Changing Pastures

5/4/2013 7:00 AM
By Margaret Gates Regional Editor

A s I sat along the third-base line watching a high school baseball game recently, I heard a strange snorting sound and immediately wondered if a feral hog had wandered from the woods bordering the ballfield.

Turned out it was just a left fielder with a nasty sinus condition, but it reminded me how much my thought process has changed since I began working at Lancaster Farming.

Where I once marveled at how much one of our local priests looked like Tom Cruise, I now point out the uncanny resemblance between a family friend and the president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.

When I see the letters “ET,” my first thought, admittedly, is still that friendly movie alien, but embryo transfer is a very close second.

Somatic cell counts, rotational grazing and cover crops have become part of my regular vocabulary.

For many of our readers, living and breathing agriculture and all that it encompasses has always been a way of life. Not so for me — at least not until I walked into our Ephrata, Pa., offices for the first time almost three years ago.

Truth be told, I was heavy on the newspaper experience, but a little light on agriculture know-how.

OK, very light.

I live near several farms. I have a friend who owns two goats. I buy produce from a local farm stand. That’s pretty much the extent of my agricultural experience.

Oh, and I once helped a veterinarian friend treat a cow with milk fever. That has to count for something, I think.

But compared with my colleagues — farmers and former dairy royalty among them — I was like a head of hydroponic lettuce out of water.

Truth be told, I was born in Queens, N.Y., and spent my first nine years playing mostly on sidewalks and front stoops, with nary a patch of grass to call my own.

Then my family moved to Lancaster County, Pa., and suddenly we not only had a yard, but it backed up to a cornfield.You can imagine our surprise the first time we saw a horse and buggy hitched to our next-door neighbor’s tree.

Still, although I loved being surrounded by farmland, I didn’t exactly immerse myself in the agricultural life. Thankfully, working at Lancaster Farming gave me the opportunity to do just that.

From robotic milking systems and anaerobic digesters to vermicomposting and precision agriculture, it’s been a great education.

Most of all, I’ve enjoyed meeting and working with people in the farming community — discovering their hard work and dedication, their challenges and triumphs, the important role they play in bringing food from farm to table.

I am leaving Lancaster Farming this week to take another job within our parent company. Think of it as staying on the same farm, just rotating to a different pasture.

The focus of my work will no longer be agriculture, but I certainly hope to keep what I’ve learned here an important part of my daily living — and hopefully continue to foster a deeper appreciation of farming among other greenhorns like me.


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