Renee and I have made some pretty amazing friends along this journey we call the Barry farm. Each enterprise that that we are involved with has a back story that always has mentorship in it. With sheep we lean on Alan McAnally and John Hodge. For red wattles there is sweet melissa parker and for bees our dear friend Jenny Scott. Jenny makes her living doing what she lives to do. Saving honey bees and helping home owners. Jenny does and specializes in honey bee extractions. When bees move into houses , businesses, trailers and the like she cuts them out and removes the bees alive with a bee vacuum. Once removed she finds a new home for them (most hives end up back at her home ) but some lucky friends she shares her bees with.
Last night Jenny and I rehived 5 new hives for us at the farm. Not only did we bring bees home to the farm, but I’m grateful for all of Jenny’s patient teaching. Each time I’m with Jenny I learn so much. Passionate people can’t help but teach. It is a common character trait of passionate talented people.
Found these tiny little eggs in with the duck. Layla wanted to know if we were going to start a duck egg CSA.
Renee and I declared that this farm life of ours is ready for the next level. We had visits from family that encouraged us greatly then the NRCS and the Cochran fellows. We seemed to be on a roll. Then one by one we seemed to unravel at the wheels. Our family is full of resolve and we remain confident of our past success and the promise of a wide open bright future. Pray for our health prosperity and most of all that what we do matters. When doubt comes to me it is almost always in the same form. The doubt is that what we are fighting for doesn’t matter and that it doesn’t make a difference to anyone.
It is kind of a good issue to have but the generous amount of rain and our managment techniques have us up to our eyeballs in forge. Improving soil, feeding lambs, and balancing cultural/economic/environmental impacts. We have learned a lot about managed intensive grazing but knowledge is not a replacement for experience. That is gaining by the day.
Not sure if it is foolish or a more positive attribute. But when it comes to the farm we are more than willing to experiment a little. Especially when it comes to letting something we think is natural happen. Most experiments just require for us to get out of the way. Do you spray your tree line? Do you haul brush after running the chainsaw? Looks like our solution to maintaining the tree line will be sheep. The whole is where the lambs had access to for just 2 days!
We had the very distinct pleasure this week to host Dr. Sergio Capareda and 3 Cochran Fellows to tour The Barry Farm. These foreign nationals have won a grant from the U.S.D.A. to visit the United States to learn of our agricultural practices and hopefully to take some of our techniques back with them to their home countries. Dr. Capareda has been a follower of this blog for the past few years and asked if we would be willing to host them for a tour. Renee and I never turn down tours if our schedule permits it because education is part of our Holistigoal. (more on that later) The fellows first stop on their journey her in the US was to our farm then on to two confinement chicken operation, then to visit 3 cattle concentrated animal feed operations then finally to commercial dairies in central texas. Dr. Capareda told me he wanted to start with us to show them that there is an alternative to what they were going to see and desired to give them a balance of what American agriculture can be. I have never been prouder to be the alternative voice to American agriculture. If Dr. Capareda would have asked me a year ago I would have been glad to have them but would have far less perspective than I have now. Like most journeys worth taking in life farming has a huge learning curve. That curve is what keeps me engaged, challenged, and looking for more out of our farm.
You may know that Renee was thankfully selected to H.M.I’s begining women farmer and Rancher program last year and it has changed our farm methods greatly. HMI and the relationships we have formed have transformed our approach to grazing, focused our business plan and taught us the “triple bottom line”. As we walked our pastures and spoke of the kind of farm we are I kept hearing myself envoke H.M.I. principles and cite people like Joe and Peggy Maddox, Bud Williams and Greg Judy. I described why I don’t have a large system of alleys chutes and gates I told them because of Bud Williams teaching on being a good stockman. We separate ewes and lamb to wean out in the field by changing body position in a paddock and walk sheep all around our suburban patch work farm. It is quite a site for the neighbors I’m sure to see us walking sheep down the road to rotate pastures. When we talked of the question of ”what does your farm make” I knelt down separated the thigh high grass to expose the soil life and channeled HMI and Greg Judy and explained all we make is great soil biology and our efforts are into making that community thrive. When asked about the business of the farm I redirected their questions toward the triple bottom line of economic, environmental and societal success. Each one of those needs to be balanced in order for a farm to be a success and even more important a valued indispensable member of a community. If a farm cannot make enough money to not only sustain itself but to provide a living for its farmers then it is failing the economic bottom line. If it smells like manure, pollutes the water or mines the earth of all its nutrients then it is not passing the environmental bottom line. If your farm is hated by its neighbors, has kids that are not proud of it and is an eyesore then it is failing the societal bottom line. I urged both the professor and the fellows to keep these in mind when touring factory farms and CAFO’s. Not just to identify why these systems are inherently not good but to identify just why not. Is a pastured system better than a CAFO for ruminants? Of course it is but why. CAFO are awful places because they fail all three bottom lines. They make little money, have manure lagoons, no grass and the animals eat concentrated feed. I’m glad that HMI has equipped small family farms like ours to be a practical voice for a better way in American Agriculture. To point out what used to be normal 70 years ago and have the guts to fight to bring what was lost back. I’m also glad for Dr. Capareda having the vision to included our farm in his presentation to foreign nationals of what american farms can be like. Thank you H.M.I. for giving us the knowledge and tools to speak knowledgeably about the sustainable process that can revive american farms. And thank you Dr. Capareda for allowing me to share my vision and experience of the potential of family farms who dare to put their heart and back into their dreams.