Today I was invited to go to work with Helle Ruddenklau on their family farm. Even though Helle was the one who invited me I was warmly greeted by Bruce, Grant, and Lauren (Jack is at camp this week). I was pretty excited and a bit nervous because I was told that I could eventually drive the combine and this was a first for me.
Helle took me out first to give the beginnings of a tour around the first property. The Ruddenklaus farm about 1000 acres, just enough to make it for their family. They farm periennal ryegrass, sugar beets, radish seed, pea seed, sweet corn and wheat. Our first stop was to look at the pond that they created when they moved onto the farm to help with irrigation but also to be around for wildlife and to enjoy.
I kept remarking how beautiful everything was around us. There is truly something special about hanging out on a family farm. We then moved to the combine where we traded shifts with Bruce. Helle started the drive as we talked about her journey to farming and the impact she is really making in the world with her farming techniques and her great passion for the earth and farming. I picked her brain about which crops to plant and when. It seems like a grand puzzle in some ways with all sorts of things to keep in consideration…what is good for the fields, how much of each thing is needed, where things have been before, etc.
Then it was my turn to drive.
I hopped behind the wheel in fear and trembling and learned most of the buttons and rode off into the field at 2.5 mi/hour. So much fun! I was fascinated with how the combine picked up the grass and cleaned off the seed and returned the grass to the earth. The Ruddenklaus let the grass stay in the earth (instead of shipping it elsewhere) to add to the nutrients over the season.
We worked row by row and really had a pleasant time. I found the combine to be pretty theraputic! We talked about Helle’s kids and her great passion some more. I even got to help unload the grass seed into another truck while keeping the combine moving twice! Wow! What machinery. After a while, it was time to switch again and let Bruce take the wheel once more while I got to go on more of a tour to other fields. Grant, the 5 year old, helped us out with the tours as well. 🙂
Helle talked in great lengths as we wandered through fields, picking up peas to inspect and sweet corn to admire, about how food is processed and her take on it all. Helle works to improve humanity. They pick much food for food banks and while she encourages local and organic, she realizes that as long as farming is about education about food, she is for finding the best solutions even if fields aren’t “organic.” I tend to agree with her on this one. Helle is showing her path through this advocating in what is best for the earth and for people. I really think she is living out her ministry in this way.
After an extremely pleasant afternoon I said my goodbyes and headed out. Wow, what a day! Thanks Ruddenklaus!