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Farmers sound and are alike, no matter where

May 17, 2006|by JEFF SEMLER

Agriculture is the same no matter where you travel.

Last week, I had the opportunity to visit California and take in the vastness of their central valley agriculture. The amazing thing is, when talking to their farmers, it was almost as if I had not left home.

Make no mistake - there are a lot of differences, such as their dependence on irrigation. They receive just six inches of rain per year.

Also different is the acres and acres of carrots, onions, tomatoes, pecans, walnuts, grapes and cotton.

However, standing in the shadows of a 5,000-cow dairy and talking to the brothers who own it was very much dj vu. I asked what their biggest challenges are and they said, "Urban sprawl, nutrient management, farm profitability and water."

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Understand, these guys had just moved north to escape development pressure and were not sure how long they would be able to avoid it where they are now. Where they are now is just outside Bakersfield, a virtual oasis in a dry land.

And I mean dry. If they couldn't irrigate, I don't think they could grow weeds.

I can also tell you another similarity. And that is their hospitality.

I was welcomed and toured as if I was a long-lost relative. And I had not met my tour guide before driving into his dairy last Monday morning.

I have had the opportunity to travel around this nation and abroad and if I have met a farmer, I have not met a stranger. I have been made feel welcome from Bakersfield, Calif., to Marshall, Mich., and from Smithsburg, Md., to Zug, Switzerland.

Well, enough for my travels. And, on to the issue of farm profitability.

Pasture walks



As the school year winds down, our Farm Walk-A-Bouts or Pasture Walks are just beginning.

We will begin this Thursday, May 18, at Peace Hollow Farm - home of the Myron Martin family.

The starting time is 10 a.m.

We will be walking and talking about Myron's transition to organic milk production.

The Martins have for years been integrating forages and grazing into their dairy management in order to produce milk more economically. Now, they are moving into the niche market of organics.

Everyone is welcome to attend by following the signs to 2148 Rohrersville Road, or call the Extension office for directions, and/or ask for a Pasture Walk Schedule as well.

If you have an e-mail address, you can be added to our alert list by sending me an e-mail at jsemler@umd.edu

If you are a regular reader of this column, you know that I view Pasture Walks as sort of a one-room school house without walls. We have spirited discussions and oftentimes, the students become the teachers.

The schedule includes stops in Frederick and Washington counties in Maryland and Franklin County in Pennsylvania. I look forward to seeing many of you on Thursday.

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