Posted May 11, 2003: I’ll keep it
short and sweet, since SPRING IS HERE … and it brought
with it mountains of work.
If you’re like me, you can’t wait to get at it.
On these first few really nice days, you feel like you need
to get it all done in one day. And, as impossible as that
is, the sense of accomplishment that comes with trying makes
it all worth while.
In the same way that spring has busted out all over, so have
the opportunities in organic farming.
On the research side of our operation, it seems everyone
is getting interested in organic agriculture. My friends and
colleagues in the university systems are all seeing a change
in attitude creeping into their research farms. Grant dollars
are being specifically earmarked for organic farming projects
and there is a rush to move those resources into targeted
areas. From crops to livestock, researchers are re-evaluating
Yesterday I had the opportunity to visit with a group of
folks from Penn State University interested in looking at
the transition process in converting apple orchards from conventional
to organic. Why? Because the future for family farms is not
in competing for small margins in commodity crops against
multinational farms, but in organizing a sound marketing plan
around delivering quality products to meet consumer demands.
(For more on our own organic apple operation, click
Many of the grant opportunities require that organic producers
and processors be intimately involved with the design of the
projects. This means that those of us who need the information
will have critical input into developing the information as
well as having a voice in designing how the information gets
back to us. It has become clear to those who control the funds
that the old methods of information dissemination just won’t
work when it comes to a whole farm systems approach.
Of course, this isn’t news to us but it is gratifying
to see these types of changes coming about … along with
the recognition that more research funds need to be dedicated
to organic issues.
Each of us has a responsibility to express our needs and
to participate in the direction of these projects. I know.
At this time of the year it’s difficult to find time
to sleep, let alone participate in someone else’s proposal
writing. However, your input is critical to the success of
these projects and their success is critical to getting more
dollars directed to specific organic issues. So, if asked
to serve on an advisory board, do it. Or volunteer to be a
mentor to your county agent. The future of organic ag rests
in all our hands.
This year we’ll be using a new planter on our farm
to plant corn and soybeans. We purchased a Monosem 4 row no-till
vacuum planter. I planted one acre yesterday and it worked
great. The acre I planted was a conventional research treatment
into chiseled ground. When I think of the first planter I
used and compare to this one, Wow, what an improvement. Easy
to set up and calibrate and very accurate.
This year I’m also bumping my planting rate up to 30,000
seeds per acre from 26,000 seeds in the past. I’m hoping
to see an improvement in my weed management as well as a yield
increase. I also purchased a new 4 row S-tine cultivator to
use in clean-cultivated soybeans. I may use it in other crops,
but I really wanted a tool with more control for the beans.
I haven’t had a chance to assemble it yet, but I’ll
let you know how it works later in the year. On the down side,
if I have better tools, I’ll have fewer excuses if the
crop doesn’t look good.
Over the last several months I’ve gotten many requests
for more information on the cover crop roller John Brubaker
and I built last year (Click
here for the New Farm article about it.) I’m hoping
to use it again this year for both corn and soybeans to enable
us to plant the crops in an organic no-till system. Several
folks are already building their own rollers to try the system
on their own. (We’ll keep you updated on their progress.)
I’m trying to get a list together of everyone who is
trying to manage cover crops in an organic no-till system.
If you or someone you know is doing anything like this, let
me know so we can add their work to the list. If you’d
like more information on our roller, after you’ve read
the article, let
me know and I’ll supply what I can, including photos.
On the production side of the farm, we are looking at exciting
marketing opportunities. Folks from all phases of the industry
are looking at ways of expanding and there are new processors
coming into the market place every day. From organic pie filling
to requests for organic wheat grass for juicing, there is
a steady stream of possible customers for the products we
The grain market continues to be strong and several of my
customers have already contacted me to buy crops I haven’t
even planted yet. We haven’t set the price yet but we’ve
always sold our grain for about twice the market value of
conventional grain. If you have any exciting marketing news
you’d like to share, drop
me a note. Marketing information is always inspirational
to new growers moving into organic.
Well, I need to get back to the fields. The potatoes are
in and I need to get back to corn planting. I hope you all
have a great spring … and a great start to your growing
From One Farm to Another.