I Know Dirt

“I’m not living in any subdivision, never.”

Edited by Nick Ladeau.

Transcript for I Know Dirt

I grew up in a very rural area of northern Wisconsin. And farming has always been just a stone’s throw away from my reality. I have relatives that farmed, I grew up farming with those relatives, mostly dairy, – milking cows and doing small animals, that sort of thing. When I moved here, I was absolutely smitten with the landscape, how open it becomes just five miles south of town. These expansive horizons, and the flatness actually, is, is really attractive to me. It’s like being on an ocean. Most people are like, “Oh, I hate the flat land. It’s so boring,” and this and that. It’s like, “But you always go to the ocean. There’s nothing flatter than the ocean. And there’s nothing out there.” You know, that that paradox has always been kind of interesting to me.

But, when my husband and I decided that we wanted to move out of town, he’s a city boy from the Southside of Chicago. And he didn’t know the difference between corn and soybeans when we met. And that’s fine, but I told him, it’s like, “Let’s get a farm. Let’s buy some property and build a house.” He wants to build a house, it’s like, “Well, that’s great, but I’m not living in any subdivision, never.” And, so, he’s like, “Okay, we’ll buy some acres.”

When I found out about this property ­– because of urban sprawl, in the part of the county that we live in, buying a large parcel of ground is very financially restrictive, because a lot of the big developers would go in and they would buy these acreages, and then they would subdivide them and break them into parcels that would appease county zoning. And then you’d have 100 houses on a certain piece of ground. But, in the past, our acreage was not capable of doing that kind of subdivision, because the people that owned it before us, they inherited it, and as they needed money, they would sell off one acre on the road, and then they’d sell off an acre next to that on the road, and another acre until they sold off all but a driveway. And the driveway was not wide enough to be accessible according to county variance standards. And, so, they couldn’t sell off the inside perimeter to a subdivision. So, we bought it as unimproved agricultural ground for ag prices, not subdivision prices. And that is how we were able to purchase that farm.

And then we were farming it with Jeff. He’s our farmer. And we do a cash rent situation, which means that he basically farms it and he pays us rent to do that. When we were looking for the land, I knew right away that that land was spectacular because I know dirt. I don’t know everything about dirt, but I know what I can grow my garden in. And I knew that if I was to grow a garden in this piece of ground, it would be a fabulous garden.

The soil samples came back, and it’s Anigon silt loam, which is some of the finest soil that you can ever have to grow anything in. I asked Dave at the John Deere dealer what he knew about this piece of ground and he knew a lot more vernacular folklore that surrounded it. As we’ve learned after farming it for now more than probably 14 years, we have some of the highest soybean yields in the county, and it’s because of the soil. Nobody out produces us. People may be produced as much as we do, but nobody can boast a higher yield. And corn? We’re doing great on corn too. There are higher yields elsewhere in the county, but for the most part we’re really doing very well, too.

The benefit of having such great soil is we don’t do a lot of upkeep on our soil other than crop rotation in liming it. We don’t do a lot of fertilizing. We don’t do a lot of pesticides or any other kind of chemical, which means, you know, it’s a healthy piece of ground, which means that we’re living surrounded by healthy ground as well. We built our house there, and we built a shed there. And we are now living in the midst of a cornfield or soybean field, depending on which year we’re talking about.

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