**This piece by Nick Wallace of Wallace Farms and Nick’s Sticks is being shared with permission. Please take a few minutes to read his background (in italics) and the full piece, Farming for a New Prairie, below the family picture. It will revitalize your soul as we dream and work together to restore the land to what Mother Nature intended.**
As many of you may know, I was involved in a very serious snowmobiling accident near my Iowa farm nearly two years ago. Since then, I’ve been re-adjusting into a new role and place within Wallace Farms and Nick’s Sticks.
Prior to the accident, my daily routine was fairly labor intensive and often quite tiring… feed the animals, correspond with customers, pack orders in the freezer, load the truck, make deliveries. Go to bed. Wake up. Repeat!!! During my many hours driving in the truck, I thought constantly about what was wrong with the current agriculture system and how it could change for the better. But I never put those thoughts on paper… until now.
I have a hard time doing the daily chores these days. Packing orders in the freezer is nearly impossible, and loading and unloading the truck is a daunting task. But what I can do is finally get my thoughts about agriculture, our food and farming on paper. So, I’ve decided to start expressing my ideas – crazy or sane, idealistic or practical – about our connection to the land. My only goal is to get people to think more broadly about the subject, to start the conversation with friends and family, to blow up some of the myths about what can and cannot work within our edible landscape.
I don’t know what the future holds. On some days, it feels like people are waking up. It feels like our foods and farms can change….for the better. Whether it changes or not, I do want to know that I entered the arena and spoke my mind.
I often daydream while I drive the back roads of Iowa. There isn’t much to look at these days. Rows and rows of corn and soybeans, the occasional hog-confinement and abandoned farm houses with crumbling barns. The small towns that dot the countryside have a faint pulse… maybe a convenience store and bar serving fried food with ranch dressing. The “Norman Rockwell” warm and fuzzy feeling of the past might be what the rest of the country envisions, but those days are but a distant memory.
Our current state of agriculture continues to move away from the concept of producing food. That is the purpose of farming, right? To produce the best tasting, most nutritious and life-sustaining and abundant crop we can produce? It probably started by feeding a family, then the village, then a town and the town became a city. It’s lately taken on the mantra of “we have to feed the world”. Maybe we should consider feeding our country first. We are the sickest country on the planet. Our kids are riddled with ADD, ADHD, and Autism. No one denies the childhood obesity epidemic upon us. Yet the headlines boast of all-time record yields and farms making all-time record profits. Here’s a crazy thought: if the grocery store closes tomorrow how many farmers would starve? I’m being serious. Farmers aren’t producing food anymore, they are producing a commodity. Most don’t have gardens or livestock. So if the store closes what would they do? A farmer who can’t feed his or her family… I wouldn’t call that progress, would you? Please don’t get me wrong – this isn’t a rant against the farmer. Government policy over the last 40 years has slowly turned a once self-sustainable and self-reliable farmer into an industrial tool of Agri-business. They don’t have a choice to grow something besides corn and soybeans. To do so is a risky proposition because the subsidized crop insurance and infrastructure dictates the crops to be grown. These farmers have their families and farms to keep afloat. The biggest fear a farmer has is losing the farm… you’ll never get them to say it but trust me. I know because it’s one of my biggest fears. Imagine running a farm that has been in the family for over a century and you’re the one who drops the ball.
Back to my daydreams. Instead of corn and soybean fields I see more… a lot more. Emerald green pastures dotted with cows, sheep, goats, chickens, turkeys and ducks. A micro-dairy for each county… maybe 2 dairies. One does fresh raw milk, the other artisan cheese, cottage cheese, butter and ice cream. The whey, a by-product, feeds the chickens for eggs. The eggs go to town with the neighbor’s organic red winter wheat for the corner bakery. That bakery sells buns to the local burger joint. The burger joint is using the grass-fed local beef and the cheese from the dairy. Score 2 points for the dairy – wait, make that 3 points because the burger joint sells milkshakes too! Don’t forget about the vegetable farmer that provides the lettuce, tomato, and pickles for the burger. Add some organic potatoes for the best French fries you’ve ever had. You know why they are so good? The burger joint buys lard from the acorn and apple-finished pork producer down the road. You haven’t had French fries until you’ve had them fried in lard. Oh yeah, the neighbor’s hogs make hot dogs in case you’re not in the mood for a burger. Those bruised apples the pork producer used to finish his pork came from his neighbor’s orchard. The orchard’s best apples, peaches, blueberries and strawberries went to the baker who made pies. Pies with the organic red winter wheat and a lard crust. Are you starting to get the picture? This makes so much sense on so many levels but remember it’s just a dream. Maybe we can start to make it a reality!
Thank you for your interest and support of our companies – Nick’s Sticks and Wallace Farms. We truly value each of our customer relationships. With every purchase you make, you’re helping our vision of restoring land back into the “new” prairie.
Let’s save the dirt together!