I feel responsible to take care of what
I’ve received and to make it better but also to leave hope you know leave
leave that possibility We’re with Phil Witmer in Ottobine,
Virginia and Phil runs a dairy operation an organic dairy operation. So this
this is really good you know it’s not often that I see a dairy herd in the
pasture so that was a lot of fun to me but let’s step back, tell me about
your start in farming, how you grew up and what interested you in in this whole
thing? And how did you get to this point where you are now at least from a
philosophical point. How I’ve gotten to this point, you know having grown up on a
conventional more-or-less confinement style dairy. What brought me to
pasture-based dairy and eventually to organic production has been
trying to find a way to continue a sustainable farming system. Like if I
get a field that is 3 percent organic matter. We bought some land two years
ago that was just a little bit — it’s sandy soils — but it’s just a little bit
less than 2.8 – 2.9 percent. You know my goal is not to maintain that, my goal is
that we improve that that you know maybe maybe five years or ten years from now
it’s 4%. We started our experience in pasture-based dairying 20 years ago in
1998 and it’s it’s been quite a learning curve. Originally or initially, I would
say that we learned quite a bit in a short period of time but as time has
gone on we’ve actually relearned some of the earlier lessons. You think you know
what you’re doing and then you get cocky and you relearn sometimes things
the basics that you knew when you first started. It’s been a good learning
experience but something that we’ve changed a lot over the years things that
we’ve done that may have worked at one point you know we have different
practices or different ways of addressing that same problem now so it’s
kind of a evolution as well as a learning experience. With our organic experience as well as a lot of other things we’ve experimented with
that’s something I hope you know my children will continue in as seeing the
possibilities in agriculture. Seeing the unknown. you know we like to work with what we know but there’s also the fascination
with what we don’t understand and so I’ve seen that in my children you know
that when we do something different it’s different than what the neighbors are
doing or whatever it piques their attention you know they’re like and why
do we do it this way and so then you have the discussion about all the
factors that are in the background you know whether it’s the soil or
whether it’s managing livestock or these different systems
livestock and the soil and the crops and how everything fits together
holistically. Just whatever the discussion is but that they see kind of
the big picture not simply that we’re producing milk and that’s
how we make our living but that it’s a whole farming system.