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A New Year on the Farm

By Ron Eichner


Hello, folks! January 1 marks the commencement of the new year, signaling the beginning of another 365-day journey. As you drive past most farms during this time, the fields appear to be in a state of repose, creating an illusion that farmers can take a breather from their day-to-day grind. However, akin to business owners with retail hours, the life of a farmer starts early and wraps up late. Take a moment to Google Paul Harvey's "God Made a Farmer," and you'll find that the last two lines resonate with many farm kids.


Evening office time is when most farmers reflect on their day, week, month, or year. They scrutinize the growth events of the crops and seasons, contemplating how to navigate the challenges that Mother Nature throws their way.


Diversifying the farm's business model is one strategy to mitigate the risks inherent to most family farms. For instance, our farm boasts over 2,000 laying hens producing white and brown-shelled, high-energy eggs. Our smokehouse and meat room offer slab and Canadian bacon, six varieties of lean sausages, and four-pound roasting chickens. The farm bakery whips up homemade cookies, candies, fudge, and fruit pies. Throw in some greenhouses for farm vegetable plants, herbs, hanging baskets, and potted plants. And of course, we have flocks of turkeys for our cherished customers, processed fresh every year. Wearing just one hat as the captain of our family farm ship, I'm often asked about the secret to managing it all — my answer? I keep a close eye on my "fun meter" and somehow get it all done.


Farm planning typically kicks off at the end of each season, focusing on the needs of the upcoming year. The multi-generational involvement in family farms like ours brings years of knowledge and wisdom to the decision-making process. The North Hills community is fortunate to have some of the best farm families, all working towards a common goal — farming to support our community, with nothing more than the support of our community.


With farm families boasting six to eight generations of history, the question often arises: who is related to whom? My response: we are indirectly related, bound by mutual support and countless conversations. Last fall, a fellow farmer and I pondered the past growing season, musing, "Don't you think, as farmers, we are smart enough to do it all again next year?" The answer lies in the acknowledgment that, as stewards of multi-generation family farms, we continue traditions started generations ago, striving to do it all better, with the grace of God, despite the inevitable unknown challenges ahead.


Farm insanity ensues if you keep doing the same thing each year and expect a different result. As a fourth-generation farmer, I consider myself blessed to have worked daily alongside my parents and grandparents, sharing ideas and toiling on the farm. Now, with nieces, nephews, great-nieces, and great-nephews, it's all about collaboration and working the farm together.


You might have noticed the addition of cows, sheep, and goats in our newly fenced pastures. With limited farm acreage, we've had to get creative, establishing white clover in our crop fields to create a perennial living mulch that suppresses weeds and introduces airborne nitrogen into the soils.


As the new year kicks off, I must tackle 12 months of bookkeeping, preparing spreadsheets for our accountant. Simultaneously, I delve into seed books and forms to place orders for the upcoming year. January is a busy month with long days, each month with its purpose as we navigate our farm through the seasons.


I haven't delved into New Year's resolutions, but if health changes are on your agenda, consider adopting a more natural, nutrition-based diet. When you commit to the "farm-to-table experience," our family farm becomes a weekly or monthly destination. The incredible, edible egg, produced by our brown and white hens, invites you to discover why they're the best anywhere. These egg purchases contribute to the nutritionally fortified feed our hens enjoy daily. Collaborating with Pasture Maid Creamery, Thoma Meat Market, Yatzors Maple Syrup, and Johnson's Honey broadens the farm-to-table experience. Feel free to inquire about our Community Supported Farm Market (CSFM) membership offering.


From our farm family to yours, we wish you a Blessed and Happy New Year. Consider visiting Eichner's Whole Farm and Greenhouses at 285 Richard Road in Wexford. Bring a friend and become a friend of our family farm — uncover "the rest of the story."


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