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Pushing the Limits on Perennial Crops 
Putting the breaks on war with nature and self  
By Del Ficke


Wildflowers in the pasture at Ficke Cattle Company.  

On a drive from Broken Bow on Highway 183 recently, the thought came to mind that in a lot of ways recent roadside reclamation projects have done a better job than many cattle producers of restoring grasslands.   

I get a lot of windshield time during my consulting trips to observe what is going on in fields and pastures across the United States. Luckily, I also get that time at home to see what I am trying to do with my own cattle operation.  After driving literally thousands and thousands of miles, I find that some of the people that re-do highways must have a directive from either the state or someone who has a very good idea of diversity of plants. Any place that has been re-done in the last few years, the roadsides often have far more diversity than the range land anymore. 

I take the blame for being part of it in my operation, during those years when we were constantly spraying everything that didn’t look like it was supposed to be on the cover of the “favorite spray of the day pasture weed control brochure.” Even in the Sandhills of Nebraska, or anywhere the native grasses have not been torn up, there is not much diversity because we have sprayed and really set everything back. 

The other day I was talking to my good friend Brian Brhel about seeing plants that I have not seen on our farm ever before because of the practices we have been doing.  Later, when I took my mom on a recent tour of our current pastures and cow herd, she was so excited to see many plants that she remembered from her father’s native prairie – wild roses, Black-eyed Susans, sweet clover, red clover, berseem clover, all kinds of wild vetches and the list goes on, and on, and on, and on. 

 

These were pastures that were farmed and then planted to brome 30 or 40 years ago.  Now, because we are allowing nature to do what nature does best, and through our grazing practices and the very good moisture this year, it’s like the plants are saying – literally and figuratively, “We’ve got this covered.” 

As human beings, we must sit and think about this question – how, could we have ever thought we could improve upon perennial crops?  I mean it must make “perfect sense” (I am being sarcastic) to tear something like that up and plant something year, after year, after year, after year.  Much of what we have planted does not have any benefits for us in a correct food system or a correct economical system for that matter.

I’ll make this prediction, like I have made them before, at some point, perennial crops will be our only salvation.  Now, when people who are selling seed or chemicals hear me saying something like this they say, “There he goes again, trying to put me out of business.”

No, all I want is an environment for those people and their families to have a more complete life than this manufactured chaos we call “modern agriculture.”

We need to push the limits, without unnaturally pushing the limits, with perennial crops.  Let’s rethink how we “push the limits” in agriculture.  Nature will push the limits if we let it alone.  Nature knows when to hit the gas and when to hit the brakes. 

My analogy of perennial crops, in my crazy way of thinking, is like a drag strip car.  Let’s floor it and go a quarter of a mile in seven seconds, jump out and enjoy the beauty that’s all around us.  You can have your cake and eat it too.  But the rush should only be to get to what is already right in nature.  We cannot ever duplicate or replicate with some type of systematic approach, what was already put on the earth in all these areas across the United States. 

A lot of people know about soil, crops and beautiful grasses, but I am just thinking I bet the Lord had it perfect.  He was not talking about, or thinking about, perfect rows of corn.  God’s landscape looked very busy and untamed.

Grandpa Adolph Ficke said, “Europeans thought they could ‘farm’ every speck of this new country.” 

Nature was more in balance and understood by the first nations, when Europeans settled this country.  As farmers and ranchers, we’ve all contributed to the degradation that led to where we are now.  In the end, as all “good” Europeans seemingly cling to the church and to God so well, why don’t they practice what they preach when it comes to what God is trying to provide for them in the natural world?  The world that God created for all of us to share and enjoy. 

We seem to be at all-out war with the natural state of being God intended and provided for all human beings, other living creatures and plants in the beginning.  It’s time to look at perennial crops as a more natural way to be at peace with God’s earth and with ourselves.  It’s time to put the pedal to the medal on what’s right and put the breaks on what’s not.

 


There is beauty all around you.  Allow it to naturally arise.  
"We are working with Graham on some consulting with his farm and we want people to connect with him because he is such a great resource on all things solar.  We admire his desire to help his neighbors succeed!  I am honored to call him friend." Del Ficke  

The article below was first published in the York News-Times.

ReVOLT and Resolve
By Kerry Hoffschneider


Graham and his brother Max. 
 
Graham Christensen sits in the machine shed at his family farm outside Oakland, Neb. The farm his Great Grandfather, Christian Christensen, settled to from Denmark in 1867.  “They escaped persecution,” he said. 

