Our farm is fairly self-sufficient, but diesel and gasoline are breaking the budget
Open any paper, turn on any radio or TV and stories of rising prices are always forefront… and not just food, but everything. Even the increase paid to dairy farmers earlier this year has taken a back seat. A recent news item listed the worst culprits in the grocery stores and dairy wasn’t one of them!
It is never ending. Housing prices have risen, as have the price of cars, trucks, motorcycles even bikes. Food is a no brainer. But also furniture, appliances, clothes, machinery (both new and used), parts, tires, supplies, feed, fertilizer, chemical sprays, and worst of all, fuels. Add to all that the availability of these items as demand out strips the quantities available. The only things that appear to have not risen is salaries, which makes maintaining the status quo even harder.
Here on our farm, we have noticed price increases too but as we have always been fairly self-sufficient, we are probably not as hard hit as most.
Our grocery bill has gone up despite making our own jams, jellies, marmalades, pickles, relishes and tomato sauce, enough for the year. Honey is supplied by the apiarists who keep bees here and none of us are big on maple syrup. One breakfast a year does us!
We also have milk, cream and butter (70 lb. a year) that our Jerseys supply, plus occasionally yogurt and we have an ice cream maker attachment if I want to use it. One of our three 16-cubic-foot freezers is dedicated to our own meat, home butchered beef and small turkeys.
We keep 30 hens (Rhode Island Reds and Plymouth Rocks), which lay all winter in an unheated chicken house so we have our own eggs and sell the rest.
The other two freezers are for our home-raised vegetables and fruits, plus extra baking. We generally have containers of homemade baked beans and soup stowed in there, as well as cakes and cookies. I make our own dinner breads as well.
The men in the family do their own maintenance and repairs on our machinery, all bought used when we find a good piece at a fair price. Except for the large tractor tires, we fix our own, having bought a tire machine. Welding is no problem, both men are very good at it and at designing and building things. This spring it was a greenhouse and the finishing touches on a rock rake, as well as replacing gaskets on our dozer loader.
We operate on a minimal chemical philosophy, almost organic but not quite due to using fly ear tags and wormer on our cattle, which are on pasture all summer spreading their own manure. We purchase a hay-based dairy ration for them which has gone up but the heifers are fed home- grown barley. Salt and mineral prices have also risen.
Our biggest savings are that we don’t grow corn, leaving that to the cash croppers. So, no over-priced seed, fancy machinery, no fertilizers or herbicide. We grow barley, either straight seeded or as a cover crop when reseeding land. We fertilize with composted manure – no smell and twice as potent as the fresh stuff. Fewer weeds too! We grow a mixed hay of grasses and legumes, no straight alfalfa as the mix has been proven to be a better feed for grass fed cattle.
This just leaves diesel and some gasoline, which is testing our budget this year. The worst fuel consumer is our excavator, so now it only takes down the trees and piles them. The dozer loader, backhoe and Michigan loader are all a lot easier on fuel consumption, so they will be used for rock and root removal and levelling. We run all older model tractors, mostly John Deere which are all good on diesel, plus we just bought our first discbine to speed things up this summer. Our combine is the only gasoline machine but it is small and will not be a problem.
Other than go back to horse drawn equipment, I fail to see how we can reduce our expenditures any more, although giving up chocolate drink syrup and powdered ice tea may be an option.
Angela Dorie is an agricultural writer and a Jersey farmer near Cornwall.