Jeff’s making his lists and checking them twice …
… mostly because he can’t believe how much has to get done this winter to be ready for next season.

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 December 18, 2003: December, a month of check lists. Sure. There are the shopping lists, the holiday gathering lists, and the general “things to do to get ready" lists. But December is also a time to make a list of all the winterizing chores, gather together a winter projects list (always longer than the winter), and formulate a list of decisions that need to be made related to changes in your farming system.

One of the items that needs to be on the top of your list is to get your seeds ordered early. This is especially true if you need organic or untreated seed. Most suppliers need to know how much seed to set aside from seed coat treatment as soon as possible and usually there is limited supply. If you plant specific varieties of hard to find items, this becomes even more critical. While you may still be reeling from the 2003 growing season and the pain has not yet subsided, force yourself to look at your plans for the 2004 season and place the order. Then you can relax, knowing that at least the seed for the future is on its way.

Next on the list is to get those certification records in order. Now, while the past growing season is still fresh in your mind, is the best time to organize all your information and maybe fill in the blanks where something slipped through the cracks during the rush of crop production. The better organized you are now, the easier it will be when the certification inspector stops by.

High on the list on this farm is the winterization of the machinery and equipment. The irrigation system needs to be drained down and protected from freeze damage. All the radiators need to be checked in the trucks and tractors, the tanks on the transplanter drained and checked – and the list goes on. Here is a prefect example of how true the old saying is, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” A little time spent going over the water and cooling systems can save costly expenses in the future.

While you’re doing it, take an extra minute and start that winter projects list. Look over the tractor or equipment and write down anything that’s broken, worn, or needs repair. This is the start of that never ending project list. This winter I plan on rebuilding a small two row planter into a four row no-till unit. We need to repair the disc, fix the cultimulcher, service all the tractors, weld up the mower, repair the hydraulics on the combine, put new sweeps on the cultivator, and the list goes on and on. Just about everything could use some attention.

Now comes the toughest list of all. How can we improve on what we did last year? This list takes a lot more time and thought. It’s probably good to involve all those who have an interest in the success of your farm in this process. From family members and ag advisors to bankers and sales folks, there is a wealth of information out there to help steer your operation. Take advantage of all the resources.

I know that, for myself, the items on this list come in different sizes. For example, a small item on my list is to change my soybean variety to take advantage of some new data that indicates there are different responses between soybean varieties and their ability to outperform weeds. While this may be a small decision, the results could be large in terms of increased yields and greater revenues. There are intermediate decisions, like crop rotation changes or building modifications to ease livestock management. And then there are some larger items on the list, like adding new ventures, expanding to more acreage or, for me, reevaluating the farm’s entire apple marketing strategy to try and put that program in the black.

Here is a case for some outside support and advice. What are those big changes you are contemplating? How will they affect the existing farm structure? Any changes you plan to make should be spelled out in your organic farm plan. If you write these plans down you’ll be all set for filling out your certification documents as well. Often it is difficult to take an objective view of your own farm operation to see what really is and isn’t working. What works great on one farm doesn’t work at all on another. So, you really need to take a hard look at what you are doing and why … and some outside insight wouldn’t hurt.

Getting back to those apples: I’m leaning towards a greater emphasis on the direct marketing end of things and expanding our pick-your-own market. This really gets to the heart of why we grow apples in the first place. It also saves me the time of harvesting those apples, and fits well with our other direct marketing plans. Oh well, this needs more thought.

Now – What to put on that Christmas list?

From One Farm To Another ---- Have a Joyful Christmas Season