More than once recently I’ve been asked why I farm. There’s no single, simple answer to the question. Honestly, on those days when things aren’t going well, I sometimes ask myself why I do this. But on the days when everything clicks, I’m as happy as anyone who’s bone tired, dirty and sweaty can be. I can bask in a beautiful sunrise or sunset. I can enjoy a day working beside by husband, my daughter and on very special days, my grandchildren. And on those days when a customer at the farmers market says, “Thank you for all you do”, well, it means a great deal that someone takes notice.

I love farming. I love knowing I’m doing something that benefits others. I get a great deal of satisfaction from seeing a crop from start to finish. I love teaching people about what we do and why we do it.

Farming is our heritage and our legacy to future generations. Not only do we want our business to survive, we want to leave our soil and water resources better than we found them. That’s the reason we are MAEAP verified. That’s the reason we stay up to date with research and technology, so that we employ best practices. Farming the right way is the right thing to do. For you, our customers, and for generations who will follow us as farmers and consumers.

People tend to forget that farmers are consumers as well. Most of us don’t grow everything we need, or want, to eat. Just as you want nutritious, abundant, affordable and safe food for your loved ones, so do we. I hear fellow farmers talk about conservation practices they use to prevent soil erosion. I get to hear them talk about steps they’ve taken to prevent run-off so that the water resources we are blessed with are protected. I’ve seen them weep after a fire sweeps through the barn, killing animals. I’ve seen the pain in their eyes when an animal in their care is ill. I see the worry on their faces when prices are low, and low for so many years that their family business, and heritage, is threatened. In the spring, I know the excitement they all feel about getting in the field. The joy they feel when a healthy calf or a lamb is born. Come fall, when the last bushel has been harvested, those farmers are weary but find satisfaction in surviving another growing season.

Farmers care about what they do. They care about doing it well. Farmers care about producing safe food for your family and for their own families. They care about the food animals they raise and soil and water resources they use. It’s hard to explain, but farming isn’t just what farmers do – it’s who they are, too. The farmers I know, and there are a lot of them, really care.

Brigette Leach works with her husband, Larry, and adult daughter, Kelly, doing business as Avalon Farms. They currently grow corn, soybeans and wheat on 1,100 irrigated acres. In addition, a hydroponic greenhouse enterprise houses vine-ripened tomatoes, salad greens and fresh herbs which are directly marketed to Kalamazoo and Battle Creek area restaurants, grocery stores and farmers markets. Area families subscribe to their “Share of the Farm” Home Delivery subscription service, which provides not only what is raised at Avalon Farms, but also fresh fruits and vegetables from neighboring farms and other family farms all over Michigan.

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