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Old 05-04-2009, 04:49 AM
 
1,297 posts, read 3,158,208 times
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Some days I wished we stayed as a small farm. It is kind of nice to jump on big expensive equipment and know you can probably get through the day without wrenching over and over again, but at the same time people on here might be interested to hear of the not-so-fun aspects of bigger farming operations.

In years past we used to farm a lot at night. Planting and harvesting season meant 24/7 operations and I typically got the late night/early morning shifts. It was nice running across a field under the big dipper knowing 90% of my county was asleep. Unfortunately now those late nights are out. The equipment we use is so big that the lights on the tractor cannot reach the far corners of the disc harrow and planters. We could put more lights on the tractor, but that leads up to another issue.

Because you can not accurately judge the last row planted or last pass tilled, a big farmer must rely on GPS systems in the cab. When planting a few hundred acres of corn, a few extra rows in the field is no big deal, but when you have 1200 acres of corn, that additional seed would sink your operation. You need GPS.

And so the cab is filled with GPS systems, monitors and an array of sophisicated equipment that taxes the alternator and the electrical generation system. At the same time, it takes coordination to make sure you have seed and and fertilizer as you plant and harvest, so it takes radios, cell phones and chargers to stay in contact with home base. It all robs power from the electrical generation system and thus makes more lights and night time operations limited at best.

As for the cows themselves, its sad to be spending 8-9 hours for a single milking inside the parlor. Years ago we worked alone, or along side another worker, but now you may not see the night shift guys for weeks because it is exactly that, shift work and not quite the family farm that it once was. Along those same lines, with so much to do, stopping once and awhile to chat is not always feasible, and certainly not as often as you wish.

Because everything is such a bigger scale, there is no simple trucks to haul stuff around. Our trucks take a CDL License in order to operate, and they burn lots of expensive fuel to get that bigger load to the field. It all pays off in increased production, but some of my fondest memories were of driving the old Ford 600 through the fields picking up hay as a 5 year old. Now it takes a professional trucker in a tractor trailer dump trailer to get the silage in. As for the hay itself, we no longer hay at all and instead have converted over to stinky silage instead of sweet melling hay.

There are more negatives of course, but unfortunately this is where we are today. With more and more people in a growing family deciding to stay in farming, we need more income to help pay for that "household income withdrawls" so staying small is just not an option. It was nice milking only 100 cows, but then agin I suupose people in rural america often wish their towns stayed the way they were as well.

Does anyone else have some surprising changes that have negatively impacted their farms and rural towns over the years?
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Old 05-04-2009, 07:23 AM
 
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I see it everyday driving around Minnesota.

( beautiful farm buildings -------2 story ,60 cow barns, 2 silos. pretty farmstead-------and then I notice the lawn is mowed on all 4 sides of the barm-------meaning there are no cows there anymore.

I noticed this trend coming on strong about 20 yeasrs ago.

The 30 cow dairy thought it would help to cash flow if he went to 60 cows.
The 60 cow dairy thought it would help to cash flow if he went to 200 cows.
The 200 cow dairy thought it would help to cash flow if he went to 400 cows.

About 10 mils south of me, a farm of brothers decided they could not cash flow where they were ( 750 cows) and are now milking 1500.

Sad to see all those beautifull farm buildings on 160 acre farms sitting empty with the elderly owner renting his land to the big operators.

Car dealerships closing, grocery stores and hardware schools closing, and rural school districts struggling due to declining enrollment.

The school 3 miles from me built a new school about 5 years ago. ( I voted no)
The school taxes just to build that new school added $800 a year to my property taxes

The school got "sold" to the voters under the pretense of a growing enrollment cuz people wanted to live in a small town / rural area and comute to their job 35 miles away.

I served on the school board 15 years ago and the same was said ( we had about 35 kids per grade)

This years graduating class is 27.

I warned ( unsuccessfully) that high taxes would scare away potential new residents more so than a new school building would draw new residents.

Yup, I would prefer central Minnesota in the 1950's over what it is today.

Call it progress, but I don't care for it and it only will continue.
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Old 05-04-2009, 09:21 AM
 
Location: Kennesaw, GA
167 posts, read 770,257 times
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Thank you for posting this. I have a third acre "farm" in the suburbs and always imagine moving farther out on big acreage to farm larger scale. However, when I'm daydreaming I do not consider the other points such as more responsibility that would tie me down, more taxes for more acreage, longer commute distance, etc. This is a realistic view of what owning a farm encompasses. I wonder if I am better off where I am, doing what I am already doing? And yes, "progress" often ruins the charm and affordability of small towns.

Last edited by mezzogirl; 05-04-2009 at 09:21 AM.. Reason: typo
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Old 05-05-2009, 04:07 AM
 
1,297 posts, read 3,158,208 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by marmac View Post
I see it everyday driving around Minnesota.

( beautiful farm buildings -------2 story ,60 cow barns, 2 silos. pretty farmstead-------and then I notice the lawn is mowed on all 4 sides of the barm-------meaning there are no cows there anymore.

I noticed this trend coming on strong about 20 yeasrs ago.

The 30 cow dairy thought it would help to cash flow if he went to 60 cows.
The 60 cow dairy thought it would help to cash flow if he went to 200 cows.
The 200 cow dairy thought it would help to cash flow if he went to 400 cows.

About 10 mils south of me, a farm of brothers decided they could not cash flow where they were ( 750 cows) and are now milking 1500.

Sad to see all those beautifull farm buildings on 160 acre farms sitting empty with the elderly owner renting his land to the big operators.

Car dealerships closing, grocery stores and hardware schools closing, and rural school districts struggling due to declining enrollment.

