Most farmers want to improve their farm and are constantly on the search for better ways of farming, not only to get more profits but also to look good to their neighbours. Let’s face it, everyone knows if your crops are the worst looking in the district and no farmer wants to be that person!
Is this one of the reasons that keeps farmers doing the same thing year after year but getting the same or worse results? Is it better if you follow conventional practices and not getting the results that you want or is it better to try something different and not get the results that you want? Have a think about it. The next year when you make a change to a more natural way of farming you most likely will see some good results. But what will you get if you never change? The definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Most of us do this until something happens to jolt us out of our set way of thinking.
What does it take to make a farmer change his way of farming?
In our experience it seems that it usually takes a disaster to happen. This disaster is usually a severe setback to a farm’s profitability and the farm system has gradually ground to a near halt. Signs such as compacted soils, weeds, pests, poor plant and animal growth all lead to lower returns and higher costs to run the farm. This has forced many to look at other ways to farm. More recently others have been unable to keep up with the rise in fertiliser and fuel costs once again providing a reason to rethink. The other main reason farmers make the change is health – either his own or that of a loved one – which has been impacted through the use of chemicals and often through the stress of farming conventionally with the added problems that it attracts.
What are the first steps usually taken to make the change to more sustainable farming?
When a farmer starts down the road of more sustainable farming it is usually because the connection has been made that many of the recurring problems simply do not exist when the soil is biologically active and nor did the problems exist years ago. This awareness could result from attending a talk, reading his local farm journal, talking to a nearby farmer who is farming more biologically, watching TV or getting advice from a farm representative, etc. He then starts to rationalise the use of products and practices that are damaging the soil health because he has become aware of the importance of building a healthy soil. A healthy soil creates resilience in the tough times as it is aerated, has an ability to hold moisture and is able to provide nutrients to the plants which can hence build strong root structure. Many farmers are concerned that if they don’t add the usual inputs and strive to feed the plants then their yields will suffer. They are so used to adding more to get more growth and fail to see the damage that is done to the delicate soil life.
Is it true that without a change there will be a growing incidence of health problems?
There is an increasing incidence of animal health problems at present, particularly with dairy cattle, with such problems as milk fever, mastitis, calving difficulties and infertility. This can be seen as a reflection of inadequate quality of feed provided, with excess nitrate, incomplete protein and lack of vitamin and mineral content as these problems rarely occur on farms with biologically, active, healthy soils. Many doctors also fail to see the connection between ill health and proper nutrition.