When the cow leaves the farm…

By Beverly Keller
The Budget

The words of keynote speaker David Kline reverberated through the Grace Mennonite Church auditorium recently as he spoke about the impact of buying local, agriculture and the future of the Plain communities to a large crowd that gathered as part of the annual meeting of the Amish Mennonite Heritage Center.

“It is said that a community is only as strong as its soil,” Kline shared. “And really, there is no such thing as a post-agriculture society. We need to work with and care for the land.”

Kline talked about the four to five year rotation plan on the farm that goes from corn to oats to wheat and then hay for a year or two before being sewn again as corn. “This is an important thing to know,” he said. “You see civilizations die slowly but economies die quickly.”

He shared the story of Jake Mast who, every evening before bed would check if his cows were resting because resting was more important than feeding. “In the 1950s, the egg market was strong. It was replaced in the 1960s by the turkey market,” Kline said. “Then the pigs came and went.”

What concerns Kline is if the dairy cow is the next on the list of what used to be on the farm. “It is sad to see a cow leave the farm because when a cow leaves, it doesn’t come back,” he said. “Tech can be good. Tech can be bad. Tech has killed 90 percent of small dairy farms.”

Kline noted that all is not lost just yet though because there is hope. “Consumers have the last word,” he shared. “And I’m glad they do.” He noted that niche markets and organic trends are helping to keep the cow on the farm and milk as a product that is needed. “We have been taught well for many years and now is the time to use that knowledge to help our people; to help agriculture,” Kline noted that once the large object standing tall in the distance was the silo. Then it became the water tower. “And now we see the cell tower off in the distance,” he said. “Times have changed.”

Capping off the night was Marcus Yoder, director of the AMHC who noted that guests from around the globe continue to visit. “It is our duty to tell our story,” he said.

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