Sunday, June 21, 2015

Rock Growing

         Folks often ask me what I grow on my farm. “Rocks,” is my standard reply. If I could make money off them, I’d be one of the richest women in the world. They’re all over my 28 acres, including my woods. But the best yield comes from my pastures. 
An early-morning harvest
       I grow all shapes and sizes: big rocks, small rocks, boulders and pebbles. Don’t try to tell me they don’t really grow here. I know they do, because every time it rains, I harvest a new crop. 
      Rocks are the perfect commodity. Unlike wheat, soybeans, cotton and other row crops, they require very little work, at least until harvest time. They don’t have to be planted, watered or fertilized. They’re perennials, coming back year after year, and they’re an all-weather crop, because they pop up in every season. They are impervious to insects, never get parched from heat and they never mold.       Admittedly, picking them can be a pain. So far as I know, there is no such thing as a rock combine. But that’s a minor problem when you consider the money to be made.
The Campfire Collection
Perhaps I could get an agricultural subsidy from the government, like those wealthy folks who collect checks when they never set foot on a farm and don’t need the taxpayer-funded assistance. According to an Environmental Working Group report, these include Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, children of the founder of Walmart, Senator Chuck Grassley, TV magnate Ted Turner, Jon Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen. Boy, what ranks I would join.
Boulders make a bold landscaping statement.
Better yet, I could collect a check for the rocks I don’t grow. Farmers get paid for not growing certain crops when the market is glutted. According to the Government Accountability Office, between 2007 and 2011 Uncle Sam (meaning U.S. taxpayers) paid some $3 million to 2,300 farms where no crop of any sort was grown. That could be a problem, though, because I can’t seem to control the proliferation of my rocks. They grow willy-nilly, like weeds.
I could be like the father of Major Major, a character in Catch 22, a novel by Joseph Heller. Major makes a good living not growing alfalfa. “The more alfalfa he did not grow, the more money the government gave him, and he spent every penny he didn’t earn on new land to increase the amount of alfalfa he did not produce,” the book says. Like the fictional Mr. Major, I’d be able to spring out of bed at the crack of noon each day, “just to make certain that the chores would not get done.” Sounds like a plan our government is sure to back.
I could sell the ones I did grow to garden shops, nurseries and big-box retailers like Lowe’s. I could sell rocks over the internet, on or eBay, so I’d have little overhead, or better yet, have a "U-pick-'em" farm. I could rent a booth at a flea market or crafts festival if I felt really enterprising, and I could advertise them on a television infomercial. “Just $50 for a 25-pound bag of assorted rocks and pebbles. We’ll even pay the shipping. But wait, there’s more. Call within the next 10 minutes, and we’ll double the offer. That’s right, you’ll get two 50-pound bags of mixed rocks for the price of one. Just pay shipping for the extra bag. But hurry, this is a limited-time offer.”
With my luck, though, China would be able to produce rocks even cheaper than I could. They’d ship them to Walmart, and people would buy them by the bushel, even if they were inferior to my American-made varieties. I’d be right back where I started, with 28 acres of rocks that are good for nothing but filling up sink holes.

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