ONE FARM TO ANOTHER
Jeff adds two new tools to his weed-eating arsenal

. . . and starts work on a better toilet.

By Jeff Moyer, Rodale Institute Farm Manager

Samurai weed eater: A farmer from Hokkaido, Japan gave Jeff this idea. He and the Institute farm crew built a simple metal frame to extend behind the rotary hoe, carrying tire chains that drag the entire tilled surface, rolling small weeds onto the surface, where they shrivel in the sunlight. The whole set up cost a couple a hundred bucks to build, and definitely improves the weed control before seedlings emerge.

 

Editor's NOTE:

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:
jeff.moyer@rodaleinst.org

Phone: 610-683-1420

Mailing address:
611 Siegfriedale Rd.
Kutztown, PA 19530

Posted June 10, 2003: If I’m not mistaken there is a song that goes “You are my sunshine my only sunshine . . . so please don’t take my sunshine away”.

Well the sunshine was sure taken away from Eastern Pennsylvania for the month of May . . . and well into June. It’s not that we got all that much rain but, we had a great deal of cloudy drizzly weather making it difficult to get our crops planted. It is also preventing the crops that are planted from growing. Not the weeds though, oh no, they don’t mind at all. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many small weeds germinating under oats in my life. And first cutting hay, no way.

I know some folks with livestock who got part of their first cutting in the silo and some folks who put up large wrapped round bales. But those of us without livestock, who depend on small bales of dry hay for marketing off site, haven’t had a chance. I will say the cool damp weather has kept the alfalfa weevil at bay so the hay that is out there is growing great. The problem of course is that I need to get the hay from out there to in here before I can turn it into cash.

With all the wet weather, I’ve noticed our rotary hoe has not been doing the same job it was in the past. I use my rotary hoe as close to the fifth day after planting as I can on both newly planted corn and soybeans. Two and a half years ago I was lucky enough to visit some friends in Japan. I got to tour the countryside and visit many different types of farms.

Now you may be wondering, "what does a visit to Japan two and a half years ago have to do with weeds in his corn today?" Well, it’s quite simple:

While visiting on the north island of Hokkaido I met a farmer who had the exact same rotary hoe we have here at the Institute. We discussed an improvement he made to his by adding an angle iron bracket to the rear frame of the hoe, to which he attached a section of tractor tire snow chain.

To make a long story short, I tried here when I noticed the rotary hoe alone was having little effect on the weeds. It works great for first hoeing, when the crop has not yet emerged from the soil. Ideas can come from the strangest places.

The other tool I’m trying out is a tine weeder with twenty inch tines. I’ve gone through my corn about fifteen days after planting. That’s about the time I’d usually rotary hoe for a second time. I’m trying the tine weeder since it’s more aggressive and seems to tolerate wet soil conditions better than the rotary hoe. Now I need a little cooperation from Mother Nature in the way of sunshine to get the corn and the beans growing.

Aside from field work and other field operations I have another exciting project I’ll have the opportunity to work on. For the past three or four years I’ve been working with a group of engineers, designers, local officials and folks from the EPA and PA DEP to create a wetlands here on our farm to purify waste water from our visitor center. This year the office of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) awarded The Rodale Institute a grant to actually put the design into practice. We’ll still need to find extra funding to fulfill a matching component of the grant but I’m excited to finally get the site built. We even had the distinct pleasure of hosting our congressional representative, Jim Gerlach, to present the check.

The basic idea is to create a new restroom facility for our visitor center that views all the water entering and leaving the building as a valuable resource. This will be a research project looking at pulling proven technologies into a residential package that will be practical, functional, and aesthetically pleasing. The goal is to develop optional systems to either standard or sand mound septic systems.

We’ll be using collected rain water from the roof of the building to charge the toilets, purifying the waste water through a series of constructed wetlands, and then using that water through a subsurface irrigation system to water the landscape plantings. I hope to keep you posted on the progress of this project which we hope will ultimately save farm land from development by permitting houses to be built on marginal lots that won’t support existing septic technologies. If you’d like more information email me and I’ll send you as much as I can.

Maybe next week the jet stream will move north and that sunny warm air from the south will bring us here in Pennsylvania the hay weather we need. I still need to plant my pumpkins, mow the field borders, and all the crops need cultivation Until then let me hear from you, I enjoy all the emails.

From one Farm to Another

Jeff