Monday, July 20, 2015

One year anniversary of our second farm!

July 21, 2014

Tomorrow is our one year anniversary as owners of Mike's family farm in Henry, IL. I never wrote about it on here, but it was quite the drama. He's wanted the farm for as long as I can remember, but it was in a trust with his father and all of his father's siblings as trustees. Mike's grandfather created the trust in such a way that it could not be sold without unanimous approval of all trustees, which was a pretty smart move. For years, four of the six siblings wanted to sell, but Mike's father and an uncle in Alaska had said no. Then after Mike's father died, the other hold-out finally gave in and agreed to sell, so the farm was put on the market.

It was truly the most back-n-forth drama of my life. I lost track of how many times we thought we had it, but then, on no, we can't get it. Here is the very abridged version ....

We initially thought we couldn't afford it, but after lots of brainstorming and a good bit of luck, it looked like we could buy it with a little help from a silent partner. But then someone else put down a contract on it before we did, and he was threatening to sue if they didn't sell it to him. But then it looked like that wasn't a problem. Then two of Mike's uncles decided to take a piece of the land for themselves, which meant we only had to come up with financing for 67 acres instead of 97, and they even said we could use their land, which was even more awesome. We truly were not sure that we were going to get it until the day that we sat down and signed the papers.

Mike in soybean field in 2014
Then the real work began. Of the 67 acres we bought, about 27 are tillable, while the rest are forest and wetland. It had been farmed conventionally with corn and soybeans for about 50 years, and our goal was, of course, to transition to organic something, although we didn't know what at the time. We didn't really care what was growing there -- as long as it was organic. We still don't care exactly what the crop is, as long as it's organic.

I posted all over the Internet and asked every organic farmer I knew, trying to find someone who would plant something organic on the 27 tillable acres this year. We thought we had someone who was going to plant hay, but that fizzled in a very odd manner with more drama. In January I spoke with a crop consultant who said that it wouldn't be the end of the world if we let the land lay fallow for a year and then just till under everything that grew, and that's pretty much what has happened.

Mike planting on Memorial Day 2015
We did go out there on Memorial Day and plant two very long rows of winter squash and melons, which can easily grow without day-to-day attention. Although they are growing, they are growing much more slowly than the garden on our farm here. We took some manure and straw out there for fertility, but it obviously wasn't enough, so we'll need to fertilize some more. We've never before transitioned land that was previously farmed conventionally, although I've heard it takes a few years to get it to liven up. We'll take another pickup load of manure out there, and I'm thinking I'll also buy some fish emulsion.

It appears we have found someone who is willing to plant organic wheat and hay for us on a purely contract basis. He doesn't want to do a 50/50 share as many farmers do because he already has his own hay business and has enough trouble selling his own hay. So, the goal is to build a storage building out there next spring and to grow the hay and wheat (straw) for our own use here on Antiquity Oaks. I've never been able to buy organic hay or straw around here in the past, so I'm especially excited about that prospect.

I was going to take pictures today to show you how our squash and melon plants were doing, but the rain chased us away prematurely.


Lori said...

wow, wonderful, and what a saga! glad it worked out so well for you. :)

Michelle said...

Wow; that's big news! How far is farm #2 from farm #1?

Deborah Niemann said...

It's an hour west of us, which is unfortunate. That's why we can't do more out there personally.


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