Riding mowers and farm subsidies
We have a new addition to our farm!
Randy had been thoroughly scouring Craig's List on an almost daily basis looking for lawn mowers, both push and riding. Making phone calls, doing research, weighing the pros and cons. We did end up buying a used push mower, which we took to the farm this weekend.
With all the residue from bush hogging and two weeks of re-growth, it took me two hours to push mow about a strip about 10 feet by 100 feet. At this rate, the grass would have grown back by the time I got done. It didn't help that the mower kept pooping out after every pass. I was becoming exasperated.
We needed to get it mowed and NOW. Another week and it would need another bush hogging or flail mowing which we'd have to pay someone to do. Randy got on the phone and discovered that the nearest lawn mower of any type was in Collierville, 45 minutes away. I jumped in the truck, leaving Randy to meet with the guy from the electric company.
About two and a half hours later I was back with a Club Cadet 20 horse power 46" riding mower snuggly in the back of the truck. Hallelujah. In under 45 minutes I mowed most of the two acres we had bush hogged. I'd have done more, but we had to rush into town and grab some food at the Citgo, which is our little community's hot spot, before meetings with NRCS and FSA.
By the time we rolled into the county Natural Resource Conservation Service, we were pretty wore out. At least we had grabbed some jojos and chicken strips at the Citgo. Luckily, Ashland is the Benton County seat, so all the offices we might visit are right in town.
Randy had set up the meeting, and had mentioned that we'd be growing organically. The NRSC staff had just recently been to an organic farm field day in Tupelo, and seemed to be pretty excited about having information to share with us. There are no organic farms in Benton County. Because of how much land Holly Springs National Forest takes up, there really isn't too much agriculture in Benton County. And everyone grows corn and soybeans. There used to be cotton, but apparently it's not that profitable anymore. As far as the NRS folks knew, we will be Benton County's first vegetable farm. We will be the only farm in our county growing food for people, since the vast majority of soy and corn grown in this country ends up in animal feed.
Armed with information about high tunnels, cover crops, and other NRCS cost share programs, we headed over to the Farm Service Agency side of the office to register our farm. We learned we will be receiving about $600 this year in subsidy payments. We'll enjoy that while it lasts! Once we start growing vegetables, we forfeit our fixed payments. The base payment stems from the 1992 Farm Bill and was calculated back in the 90's based on a history of cotton grown on the land. From my understanding, as long as the land is in an agricultural use - which can include fallow or growing commodity crops - we get this payment. It doesn't matter which commodity is grown.
Yeah, it doesn't make any sense to me either. But heck, that's almost a mortgage payment, so we'll take it and hope this next Farm Bill is a little more comprehensible.