Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Wednesday Farm Photos:
The Higher and Higher Cost of Farming


The truck wasn't armored, but it probably should have been.

It's always nice when you realize that your bank account is at the point where you can splurge on something big. For many people that means a relaxing vacation or a faraway trip—maybe even one with three or four stars. Others purchase a gorgeous new wardrobe, indulge in a designer shoe addiction, or head to the jewelry store for a sparkly little bauble. Some might decide to finally buy that fishing boat or four wheeler or even a brand new car. Us? We fertilize the fields.

Just like vacationing, ideally you want to fertilize every year, but in both cases that often isn't feasible. And when we were given the price quote for fertilizing this summer (our fertilizer guy literally asked if we were sitting down before he told us) we realized—as have many other struggling small farmers this year—that this may very well be our last opportunity to fertilize for a very long time.


Heading out to spread the wealth.

Last month we paid a whopping $4,300 to organically fertilize 44 acres of grazing pastures and hayfield. Two years ago it cost about half that much—just like feed and fencing supplies did. And of course we're all dealing with the doubled price of gas.

But we know we're lucky compared to the farmers who use toxic chemical fertilizers. What they could buy two years ago for $200 now costs $1,200—if they can even get it. A lot of fertilizers are simply no longer available at any price. The main reason for the shortages and skyrocketing costs? The corn-based ethanol fuel craze—which is definitely not the answer.


Fertilizing the Front Field

The one upside to all of this is that farmers who have never thought about natural alternatives are now being financially forced to try them—and they're discovering that they work. Of course that's another reason our fertilizer costs have gone up, but it's one I'm a lot more willing to pay for.

Want a bigger small farm experience?
(some categories may overlap)
Farm Stories
Farm Life Tidbits
Farm Landscape Photos
Haying Season Photos
Lambing Season 2008 Part One
Lambing Season 2008 Part Two
Back to the Beginning: My Early Farm Adventures

© FarmgirlFare.com, the fertile foodie farm blog where fertilizing season is the only time we're glad that much of our 240 acres consists of hilly forest rather than open fields—and some welcome late summer rain has really helped that high dollar fertilizer we put down soak into the ground, which makes a big difference.

12 comments:

  1. At those prices you would think you are planting money trees.

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  2. I would suggest that you need to sell a lot of bread to cover your fertilizing expenses, but wheat/flour prices have skyrocketed too!! What hasn't??? (Your fields look beautiful, by the way!)

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  3. Our tenant who farms our 1800 acres in E. Washington has gone to using "bio-solids" from the waste water treatment plants for fertilizer - I'm concerned about heavy metals and stuff like that - but the alternative was in the 10's of thousands of dollars.

    And as far as the price of flour going up? I can guarantee you that the wheat farmer is seeing very little of that increase.

    Good luck with your fall chores.(and OMG that little goat baby is adorable-I'm really surprised that he didn't come home with you, looks like he would have just fit under your arm and off you'd go... LOL) T.

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  4. I do not know where your organic fertilizer is sourced from but the commercial fertilizers are made from urea that is cooked up from natural gas via the haber bosch process ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haber_process ):

    "The Haber process now produces 100 million tons of nitrogen fertilizer per year, mostly in the form of anhydrous ammonia, ammonium nitrate, and urea. 3-5% of world natural gas production is consumed in the Haber process (~1-2% of the world's annual energy supply)[1][12][13][14]. That fertilizer is responsible for sustaining one-third of the Earth's population, as well as various deleterious environmental consequences.[4]"

    As we reach and pass peak oil and as natural gas is being used for getting oil from tar sands in Canada,for more fertilizer, for compressed natural gas engines, for heating homes - fertilizers will become even more out of reach and un-available.

    Maybe you could do what even some commercial corn farmers are starting to do, raise some manure-rich animals like pigs and then use their lovely manure on the fields.

    I dont know what sort of training you have had but I suggest that you learn about Jerry Salatin's pasturing system (for beef, chickens, pigs, etc see this link http://www.polyfacefarms.com/ ) and also about keyline soil/land management and keyline water planning http://www.taranakifarm.com/blog/?cat=10 -

    Using a keyline plow on your pasture can invigorate it immensely.

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  5. I know what you're talking about. Having grown up on a farm myself, I understand how any profit the farm makes goes directly back into the farm operation....not spent on some other luxury. I'm trying to get myself back into that mindset as my husband and I begin our farm life (after living as city-dwellers for some years)!

    These increasing prices are very intimidating and I hope it's not the new "norm". Cattle mineral prices more than doubled recently because of the Olympics being held in China! Go figure THAT one out! Something about one of the ingredients coming from China, etc.

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  6. Shoes? Clothes? Vacations? Who needs that? What we really need is a tractor with a plow. (Okay, so maybe I just bought some new shoes, but $40 wouldn't go very far towards a tractor, anyway.)

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  7. You're right - Ethanol is NOT the answer. It's taking food off of plates and out of troughs. And not long ago after gassing up I realized that there was a 10% Ethanol sticker on the pump. This was relatively new. I now drive out of my way, and sometimes pay more for gas when I see this sticker. The crazy thing is...My MGP is WORSE with the Ethanol in the tank than with straight gasoline. So I end up needed more of it. Insanity.

    The bill for fertilizer for our 100 acres of sod grass has been between 8 and 12 thousand dollars the last two years. I feel your pain.

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  8. I took the little survey in your right hand bar. Hopefully you get a kickback from that! :) I was looking for any Google ads to click on, I know every few pennies helps! I us Google adsense on my blog, and I get a few cents every time someone clicks on a google ad.

    I helps pay my hosting costs, and the rising cost of... well... just about everything :(

    I have noticed lots of things going up (besides food and gas) because we are doing a lot of home improvement and I love to garden. The cost of lumber is way up, as well as the cost of plants, mulch, and fertilizer. My hope is to move to a home with a larger yard where we can grow more of our own food (and get some chickens).

    But there seems to be large costs associated with that as well, as you have so eloquently pointed out above :) (I thought 50 bucks for the back of fertilizer to spread on our lawn was robbery!)

    Kathleen

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  9. The costs of fertilizing have definitely driven farmers/ranchers to research alternatives. Hooray for alternatives - glad you splurged on the pastures! I understand so well the issues of choosing between one "necessity" and the others. Thanks for sharing the information with your readers - we only maintain our goats and pastures for a very minor part of our income and it still staggers us when we have to buy hay or feed.
    Looking forward to a lush spring?!

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  10. Interesting blog. Ethanol is a scam that I HAVE TO PAY FOR!

    You got an oil-well on the farm? Last time I was up that way several did.

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  11. Thanks FG! I really appreciate learning about these important aspects of farming. Its something I simply wouldn't know otherwise, and I think these things are important for all of us to know.

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  12. I love reading about your positive attitude. It's nice to feel that we're "all in the same boat" together in this current economic environment, be it organic fertilizer or putting kids through college (or for me, affording our already-planned wedding). To stop spending would put others out of jobs, so kudos to you for shelling out! Hopefully we can all help each other out by cycling around all those funds.

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