“I still have the paperwork that says, ‘It is bona fide my intention to become a citizen of the United States, and to renounce and abjure forever all allegiance and fidelity to all and any foreign Prince, Potentate, State and Sovereignty whatever, and particularly to the King of Denmark of whom I was a subject.’” 

“I think we are forgetting the reason our ancestors came here,” he added, looking out at the farm that he and his brother Max have vowed to never let out of the family.

Freedoms are important to Christensen – freedom of expression, thought and for farms to belong to individuals to steward in an ecological sense.  It was the serious and real threat of climate change that spurred him to create, GC ReVOLT (a solar business) and GCResolve (a grassroots community activism effort).  He is what a growing number of leaders passionate about rural America look like – independent, creative, open and tired of archaic policies, protectionist institutions and lack of diversity.  

Christensen was born in 1979 and grew up surrounded by activism at a time when many of his neighbors were losing or fighting for their farms.  His formative years were spent riding along with his parents who were active with the American Ag Movement, Nebraska Farmers Union and many other organizations.  He can remember tractorcades, trips to Washington D.C. and his father’s late night organizing of potlucks to engage fellow farmers to become involved in the world of what was going on, or not going on, with ag policy.

The struggles of a tornado hitting their farm, his parents severely injured in a car accident (that left them both with broken necks and a long road to recovery), and historically low commodity prices for over a decade, enabled the Christensen family to grow strongly together. He grew up in the Methodist Church, and like most farm families, faith and family became a grounding staple in his life.

Christensen also learned of his adoption at a young age, “I asked my dad about the birds and the bees checking corn one day when I was very young, and he told me I was adopted.”  Not unlike other adopted children, Christensen was curious to make a connection with his roots and eventually met his biological mom, a Bohemian Lithuanian, who grew up in South Omaha.

Like many young adults, Christensen thought the grass was greener elsewhere and spent one month in California before he was called back home. He missed his family and the farm. Journalism took a rest while he helped his dad on the farm, and he worked at a local steel construction company that builds grain elevators.  Then, he joked, that he spent, “three years in jail” working in ag financing, realizing quickly that cubicles were not a fit for the athlete with a curious mind and a love for the outdoors. 

From there, Christensen continued to connect people to a unified cause and naturally started organizing what at the time was the West Omaha Democrats.  Then he caught a break, “Ben Nelson asked me to work on his 2006 U.S. Senate Campaign and so I left ag financing.  The campaign was successful, but I had no desire to head to D.C. While in Omaha, I had connected with people in the eastern part of the city who were facing the same issues we were seeing in rural areas – poverty, access to food and healthcare – and, they inspired me.”

With his heart always pulling him home, Christensen found plenty to tackle in his own backyard.  He was active in the fight against the Keystone XL Pipeline, started his solar business and GCResolve.  Always seeking to connect the dots and make issues relevant for rural neighbors, he also traveled to Paris to meet with up and coming world leaders about the real impact climate change is having on the globe and how farmers are the solution.  His goal now is to help farmers become more “regenerative.” 

He’s working on that with his brother Max as they vow to help revive their farm with better soil practices that cleanse the water, all while providing more opportunities through solar and other on-farm innovations that create opportunities for rural areas to spring back to life, “Some of my best memories growing up are swimming in the neighbor’s pond, camping along area lakes, and exploring streams and rivers around home.

Here, and across the country, are many bodies of water I wouldn’t even allow my future children to swim in anymore because of bad ag practices influenced by mis-aligned chemical and seed companies.  This we must change, and farmers are central to this change.  I believe farmers are the heart and soul of our country.  After all, we produce the food.  However, we must do better, and I won’t give up on that.”

Learn more at:  
https://www.gcresolve.com and https://www.gcrevolt.com/.
 

Graze Master Beef French Dips Sandwiches
By Alyssa Ficke
 

Start with a three to four-pound roast.  I use round roast and sear it off to hold it together better for slicing.

Next put the roast in a crock pot with sliced onions, two cloves of garlic (minced or power) and sprinkle pepper and salt to taste.  Follow this with Worcestershire sauce and cover with beef broth. 

 
  • Cook for four to five hours to desired tenderness.  Make sure it is not to the point where it falls apart because you will want to slice it for your sandwiches. 
  • Allow the roast to cool enough to slice or shred to desired thickness. 
  • Place back in the crock pot to keep warm. 
  • Toast your French rolls and add provolone cheese.  Use the sauce from the meat for dipping Au Jus. Enjoy! 

Alyssa and Hayden.
 
