Published Jul 22, 2014

Harvesting cereal rye and the call of the quail: A PFI member commentary

By Teresa Opheim
Mark Peterson harvesting rye

Mark Peterson harvesting rye

Here is a guest commentary from PFI farmer Mark Peterson, of Stanton:

“So yesterday was a long hard day. I have several things going on work related in different parts of my life. Paperwork that is due, loads to be hauled with the truck, and last but definitely not least cereal rye to be harvested  before next week’s vacation. I got the combine up and running yesterday and made some progress in spite of several issues such as what you usually have with harvest. Along with everything else due to the weather, I have to wonder if the harvest will be good enough to pay the cash rent.  By the twilight hours I was tired, so tired I was having trouble remaining awake. A dangerous condition for sure especially when I have to dodge tile intake pipes. To top it off I had to miss taco Tuesday and also on the bike trail an annual sweet corn feed put on by a friend of ours.

“As I was leaving the field to go home, another farmer pulled up to the gate hole. Not just any farmer, to my knowledge the only other “renegade” in the area that is raising cereal rye for seed. He was curious how I was getting along. But then the conversation turned to other topics. He complimented me on trying to regenerate this particular piece of ground that we are in our second year of farming. He knows that it has been farmed “hard” before and needs help. We talk about soil health and the excitement that we feel working with cover crops knowing that in part we are improving the environment. We talked about how fellow farmers are asking more questions and less head shaking is going on. We talked like neighbors used to and it felt good. I left the field feeling better about the day.

“Upon getting home I no more than got out of the pickup and I heard the call of quail. A scant 24 months ago it would have been very rare to hear this. Tonight as I listened I heard first heard one not more than a stone’s throw from me. Then I heard another and another. All in all there were somewhere around 5-8 calling from different areas of the farm. You see last year we had cereal rye saved for seed on our farm and with the cereal rye came the quail and now this year there are more. I look forward to next year when once again we will be saving rye for seed here at home. I am hopeful we will have even more birds in the area. As I get in the house we realize that even with all windows shut and the TV on we can still hear the calling of one of the quail outside, reminding me in part why we are on this path. Yes, it is a path less traveled, and others are doing way more than I am but it is a good path just the same. All in all life is good on Bent Gate Farm.”