2003: November is here and the weather in Eastern Pennsylvania
couldn’t be better. We had substantial rain late in October,
(which this year is par for the course), but the temperatures are
very mild and the skies are clear. Perfect for getting in the late
cuttings of hay, the soybeans and the corn. We’ve got all
the apples picked and in the cooler, the soybeans are mostly harvested,
sold and already delivered, my favorite football teams are winning
about half the time, and the kids seem to be doing well in school
– life is good!
Our institute manages its fiscal year to coincide with the calendar
year, making this BUDGET TIME. Yes … that time of the year
when financial planning takes place. I must be getting old since
it seems like I just did this the other week, but no – it
was last year and it’s time once again.
The real challenge for me is that part of the budget which I allocate
to capital items. The electric and fuel bills will be what they
are. Property taxes and other known expenses will be easy to calculate
based on historical information. But the capital side of the budget
needs some very creative thinking and a fair bit of research. Like
most of you, there are a zillion things “I need,” but
very limited resources.
This year I’m looking at converting a no-till planter that
was set up for research plots from two rows to four rows. I should
look into a new, or at least “new to me”, orchard sprayer,
and a plot combine for research needs. I’d really like a mid-sized
tractor in the 130 horse power range, but ….
This sort of activity really is an opportunity for change. And
spending large sums of money on equipment or buildings should encourage
you to review your entire operation with a critical eye towards
the future. No sense investing “new” dollars into “old”
systems if it’s time to make other changes. Where do you see
your farm 5 years or 10 years from now? With the cost of new equipment,
you and I will be living with our decisions for a long time …
or paying the price for poorly suited tools or the cost of re-equipping
One of the areas of re-tooling I’m looking into is cultivation
equipment. The 4-row cultivator I’ve been using for the past
15 years or so doesn’t quite seem to have the degree of adjustment
or flexibility I think I should have to get the job done right.
We’ve had such odd weather the past few years. It’s
either too wet or too dry whenever I need to cultivate. So I need
to do some research into what’s new in the exciting world
of cultivation equipment. I know there are lots of options out there
and finding the right tools for the job won’t be easy. If
any of you has any suggestions I’d love to hear them. Maybe
you know of a piece of equipment that has performed well or one
that I should avoid. Email
or write and let me know.
Nutrient levels: organic vs. conventional crops
Many of you have written to comment on my last article, where I
talked briefly about the new direction for The Rodale Institute
Farming Systems Trial® (FST)—tracking nutrient differences
in food produced organically versus conventionally—and the
need to address food quality issues. I’m glad to hear that
many of you support our efforts. Although some of you questioned
my sanity, most of the comments where very positive. We are well
aware of the difficult tasks ahead as we buck the system once again,
but it’s important work and the end goal of healthier soil
and healthier people makes it all worth while. And the site we have
selected for studying nutrient differences, the FST here on our
farm in Eastern Pennsylvania, is one of the few places in the world
where the highly documented diverse farming systems plots with intense
historical data necessary to conduct these studies exists. I look
forward to sharing the information coming out of this work with
you as the results slowly come in.
Nurse crops for cover crops
Well, as I started this article by saying it’s November,
and outdoor activities are starting to wind down. As I look out
across the farm, the only crop I see left to harvest is the corn.
The gardens are starting to look bare as the last of the root crops
are harvested, and the still green cover crops are filling in the
beds. While only the hardiest leaves are still clinging to the trees,
this farm looks green from end to end. The wheat I planted last
month is up and looks great, as does the barley—the promise
of a good harvest next summer. My vetch and oat cover crops look
like they’ll make it into the winter with sufficient growth
to survive the cold.
This year I planted spring oats with most of my hairy vetch as
a nurse crop. I’ve noticed in the past that by planting a
grass with a legume I can get the same amount of nitrogen contribution,
for next years crop, with a lower seeding rate of the legume and
still put the same amount of biomass back into the system. This
saves me money since the legume seed is an expensive part of my
cropping system. The rye I immediately sowed after soybean harvest
is beginning to emerge. And the hay fields are greening up after
I’m writing this on Election Day, and by the time you read
this the polls will long be closed, the campaign signs torn down
(hopefully), and all those annoying radio spots just a distant memory.
I hope all your candidates won and pray they all have the strength
and wisdom to move our governing bodies in a positive direction.
Until next month, I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving
and have much to be thankful for.
From One Farm To Another . . .