My way of farming: by mat redsell

I have never had anything more challenging than farming. In my old age it is the one thing that keeps me going each day. If I did not have horses to feed, crops to grow or machinery to repair I'm not sure life would hold much appeal. I remember my great uncle once telling me that he was tired of living and then died.

I started farming late in life after many careers in publishing, aviation and harpsichord building.

When I think about doing farming I did not want to sell to a large multinational company that dictates the price of the goods so vegetable growing sounded pretty good as it requires a small amount of land with minimal equipment. So I did that on 1/4 acre which provided me with some vegetables. I had a few chickens too for eggs. But commercial vegetable growing requires long hours and hard work so I decided that value added farming by growing our own organic sunflower seeds and then pressing the sunflower seeds into sunflower oil was a better choice. The same with the spelt flour which we grow and then mill for flour. This type of farming requires about 50 acres, tractors or horses which is another complexity.

To prepare for the sunflowers I plow a hay field with lots of alfalfa in early September that has been used for about three years. I then plant rye at 120 lbs /acre along with white clover 4lbs /acre. In the following spring I wait until anthesis when the rye is in full flower then I crimp and plant the sunflowers in one pass. The white clover makes its appearance after I harvest the sunflower seeds which becomes a pasture for the horses for a couple of seasons.

See the following article.

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While this method of using crimped rye does seem an efficient use of my tractor I am now thinking of just planting rye directly into my pasture after a few seasons and missing the plowing that I usually do. My experiment at over planting the pasture with grasses and alfalfa seems to work so why not just plant the field with rye in the fall and crimp and plant sunflowers in the spring missing the plowing. I will give this a try in the fall of 2023.

The harvested sunflower seeds get pressed into sunflower oil for our customers and also used as fuel in our Diesel tractors.
The cost to us this year should be about $.38 a pound for sunflower seeds which saves a lot of money with
sunflower seeds selling at $1 a pound which we had to purchase 2022 because of a failed crop which normal in farm life.

This year has shown me that growing your own taking time developing the methods to yield what you need can reduce the costs substantially while also maximizing our soil health and become self sufficient which is my aim.
The other area I like is in the production of spelt flour. For 1500 lbs of spelt per acre on our farm then I can mill at least 1000 lbs of flour with little cost of dehulling since we developed the machine. We sell the flour at $2 a lb to our customers so that acre should provide $2000 of income for us per acre. Our cost per acre with compost is less than $200 an acre so the profit is at least $1750 per acre which is very good.

The difficult part is we only have about 25 acres of our 50 acres in sunflowers, rye, corn and spelt with the remainder in wood lots and pasture for the horses which tends to increase our soil health.

The good thing about this way of farming is that the seeds are in our bin until we have orders to press fresh oils and mill fresh flour so our oils and flour not degrade in the bin while waiting for a customer. We only produce fresh oils and flour to order.

Ukraine and Russia produce a lot of sunflower seeds and sunflower oil but their currency is so low that you can purchase sunflower oil for very little making our sunflower oil seem expensive. When you consider the time it takes to get the sunflower oil to Canada I doubt that it is of any nutritional value.

I like the idea producing our own but one must also have a market so I developed my own customers and stores to purchase our products.
Efficiency should reduce our costs.
This all sounds very easy to bypass the corporations and going directly to the customer which has many advantages but getting those customers requires a lot of work and maintenance.
I have read a lot of what the farmer organizations have published to encourage farmers but feel a lot of it relies on governments to make changes but governments are too influenced by corporations to do the right thing so what I have done is put me back in control but doing this is can be very hard and requires lots of cash, hard work and lots of time.

And the bottom line for us is that we still do not break even and need our pensions to break even.