Hungry for spring
Most of the repairs are done, the re-certification paperwork is almost finished and the vetch and rye covers are pushing through the stubble. If only the mud would go away.

By Jeff Moyer, The 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 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 the ground.

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.