Utopia preferable to farming’s fierce competition

Utopia preferable to farming's fierce competition by Bob Karolevitz I could never be an honest-to-goodness farmer.

Even in this technological age, they have to know how to dehorn a cow, mend a fence, pull a calf, fix all kinds of machinery, shear a sheep and treat coccidiosis.

They also have to know when to plant, when to harvest, what herbicides to use and how to hedge a crop in the bin.

Heck, I can�t do any of those things!

Farming has changed considerably since the days of Old Dobbin. It used to be a way of life. Then the farm became a food-and-fibre factory, and cost accounting and minimum production emerged as the bywords of a new industry called agri-business.

That wasn�t what Phyllis and I had in mind when we moved to Cedar Crest Farm a long, long time ago. While we had no illusions of turning back the calendar, we certainly didn�t intend to get into the production rat race or fall into the my-tractor-is-bigger-than-your-tractor trap which too often gives agriculturists ulcers.

All we wanted was to live at reasonable peace with ourselves, our neighbors and our fickle friend, Dame Nature!

We weren�t interested in big, sophisticated machinery (which was hard to explain to equipment salesmen who came calling); we didn�t plan to make a lot of money (which the banker found difficult to understand); and we didn�t propose to compete with anybody to get more bushels per acre (which stumped all the Joneses who weren�t being kept up with).

I did take three hours of Crops in school, but that�s as much of a farmer I was.

With all its drawbacks and dilemmas, our place in the country proved to be a near-perfect setting for our weird philosophies in an era of fierce competition and confrontation. Utopia, and not bottom-line fulfillment, was our desire. Live-and-let-live was our old-fashioned goal.

Farm surpluses would never come from our place. And we wouldn�t get rich unless we found gold nuggets lying on the ground or struck oil in the cow pasture.

We almost got into the production grind when I bought a cute little Angus heifer named Phyllis II as a birthday present for my wife. Phyllis (mine) fell in love with that blocky animal, and soon afterwards we got a second Angus. That would have been okay, but, unfortunately, both beasts promptly discovered a break in the fence (which I didn�t mend) and got out into the green corn.

One died, and Phyllis II ended up with four horrendous stomach aches. Phyllis (mine) and I kept that very sick bovine alive by running her up and down the feed yard until she debloated herself. We jogged wheezingly behind her, and � believe me � tail-gating an overfed cow is not easy to explain to our city friends.

We then wanted to get more cattle, but � thank goodness! � we couldn�t work out a deal with the World Bank, the Federal Reserve Board, our friendly local banker or Oliver Warbucks.

(I won�t tell you about how Phyllis �inherited� a couple of 4-H lambs and soon had 80 ewes with offspring gamboling about the place. It was the second time we almost lost sight of our profitless goal.)

I started writing this column after I saw rows of new corn plants popping up in nearby fields. I told Phyllis (mine) that if I sowed them, I would stop the planter every few feet to see if the danged thing was dropping the seeds right. I never did trust the machinery.

No, I couldn�t be a legitimate farmer even if I wanted to. I don�t have enough smarts for it!

� 2005 Robert F. Karolevitz

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