Steamboat Springs The call came this morning.
It was about my old seed drill. A relic from the past when most ranches grew winter wheat and had one of these drills covered, like mine, with a torn hay tarp. At work it is a symphony of screeching, dragging and grinding — a tribute to “Made in the USA” with galvanized steel, case-hardened disk blades, tubes and cogs. It has worked for more than 40 years.
Grass is important on a ranch, almost as important as water and neighbors. When the pasture lands need to be regenerated, the old drill comes into play as the best tool for the job. My drill was purchased from a neighbor, who helped me load it and then showed me as much as he could about keeping it running, setting all of the gates for various seeds and even how to find the sweet spot to pick it up to load it for transport. He had planted his last crop. Houses now grow on the property he previously owned. His hope was that I would use it to plant grasses and grains.
There have been studies about what the minimum number of farmers can be. It is apparent in many areas of our country that there is a critical number of farmers needed to have enough people and machinery to get the work of farming done, to allow them to not only borrow but also share equipment and help. This is not so much about lending machinery but also about encouraging the neighbors to plant and grow so that everyone has a market.
My old seed drill sits idle most of the time, but every now and then a neighbor will ask if it runs. My answer is always the same: It works harder than I do.
Every time it is borrowed, it comes back with repairs never mentioned. I go to check their fields, just to see if the old machine got the job done for them. Each time, I see the hope of a new planting.
The call came in this morning. It was my neighbor. The oat hay is ready to cut.
It is a farming tribute to Made in the USA — the land, the equipment and the people.
Barry Castagnasso is a member of the Community Agriculture Alliance board of directors and the Clydesdale Breeders Association.