Posted March 5, 2004: Slowly the sun is rising
earlier in the morning and setting later in the evening. Here
in southeastern Pennsylvania the snow that has blanketed the
ground most of January and early February is beginning to melt
away. All of this brings thoughts of spring – warmer days
and getting out to the fields. A walk through the greenhouse,
where the early seeded crops are starting to push through the
soil, only makes those thoughts more vivid.
While you’ve heard me speak about the organic no-till
work we’ve been doing here on the farm, we still use
a moldboard plow to till the soil for most of our crops. A
quick look at the plow out in the shed gave me a clue as to
where I could spend some dollars. New shears, shins, moldboards,
and landsides. Wow! You wonder how such a small pile of steel
could cost so much. This is the time of year to finish up
those repairs and whittle down those lists we all made way
back in December. Here at our farm we did a fairly good
job this winter of painting indoor spaces and repairing equipment.
I’ve also been attending those meetings I discussed.
I hope you also took advantage of the learning activities
around your home town. One of the best meetings I attended
was the Sustainable Agriculture and Conservation Tillage School
held in southern Georgia. I had the opportunity to visit with
some great farmers, researchers and extension folks there
over a three day period. While the focus of the event wasn’t
specifically geared to organic agriculture, there sure was
interest in including this type of production in their thought
process. Most of the presenters included the ideas of crop
rotations and cover crops into their talks. And the concepts
of soil health and soil quality where pervasive throughout
the conference. All in all a great three days; I’m sure
those farmers that took advantage of that learning activity
found something they could take home and put to work on their
own farms. And like any meeting where farmers get together
they fed us well.
The meetings I attended closer to home were just as interesting.
The enthusiasm I feel from farmers, growers and food processors
across the region is exciting. Everywhere you look there seems
to be someone finding new opportunities for marketing their
products to a customer base that is growing daily. And the
willingness of these farmers to share their knowledge is inspiring.
This is the time of year on our farm that our organic re-certification
takes place. And that means --- yep, you got it -- PAPER WORK.
If you’ve gone through the process before you know it
isn’t nearly as painful as you’d think. And if
you haven’t, don’t give it another thought, just
jump in and get it done. If you’ve take my advice and
kept notes throughout the year, the reporting portion is almost
done before you start. This is also the perfect time of the
year to re-evaluate your record keeping system, look at what
worked and what didn’t, and make the necessary changes
for the 2004 growing season.
I finally had a chance to take a brief walk around some of
my fields yesterday. Boy, do I hate mud. And I have lots of
it. As I mentioned, our snow is all but melted except on the
north sides of the fields and fence rows. We got about an
inch today but that will be gone with the first few hours
of sun tomorrow or the next day. Even though the ground is
still frozen, the cover crops of hairy vetch and oats look
good, although it’s still early. The oats are definitely
dead and the young vetch plants seem to be surviving just
fine under the cover of the oats. The winter wheat is still
waiting for warmer weather to begin greening up but the stands
looks good across the farm. The rye covers that were planted
into the corn and soybean stubble is small due to its late
start but it’s amazing how even a lisp of a seedling
will help stabilize the soil and support microbial activity.
It too will be greening up shortly.
We’re getting ready to seed our grass and legume hays
under the wheat. This is the time of year we “frost
seed” those crops with a small electric spinner seeder.
We have ours mounted to a small garden tractor that floats
nicely across the lightly frozen ground without any damage
to the young wheat plants. Normally this gives us a good stand
since the freezing and thawing that occurs, with the fluctuations
of night and day temperatures, pulls the small seeds into
If you get the chance drop me a note on what’s happening
on your farm – trading information and stories is what
it’s all about:
From One Farm to Another.