Farming For The Love Of The Land, And The Independence

By Ellen Simmons
Special To The Record

Kammstead Farms is located in Hartland Township in the rural New London area and is owned by Marilyn and Lauren Kamm, who farm the land along with their son David.

Lauren was raised near Berlin Heights and was a member of the community's last graduating class (after which the students were absorbed into the Edison School District). He was raised on a farm and in 1972, after graduating from Bowling Green State University, bought 137 acres of land in Hartland Township.

Marilyn attended Norwalk's St. Paul High School, married Lauren 30 years ago, and along with raising their son, helped farm. Acquiring more land as the opportunities came along, they today own 1,200 acres and live in a large farmhouse just around the corner from where Lauren originally settled.

About 20 years ago when no-till farming first became popular, Marilyn suggested Lauren give it a try, a suggestion he resisted at first. She told him, "You are never going to know till you try." The experiment was successful and they use no-till methods for the corn and beans they raise today.

Marilyn laughs and says, "What I didn't realize was I had just talked myself out of a job," because many less hours were needed on the tractor than with traditional farming methods.

Not one to be idle for long, Marilyn applied to the New London Local School District and is now a paraprofessional teacher's assistant in the elementary and junior high.

In the meantime, David grew up and graduated from New London High School in 2004. He was active in 4-H and in the early 2000s raised Huron County's Grand Champion Dairy Feeder Calf. He attended Miami University, where he earned a bachelor's degree in science and biology. In addition to farming, today he teaches science at New London High School and is close to getting his master's degree from Baldwin Wallace University, a school with which several of his relatives were associated.

After becoming interested in bees, David acquired several hives two years ago, but lost five of six of them last winter due to the intense cold. With the help of a neighbor, he restocked and today sells his honey at several New London area businesses. He also owns and farms 100 acres of his own.

The Kamms plant around 60 percent of their acreage to corn, with the rest to soybeans and a little wheat. They say no-till farming is more efficient, uses less fuel and puts less wear and tear on the equipment than do traditional methods. Also, it cuts down on soil erosion and is easier on the land. Because of these measures, in 2011 Kammstead Farms was named the Conservationist of the Year by the Huron Soil and Water Conservation District.

Technology has played a large part in the way the Kamms farm, of course, with the use of computers and developments such as GPS. Although they, like most people, may not understand exactly how much of the technology works, David says today a farmer can "customize a field," planting exactly the right number of seeds in exactly the right places, which ups production and cuts down waste.

The Kamms belong to the Farm Bureau, and David is a member of the Huron County Farm Bureau Board. They see government rules and regulations as one of the challenges farmers must face, the thorniest for them which is the wetlands issue, which Lauren calls "a terrible problem."

After acquiring some additional land a couple of years ago, they wanted to square up a field by eliminating a few trees bordering the land they were planting. They knew they could not just start clearing trees willy-nilly, so they asked for a soil scientist to come out and okay their plans.

After waiting for a year when no one showed up, they went ahead and cleared the trees and today are embroiled in a situation because they disturbed 2/10s of an acre of what has been classified "wetlands."

Saying how frustrating it is to try to abide by the rules, Lauren adds, "Some farmers have gotten out of government programs because of problems. Others are trying to abide by the rules."

They just laugh and shake their heads about new regulations concerning fertilizer, which have been enacted to help control waterway run-off. Lauren adds, "In the last ten years the price of fertilizer has gone so high, farmers will only put on what they need and would never overuse it."

They say these are just two examples of the ever-changing government regulations that affect farmers and eventually consumers. Marilyn says, "You have to be a gambler to be a farmer."

So the question is, why choose a profession with work that never ends, with increasing government regulations and with the weather always a wild card that can make or break a year's crops.

Lauren's answer is, "I like being independent and being my own boss. We also love the land and the outdoors." He is happy to be living now when there are still some small, family owned farms left and his vision for the future is "larger and larger farms."

David says anyone thinking of becoming a farmer "should prepare to always be in debt," and know something about technology, business, science, chemistry, mechanics and new developments always on the horizon.

Besides running the farm, Lauren is in his 18th year as a Hartland Township Trustee, and he has also served three years on the Ag Credit Board. He and Marilyn attend the New London United Methodist Church and belong to the New London Grange.

They are interested in family history, own several rental homes and have traveled both in the states and abroad.

The biggest challenge the Kamms have ever faced is in 1995 they were both diagnosed with cancer. Marilyn remembers it as, "a time when everything seemed to be against us." She says it was the only year Lauren couldn't plant his own crops and they both wondered what future, if any, they had.

They were declared cancer free after five years and today give credit to God for still being alive and well years later.

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