• John Hogeland

The Beginning of the End??

It is 3:30 a.m. and I am up. I have been up for a while, tossing and turning in bed - keeping Beth awake, so I got up and started to write.


The tractor broke down today. The big one, the one with front wheel assist. The one I use for everything. The only reliable tractor we have...had.


The front wheel assist tractor without its front wheel. It fell off the axle while I was cutting hay.

I'd been mowing hay all day and was nearly done - probably about an hour left - when the front wheel broke off. Just broke off. The tractor is still sitting there in the same spot, on three wheels, the broken axle now propped up on wooden blocks.


And it is not as simple as a broken axle, the whole wheel assembly that allows the tractor to pull with its front wheel is in pieces. It is at least a five thousand dollar fix, maybe ten.


To us, new farmers just getting started, it feels like a death sentence. We can’t afford this kind of loss in our first year. It was already clear that we weren’t going to break even, and I hoped we would survive a first year loss. But to add an extra five to ten thousand dollars to that loss seems insurmountable at the moment.


To make things worse, it was just beginning to look like we might have a life line for the farm. Hay prices are better than I had expected and might make up for the bummer of an oat crop we produced. And the USDA EQIP program just guaranteed us funds to pay for half fencing and a water system for the cattle which we desperately need to make next year's farm plan workable. But that program pays half the costs - where is the other half going to come from?


And so, I’m up at 3 in the morning.


I’m not worried. I’m past that, and well into “beside myself”. My mind goes round and round thinking about all the things that I can’t do now. I can’t finish the hay, I can’t sell the hay, I can’t clear the fence row for the new fence, I can’t fix the crossing into one of my fields, I can’t mow the orchard, I can’t….I can’t convince Beth that this is still a good idea, to keep on trying when all of our old equipment just keeps falling apart. Maybe I can’t even convince myself.


There are a lot of can’ts in me right now, a lot of deadly negativity because all of this is so hard, starting my dream at 50 and knowing that even if we do it all right, even if the markets are good and nothing breaks, there is still almost no income to be had in farming.


I don’t mind hard work. In fact, I love it. I don’t mind being knocked down, I dust off and get up again and again. But this feeling of being kicked back down just as you started to have a little hope...it’s just not right.

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