By Norm Gross
Spring Valley, MN
I was surprised to hear that Fillmore County is looking to double the Animal Unit Cap (number of farm animals under one roof). With the current state of our environ-ment, our concern for water and air quality, a growing desire for cleaner healthier food, and our need to revitalize rural America, I hoped that we would be moving towards sustainable solutions.
I grew up on a 160. We milked 25 Holsteins, Dad managed a small hog operation, and we all tended the chickens. Our large garden and orchard rounded out our circle of on-farm living. I would follow Dad in the early morning to do chores, making a point to stay in his shadow as we walked. It was a fine upbringing.
And yet, I never actually had the desire to be a farmer. I wanted to see the world and experience more than my sheltered life had shown me. So I got educated, traveled some, had a career. When Dad was close to passing he reflected, “Is farming, as I know it, becoming obsolete? Have I been a good steward of all that God has blessed me with?”
Once Dad was gone, I began to look at farming with new eyes, with a stirring heart. Could I be a farmer? Purchasing our home place was untenable given our financials and negotiations with 12 siblings. But my wife and I planned, saved and purchased our farm in Fillmore County in 2005. I now grow fruits, vegetables, herbs and eggs for folks like you. Life is good.
Change is inevitable, but we have choices. What are the goals we wish to achieve for ourselves and our community? Higher yields and greater profits? Or is there something even better that we can strive for? We need to be thoughtful and innovative while holding dearly the hard-fought wisdom of our ancestors. We need more good stewards of the land, farming with the guiding principle of creating robust health for the people, the land, and the community.