The school 3 miles from me built a new school about 5 years ago. ( I voted no)
The school taxes just to build that new school added $800 a year to my property taxes

The school got "sold" to the voters under the pretense of a growing enrollment cuz people wanted to live in a small town / rural area and comute to their job 35 miles away.

I served on the school board 15 years ago and the same was said ( we had about 35 kids per grade)

This years graduating class is 27.

I warned ( unsuccessfully) that high taxes would scare away potential new residents more so than a new school building would draw new residents.

Yup, I would prefer central Minnesota in the 1950's over what it is today.

Call it progress, but I don't care for it and it only will continue.
It is the exact same way here. Heck as I type this they are finishing up the new school in town...the most expensive school built in Maine to date. 42 million dollars. They said when they built it that the state and feds would pay all of it....yeah right. Sure enough last week they said there was a 1.1 million dollar deficit and the town had to kick in the shortfall to get the school completed for next school season.

As for the farms, it is the same way here. 21 dairy farms produce about 70% of the milk in the state of Maine.
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Old 05-05-2009, 04:32 AM
 
1,297 posts, read 3,158,208 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mezzogirl View Post
I wonder if I am better off where I am, doing what I am already doing? And yes, "progress" often ruins the charm and affordability of small towns.
This is a hard decision. Here we often get people that move in and think life will be great with more acreage and highly fertile soil. They last about 8 years and then leave. I blame that mostly by taking more of a bite then they can chew. I highly recommend keeping yourself limited to three "sides". In my case it is logging, raising sheep and raising crops for dairy cows. I can stay up on all of these things, but if I was to have beef cows, sheep, horses, a huge garden, maple sugaring, etc I think I would be stretched way too thin.

It all depends upon what you want to do. A neighbor of mine raises enough food for 400 people on only 4 acres of land, but he does not have livestock either. I think once you get into livestock you start needed a few more acres. Around here you can sustain 1000 pounds of livestock per acre. That means about 1 cow per acre, or about 4 sheep. For example if you wanted 4 sheep and a beef cow, at a minimum you would need two acres. Add in another acre for a house and a garden...you see what I mean. Livestock takes up land, but you can also get 200 pounds of beef out of that cow, per acre, per year so that has some serious value considering the high grade cuts you will get.

The mistakes I see people make are buying land for "firewood". I know a guy that has 30 acres of land and most of it is forest. He has 5 beef cows and 2 horses and thus ends up buying hay to feed them, leasing land to pasture them and then brags about how he gets free heat from burning wood. The reality is, he is spending a lot of money on that free heat. If he cleared his woodlot and converted that to fields and looked or his firewood elsewhere...or even burned propane or oil...he would be further ahead. Here the land base is 90% forests and 10% field so finding a few cords of firewood to burn is pretty easy while getting hay and pasture is 9 times harder. He burns about 4 cords of firewood which if he bought would cost him about 400 bucks. For hay he is spending about 2200 bucks. If I am going to pay property taxes, I'd get rid of the latter bill first!

I would think 1/3 of an acre is a bit small, but if you have no desire to get into livestock, then its probably fine. Myself I enjoy having livestock and as I type this, the sun is coming up in the East and is nice and pink while 6 sheep graze in the foreground. Its a quaint picture and since getting into livestock, my stress levels have gone way, way down. For me I just like having livestock.

Just keep in mind, what makes any farm or homestead difficult, is also its greatest asset. Good luck in your decision anyway.
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Old 05-05-2009, 06:28 AM
 
357 posts, read 890,781 times
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BT, How much time will it take to clear 2 acres of forest land with heavy equipment (1-2 days, 2-3 days ?).
Quote:
Originally Posted by BrokenTap View Post
The mistakes I see people make are buying land for "firewood". I know a guy that has 30 acres of land and most of it is forest. He has 5 beef cows and 2 horses and thus ends up buying hay to feed them, leasing land to pasture them and then brags about how he gets free heat from burning wood. The reality is, he is spending a lot of money on that free heat. If he cleared his woodlot and converted that to fields and looked or his firewood elsewhere...or even burned propane or oil...he would be further ahead. Here the land base is 90% forests and 10% field so finding a few cords of firewood to burn is pretty easy while getting hay and pasture is 9 times harder. He burns about 4 cords of firewood which if he bought would cost him about 400 bucks. For hay he is spending about 2200 bucks. If I am going to pay property taxes, I'd get rid of the latter bill first!

I would think 1/3 of an acre is a bit small, but if you have no desire to get into livestock, then its probably fine. Myself I enjoy having livestock and as I type this, the sun is coming up in the East and is nice and pink while 6 sheep graze in the foreground. Its a quaint picture and since getting into livestock, my stress levels have gone way, way down. For me I just like having livestock.

Just keep in mind, what makes any farm or homestead difficult, is also its greatest asset. Good luck in your decision anyway.
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Old 05-05-2009, 08:31 AM
 
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No one has bought up the good ole schedule "F". Most of the expesses is deducible. Just like my schedule "C".
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Old 05-05-2009, 08:38 AM
 
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Driller-------Income taxes are the least of a small landowner/ farmer/ homesteader's worry.

First you have to generate enough--income-- to live.
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Old 05-05-2009, 10:43 AM
 
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Its just the same for business in the city;expnad or die.
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Old 05-05-2009, 12:05 PM
 
24,841 posts, read 32,884,724 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by marmac View Post
Driller-------Income taxes are the least of a small landowner/ farmer/ homesteader's worry.

First you have to generate enough--income-- to live.
IMO, the first thing you need is a good tax plan.
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