Diversity in farming is a necessity

farmer shadow

When talking to a second-generation farmer the other day, I learned a lot about change, and about the need for revolutionizing in order to survive the turbulent waters farming can bring.

We talked about his father, John, who started farming when he came home from the Army after World War II, in 1944. At the time, John bought a 106-acre farm in Noble County, in southeastern Ohio. The farm cost $3,250, and was bought with money he’d saved and with a little help from his father.

Planned for success

Later John added some acreage, but the heart of the homestead never changed. With the memories of the Great Depression not far off, John knew he had work to do to make his farm a success, and to provide for his young family. He needed to grow, raise or feed the products they’d use in everyday life.

John started a small dairy operation, with a corn, cash crop to help feed his herd, and then he moved to a beef operation with sheep and hogs for sale, for neighbors and friends. He also raised quality hay to feed his livestock, and to sell when he had extra.


From his early days in farming, up until the end of his life, John diversified his crops, livestock and cash flow to ensure his young family would learn to love the land the way he had, and to have the opportunity to learn the humble work of a farmer.

The lessons taught by the old farmer then, are the same as today: “we must change in order to survive.”

Seek new opportunities

As farmers, land managers and producers, we must be actively seeking new opportunities and avenues for our products to sell. From hay sales, to niche markets for cattle, sheep and crop products, there are a multitude of ways to exchange, and sell goods.

Due to the advancement of times, we now have countless marketing opportunities — from newspapers and auction boards, to Facebook and online salerooms, the opportunities are endless. It’s just up to us to act on those opportunities.

While the call to diversify isn’t a new one, it is a call that can be answered by looking at the goals, outcomes and objectives for the farm, and then acting on them. New producers, as well as seasoned professionals should take heart, and not get discouraged by the idea of adding layers to their business models, and changes to their objectives. Farms aren’t built in a day, so growing a future shouldn’t be expected to happen overnight either.

Left a legacy

The old farmer I talked about earlier worked on his farm until the end of a long and prosperous life. He raised everything from chicken and children, to dairy cows and butcher pigs. John left a legacy that we can all learn from, and one I am especially proud of.

John, was my grandfather, and I now am learning the humble work of a farmer, and the joys and sorrows that come with this life. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


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Jessie Radcliff is the agricultural and natural resources technician for Noble Soil and Water Conservation District. She can be reached at jessie@nobleswcd.org or 740-732-4318.



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