A late spring has Jeff chomping at the bit

He's ready to try out the retooled planter for planting no-till through vetch with minimum disturbance. And he's looking forward to the new pole barn, which will let him store more high-dollar hay and straw.

By Jeff Moyer, Rodale Institute Farm Manager

Jeff Moyer is the farm manager at the 333-acre Rodale Institute research farm, and has been here for over 26 years, refining the farm's cover cropping and crop rotation systems. The farm has over 1,000 organic apple trees, a 3-acre CSA, 270 acres in a rotation of corn, small grains, hay, and edible soy beans for a Japanese market, and 25 acres of experimental research plots that have been used to test and compare the yield, soil health and environmental impact of organic and conventional systems for the last 22 years.

"It's been extremely rewarding to work at The Rodale Institute," says Jeff. "Working on projects and with people who are having a positive impact on family farm practices, economics, and environmental stewardship is very fulfilling. The positive changes I've seen on our own farm over the years—and farms around the world— convinces me that we're on the right road."

How to contact Jeff

Jeff's email:

Phone: 610-683-1420

Mailing address:
611 Siegfriedale Rd.
Kutztown, PA 19530

Posted May 12, 2003: Spring has finally arrived. What more needs to be said? Like you, I’m as busy as can be. There just aren’t enough hours in the day.

We did manage to get all our oats planted, all the hay is seeded, and I’ll be planting my potatoes tomorrow. A little late, I know, but the weather just hasn’t been too cooperative. The gardens are starting to shape up, and the greenhouses are filled with bedding plants ready to begin making their way to the cold frames.

Last year we closed our greenhouses up tight for about 3 weeks to solarize them. The goal was to kill off any insects and their eggs. It really seemed to help, because our pest problems are minimal this year. This was a practice we had gotten away from in the last few years because we were holding plants in the buildings year round. I believe that was a mistake, and we‘ll be heating it up again this summer.

We still moldboard plow most of our corn and soybean ground, so we are busy getting that tillage done. Many of my neighbors have been planting corn for several days now, and it’s hard to sit back and wait to get started. But I’ve learned from experience that if we plant too early we’ll have to struggle to manage the weeds, especially if the soil remains cool. It never seems to slow the weeds down, but the corn just sits there.

I don’t have 100’s or 1000’s of acres to plant, so waiting will only be hard on my nerves--not the corn. Of course, I’ll be planting some of the corn as no-till and for that I’ll need to wait even longer to match the planting time with the maturity of my cover crops.

I have a 2-row Monosem air planter that I use for planting pumpkins, sweet corn and green beans. This year, I’m modifying the planter to work as a no-till planter and I’m going to try to plant no-till corn into a stand of hairy vetch.

I’m adding a second tool bar, front coulters, front residue managers and--with the help of our dealer--some custom made rear residue managers. My goal is to move the heavy ground cover just enough to get the seed in the ground then pull it back over the planted row. This should leave the field looking as if it wasn’t planted.

I’ll let you know how it works as soon as I try it out. I’ll be using it in conjunction with the new cover crop roller that I mentioned in an earlier article. If it all works as planned (and it never does) I hope to set up a 4-row unit for next year.

I’ve been talking to a lot of folks the past few weeks who have been telling me how good the past year was for selling organic grains and forages. I hope if you’re growing these crops you’ve had the same experience. It sure is a great time to be in organic.

We sold the last of our straw last week and we only have about 800 bushels of corn left to deliver. This is good because I only have 2 grain bins and I need to have them emptied, cleaned and ready for summer small grain harvest. I’ll have more room this year for hay and straw since we put up a 50 ft. by 70ft. pole barn last winter. This building will also house the combine and grain truck. I’m sure it will be full before we know it and we’ll be wishing it were larger.

We’re in the process of shutting down our long term compost utilization project and we need to dismantle the lysimeters that are installed below the plow layer throughout the field. (Lysimeters collect ground water that leaches through the soil so we can measure it's quality and content.) There are around 50 of them, so we need to dig down with the backhoe and locate them. Guess I better get out of the office and out to the field or I’ll never get done.

Don’t forget to write back and let me know how things are going on your farm. That’s how we all learn.

From one farm to another.