I met this month’s farmer, Jeff Hartman, of Hartman Farms, through Leadership Idaho Agriculture. He is in my class, and I have really enjoyed getting to know him. His family has a long history on their farm, and I know you will like learning about their operation. Jeff has also agreed to allow me to document his farm’s upcoming planting, growing and harvesting seasons, so be on the lookout for those posts starting this spring!
Jeff Hartman is the production manager for Hartman Farms, his family’s farm. He works with is father, John, uncle, Bill, and cousin, Josh. Their family has been farming the same ground in Parma, ID since 1892, making Jeff the 5th generation to care for the land. That makes their farm 122 years old this year. Not many farms across the nation carry that heritage.
Jeff has been involved in the farm since he was a kid. He went to college at the University of Idaho, graduating in 2009 with a degree in Agricultural Systems Management. A love for the farming lifestyle he enjoyed growing up, the ability to work closely with family, and the opportunity to spend his days driving tractors brought him back to the farm after college. Along with farming, Jeff also spends time brewing beer, skiing, and doing welding projects like making yard art from old farm equipment.
The Hartmans grow mostly vegetable seed crops on their 1,300 acres, including carrot seed, alfalfa seed, wheat seed, and sweet corn seed, as well as field corn. They also grow onions, including the Super Colossal onions used by Outback Steakhouse for their Bloomin’ Onions. Much of their wheat seed heads up to the Palouse, the alfalfa seed usually goes to Pioneer Seed in Nampa, the field corn goes to local feed lots and dairies, and the other onions they grow usually go to other grocers. All their fields are irrigated, and they utilize drip irrigation, siphon tubes, and center pivots.
Jeff’s job on the farm includes a bit of everything. On any given day you can find him irrigating, running machinery, examining the fields, and in the winter, repairing equipment and building new machinery, and completing the mounds of paperwork farmers need to enable them to make the best decisions for next year’s planting.
Like all successful farmers, Jeff and his family utilize as many sustainable practices as possible. The driplines and center pivots have been a major part in conserving water, and they also help reduce fertilizer and chemical use. Transitioning to larger equipment, for example from an 8-row planter to a 12-row planter, has also improved their efficiency by reducing the compaction of the soil, the time it takes to complete planting, and reducing fuel consumption.
New technology, such as apps for smartphones and tablets have also increased the Hartman’s sustainability. They can turn irrigation pivots on and off, check the weather, adjust temperatures in their storage facilities, and more, all from their phones! They implement minimum-till practices to preserve their soil, and use filter strips, a band of planted or native grasses at the end of the field, to reduce water erosion and runoff.
The Hartman’s, like farmers across the Treasure Valley, face the uncertainty that our area’s droughts bring. Water and water rights, or lack thereof, bring challenges to Jeff and his family. They never know if there will be enough water to carry them all the way through the season, and frequently water usage must be coordinated and negotiated between neighbors.
Other challenges Jeff sees are increasing land prices. For a young farmer wanting to go out on their own, high land prices make it very difficult to get started. Young farmers have no equity to leverage borrowed money with the bank, and loan programs for young farmers offered by banks or governments often do not provide enough funding to purchase enough land. Competition with neighbors for land is also a challenge for young farmers like Jeff. Established farming neighbors have the ability to get funding much more easily, and have the ability to pay more per acre than a new farmer.
While farming has its challenges, it also has great rewards. Jeff loves seeing every season progress from planting the seed, watching the baby plants grow and mature, and finally the satisfaction of harvesting the crop at the end. Year after year, the cycle is the same, and he enjoys it every year. Jeff also loves working with his family, and the closeness that comes with that. He also considers himself lucky to be able to work outside, and with the land.
With a farm that is 122 years old, there is a lot of history on that ground. The 1900′s four-square farmhouse that Jeff’s great-great-grandfather built still is being lived in! Decades ago, a road was being built near the house and in order to have better access to the road, the house was moved from its original location and then spun 180* to face the new road. A second level was later added and bedrooms were used to house local teachers of the Ten Davis school that was located across the street. Another addition of a master bedroom and bathroom came when the house received running water.
Jeff’s Uncle Bill and his family live there now. The home has been fully renovated and is in wonderful condition. North of their shop was an old homesite that the Hartman family has planted with grass and surrounded by old farming equipment to serve as a community picnic and gathering area for agricultural education. In 2004 Bill and John finished construction on a new shop which allowed them the needed space to accommodate for larger equipment and a growing company.
Even as a young farmer, Jeff realizes the importance of improving the relationship between farmer and consumer. He shared the story of a time he was with a group of friends at college, and was talking about harvest. A girl spoke up and asked “Does anyone know what he was talking about?” That really drove home just how wide the disconnect between agriculture and consumers has become.
“Many people don’t know where food comes from, and many people don’t think they need to know” says Jeff. The decrease in the connection of a huge proportion of our population to where their food is produced is sad, and is a dangerous mentality to not care about how food is grown. Onions don’t come from the grocery store – they come from Jeff and his family, just like all of the the thousands of other foods come from the farmers and ranchers who grow them.
Another issue that Jeff sees contributing to the disconnect between farmer and consumer is the stubborn image that farming is still a low-technology occupation. Many people still think farming is horse and plow and black and white photos. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Farmers are actually huge consumers of the most advanced technology, including GPS, aerial imagery, drones, and smartphone and tablet applications. Farmers like Jeff use these technologies to enable them to be better stewards of the land, and to preserve it at the highest quality possible.
As a member of Leadership Idaho Agriculture Class 34, and fourth member of his family to go through the program (John Hartman (Class 26), Bill Hartman (Class 28) and Josh Rubel (Class 32). Farmer Jeff Hartman is joining the ranks of young farmers, ranchers, and other agriculture professionals who are becoming increasingly vocal about promoting agriculture. I know we can look for Jeff to be a leader in agriculture in our area! Please head over to the Hartman Farms, Inc. Facebook page for farm updates and tons of wonderful photos!