherine Minthorn of the Umatilla Tribe relayed passionately, “If you own land, you have to do something positive with it. If you want the land to be healthy and viable, that means regenerative agriculture – restoring the resilient functions of the soil.”“When I talk to people, I tell them I am trying to make sure my grandchildren are going to survive,” Minthorn added soberly. “People side-eye me at times. No, I am not sick with cancer or dying, but I know how fast life goes by. I am 64. My 40s and 50s have gone by in a blink of an eye. I want the next generation to have the potential to take care of themselves and feed themselves. I am trying to pick up where my dad and grandfather left off.”Sandy Bragg, a regenerative potato farmer explained, “The soil is Mother Earth’s skin. I like to say we are slipping seeds softly under her skin.”“The soil has changed so much – and not for the better,” Jeff Bragg echoed his wife.“Less is more with all of this,” Sandy went on to explain. “Trust Mother Nature that she knows what she is doing. Trust nature’s processes. It’s about best management practices – not everyone has to be organic, but they should use the best management practices they can over chemicals.”“Regenerative Ag,” seems too much of a label for farmer Brian Brhel’s free-thinking mindset, but he gets it. “I guess people need labels. You can get placed in these ‘boxes’ and I know why. It’s because people want to associate with some type of direction. What comes to mind for me though is we are simply following ‘nature’s guide’ and natural processes. No matter how you want to label that, it’s about observation and using your brain.”“I thought he was crazy at first,” Ginger Emmons admitted about her husband Jimmy making changes on the farm. “After he had the first cover crop, he said he was going to sow seed right through it and I said, ‘There’s no way it’s going to work.’ But I was sold after that first year.”“The quality of products we are raising has been affected by how we have treated our soil,” Jimmy Emmons said in closing. “That is a big hurdle to try and see at first and fully understand. But making changes like these on the farm is a life changer. Once you see it, it’s like, ‘Holy cow, why haven’t I done this sooner?’ Don’t be afraid to fail. I really like that saying. Be afraid not to try.”

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