Can conventional and organic farmers be friends?

We know it’s spring in Iowa when we start seeing tractors in the fields. I follow other vegetable farms on social media. A few of them have been complaining about the tractors and conventional farmers.

You won’t find that on my page. I want to tell you why. I don’t know what other vegetable farmers experience so I am not judging them; I am just telling you how I feel based on my own experiences.

Let me tell you about my surrounding farming partners. Al farms the fields to the south of ARNKA Acres. He calls me each time he is spraying a chemical in his field. He literally asks my opinion if I think the weather/wind is ok for my fields. One time he wasn’t able to get ahold of me and, because he thought it was calm enough, he started spraying. I came home and saw the sprayer and how it was blowing toward my crops. As I started walking across the road, Al stopped his tractor and walked to meet me. I told him I thought it was a bit too windy for him to spray by my field so he stopped spraying. He said he would wait for another day.

He chose to stop doing something for his business so it wouldn’t interfere with the success of my business. That’s a good guy.

In addition to crop farming, Al raises pigs so he can spread the manure onto his fields. Yep, it stinks when he uses the big spreader (he tells me the day before), but I sure wish I had one of those things to help me spread our composted manure on the fields. (Ok, ok...when Farmer Andy spreads it on the fields.) I’m sure you know manure is an amazing natural fertilizer.

Jon farms the field that surrounds the other three sides of ARNKA Acres. He is the one who sold us 1.5 Acres so we could expand our business. (Hopefully he will sell us another 2 acres this fall!)

Jon stopped by Sunday evening to let us know they would be spraying the cover crop in his field. See, he cares about the soil health in his fields so he plants winter rye. (Yes, he sprays it in the spring to kill it before tilling under, but I’m not here to judge him.) He also cares about the success of my farm so he makes me aware of his plans and chooses not to spray the edge of his field that touches my yard.

I hope I’m not coming across all preachy or like these guys are perfect. Because they’re not. None of us is.

But I want to make it clear to you all how I feel about my neighboring farmers. We get along so well because we took the time to get to know each other and learn about each other’s farms. It’s the relationships between us that makes us want the other to succeed...even if we farm very differently.

Which we do. Farm very differently, that is. I choose not to spray any synthetic chemicals on my food. I rarely even spray organic ones. That’s because my crops go right from the field to your table. Perhaps they Farm the way they do because they have a different type of crop.

But we really want the same thing in the end: To provide food for the world. I have chosen to do it on a small scale because I love that social connection to those who eat the food I have planted, nurtured, and harvested. They have chosen to do it on a much larger scale because they want to feed thousands of people. I think we need both types of farmers.

You might feel differently than I do. That’s ok. Just please don’t judge all conventional farmers based on things you’ve heard or read. 

Get to know...really know...your local farmers...vegetable and conventional.

And have a happy spring!