Don’t forget to come and see us at the Seward Farmer’s Market.  The market runs every Wednesday through October from 5 to 7 p.m.  We will be featuring Graze Master Beef along with Anchor Meadow Farm eggs and honey.

Contact Emely Hendl at 402-613-5483 or Del Ficke at (402) 499-0329 to order your Graze Master Beef today.  Ask about our delivery options too.  Thank you!



Austin grilled burgers recently for Attley’s fifth birthday.  Yum!  Let us know what Graze Master Beef cuts you want to enjoy.   

Need seed?  We can help. 
By Nate Belcher
 

I think most of us can agree this has been a crazy start to the growing season. Relentless rain and cool spring temperatures have caused late plantings throughout the Midwest and an unprecedented amount of prevented plant acres. It has been a challenging planting season for many farmers to say the least.

As the old adage goes, “When life gives you lemons, it’s time to make lemonade!” For those out there who have prevented plant acres this year, it is the prime opportunity to plant a cover crop and build up your soil in preparation for the next growing season. Due to all the unplanted acres this year, cover crops have been flying off the shelves and supplies of certain species are already beginning to get tight with prices steadily increasing the past two months.

If you are interested in planting cover crops this year, I would encourage everyone to secure seed before prices go up any more or seed becomes unavailable. 


Give us a call if you have any questions on availability, pricing, or would like recommendations on what to plant.  We are happy to help and you can call any time. 
 
Contact:  Nate Belcher – (402) 580-0015

http://www.greenacrescovercrops.com/


 
Managing money is something we can all improve upon.  I think this is a good tool to look at as margins become even tighter for many farmers and ranchers. 
 
If you are interested in learning more about ways you can better secure your family’s future, let me know.  The conversation doesn’t cost a thing.  Thank you!
 
Kirk Peterson, FIC, CFFM
Financial Representative
401 E. 4th Street, Suite 101
Minden, NE 68959
Cell – 402-519-0330

kpeterson@sellefinancial.com
 

Honey Update – Anchor Meadow Farm
By Matt Hendl


Last year, on June 26, we harvested the first honey from our hives at Ficke Cattle in 2018.  This year, we are still waiting, but every farmer in the Midwest had issues from the drastic weather this past winter.  Some experienced losses, while others nearly ran out of hay. 

Since beekeeping is an agricultural endeavor as well, our honeybees were no different.  The average loss of honeybee colonies last winter was nearly 40 percent and we lost 100 percent.  This was a combination of drastic changes in temperature and having no windbreak that caused them to either starve to death or freeze.   Throughout winter, bees will cluster below 40 degrees and vibrate to keep the colony warm.  They constantly rotate throughout the honey stores to feed so they maintain the energy needed.  The colder the temperatures, the more honey they feed on.

There were several days throughout January to March when it reached 60 degrees. At that temperature, bees will break their cluster and venture outside to use the bathroom and search for food.  But drastic changes back to freezing temperatures did not allow some of the hives to reform their cluster and they froze to death. 

Half of our hives were still alive at the beginning of March, which we verified with a FLIR (Forward-Looking Infrared Radar).  But, they too perished – this time it was starvation.  We never feed sugar water to our hives (which most beekeepers do) for them to produce a fake honey.  We only harvest from the spring/summer honey flow and leave all the honey produced after mid-July (Aster, Goldenrod, Pumpkin, etc.) for their winter stores, which is about 60 to 70 pounds of honey. 

Now what would a farmer who lost 100 percent of their crop or livestock do? Bees themselves are not covered by any farm insurance.  Well, you start over! Like Del Ficke said, “I've learned the most from the many mistakes I have made.” 

We were able to purchase eight hives (almost doubling the number last year) to place at Ficke Cattle Company earlier this year; however, we did not receive them as early as last year due to the cold stretch in April.  We have moved our hives so they will have several levels of windbreaks and Del has seeded even more nectar-producing cover crops to his farm and will be participating in a pollinator habitat program as well.  You will be hard pressed to find a better habitat for pollinators (outside of natural parks) in the Midwest! 

So, even though the hives at Ficke Cattle Company are a little behind last year, they should do just as well, if not better!  Anchor Meadow Farm is looking forward to providing some of the best honey available and are proud to house our hives at Del and Brenda’s farm. 

 
Thank you for reading.  See you next time.  Carpe Diem.  
No electronic or mechanical reproduction of The Liberator is permitted without direct consent of the author, Ficke Cattle Company.  Contact (402) 499-0329 or fickecattle@outlook.com  Thank you so much for reading!

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