Sunday, January 29, 2012
Who is Cedar Valley Sustainable Farm? Part 1.
It’s more “who are Cedar Valley Sustainable Farm?” than “who is Cedar Valley Sustainable Farm?.” Although Mitt Romney has boldly asserted that “corporations are people my friend;” Cedar Valley Sustainable Farm is definitely not a corporate farm. It is the family operation of Jody & Beth Osmund as well as their three sons – Richard, Duncan, and Jack.
Jody (43) grew up about 8 miles from where he now farms. While growing up, he helped on his dad’s diversified grain and livestock farm in Serena, IL. Jody’s parents, Richard and Eileen, still live in the house and on the home farm where he grew up. At its height, the farm encompassed nearly 700 acres, grazed 100 cow/calf pairs, raised 700 hogs per year, harvested 450 acres divide between oats, corn, soybeans, wheat, and alfalfa hay. The farm, also, had a flock of 150 laying hens. Picking eggs and taking care of the hens was one of Jody’s childhood chores.
By 21st century, conventional agriculture standards the Osmund farm was quite small – too small to support a family on. However, in the sixties, seventies, and early eighties it felt big; it provided quite a good standard of living for the Osmund’s (a family of six) and a neighbor with whom they farmed in partnership.
Things began to change in the late eighties when the farm crisis hit. You may remember Willy Nelson’s Farm Aid and John Mellencamp’s hit “Rain on the Scarecrow” bemoaning bankrupt farmers and lost legacies. Fortunately, the Osmund’s did not suffer dramatically in the farm financial crisis. Still, farming was not the number one (or two or three, or four) career of choice for aspiring, bright, young farm kids in the late eighties. Jody graduated from Serena High School in 1987, went off to college and away to a professional career like so many of his peers.
Beth (43) grew up a “town girl,” but was friends with farm kids. Although a sizeable town for the area, Ottawa (pop. 18,000) is surrounded by farms; and, in the eighties, Ottawa had a lot of farm kids in its schools. Beth first met Jody at the county fair, and eventually was set-up on blind date with him by one of her farm-girl friends.
Upon graduating from Marquette High School, Beth left Ottawa for Northern Illinois University’s college of education. The two dated off and on throughout their college years. They married after Jody completed a year of graduate school with him following her to Salt Lake City, Utah where Beth was teaching Special Education at a school with a large “at risk” population. Her first classroom was in a converted janitor’s closet – perhaps I’ll post on education at another time.