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Why We Farm #AgDay2015

2014-10-07 16_06_21Farming is not always easy.
Bart works a LOT. Seven days a week, 365 days a year. No holidays off. No vacation days.

And it’s not always pleasant work. It’s often hard, physical labor, in less than ideal conditions. From the 90 degree brooder house for baby turkeys (poults) to banging ice off of frozen exhaust fans at midnight in a blizzard.

And let’s talk about the middle of the night. Our barns have a sophisticated ventilation system. And normally, the system senses weather changes and adjusts itself. But when the weather changes too quickly, it can’t adjust, and so Bart gets an “alarm” call from the computers. Those weather changes are often thunderstorms or blizzards that roll in during the night. Which means Bart gets out of bed in sometimes severe, sometimes downright scary weather, to take care of his turkeys.

And then there’s the financial risk. I’m going to be frank here. It cost a LOT of money to build our barns. More money than any average, middle-class non-farmer can fathom. So we have a LOT of debt. And paying off that debt hinges on having healthy turkeys and a place to sell them.  Disease issues, market fluctuations, consumer demand…those all affect our ability to keep farming.

In the 1980s, thousands of farm families LOST their farms because of the farm crisis. Bart and I recently discussed what that would look like for us - what we would do, and what we would miss, if we lost our farm.


The financial part of it would suck. Really suck. Bankruptcy, selling the house we’ve worked so hard on, the house that three generations of his family have lived in…that would suck.

New jobs? Yes, Bart and I could get different jobs. But I haven’t worked full time in over 4 years, and Bart’s been his own boss for 6 years. Regular jobs would be a big transition for both of us.

And moving to town? We love our 7 acres. We love the quietness and the room for our boys to roam.
Our lives would change drastically, but we agreed that most of that would be manageable. We would adjust. Our boys would adjust.

The hardest part, though? The hardest part of losing our farm?


The hardest part would be losing the opportunity to raise our boys here. We dream of them working on the farm alongside their dad more and more as they grow. We dream of them raising their 4-H animals in the outbuildings here. We dream of them coming home on weekends to help on the farm when they are in college. And yes, we dream that someday, we can pass this farm down to them, making them the 4th generation in the Olthoff family to raise turkeys.


Farming is more than a job. It is a way of life. And losing that way of life would crush us.
So when it comes down to it, that’s why we farm. It’s for these two and what the future holds for them on our family farm.

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  1. For some similar and some different reasons, I'd feel awful if we had to move away from where we are now. The added changes of new jobs for you and Bart and your entire way of life would just be bitter icing on a sour cake. I hope you never have to experience it, and thanks for the sacrifices you make to keep food flowing in our country.