ONE FARM TO ANOTHER
The crops are poppin' this spring
Can the weeds be far behind? Jeff talks about cultivation, no-till organic, apple production...and an opportunity to run a CSA here at The Rodale Institute®.

By Jeff Moyer, The Rodale Institute® Farm Manager
Posted June 2, 2004

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:
jeff.moyer@rodaleinst.org

Phone: 610-683-1420

Mailing address:
611 Siegfriedale Rd.
Kutztown, PA 19530

May 26, 2004 : I don’t think I’ve ever had corn germinate and pop out of the ground faster than I have this year. Corn I planted on Monday was up by Friday. My neighbor, who is a conventional farmer, drills his soybeans. He said, “The soybeans were germinating right behind the drill”. This was all due to air temperatures in the 90’s that really warmed up the soil. For eastern Pennsylvania in May, that’s warm.

Since then we’ve had cloudy weather with brief showers every evening, making it virtually impossible to get first cutting hay out of the field. Along with the rain showers comes weeds, and sure enough they’re starting to grow. At this point in time the corn is outgrowing them, so I’m not too worried. We were able to rotary hoe the corn on time and that has helped with the first flush of weeds. I plan on finishing up my soybean planting as soon as it dries off.

Aside from the grain crops, the orchards look good so far. Of course, it’s early in the season and a lot can go wrong. We are just about finished with our thinning operations on apples. For us that’s a hand operation that takes too many hours. Don Jantzi, our apple foreman, does a great job of managing the day to day production operations in the orchard and has the trees and the fruit looking great. The high temperatures and dry weather early in May helped keep the disease pressure well with in the tolerable range--not like last year, when the wet cool weather made it almost impossible to control scab even for the conventional orchards here in the East. Our early sprays of Surround went on and the pheromone mating disruption tags were placed in the trees in a timely manner. Things are looking good for the apple crop. (For more on our apple operation, check out Laura Sayre's article from May.

This year we cut back on our vegetable production, mostly due to a lack of time and the fact that we have no current research projects. We planted one acre of potatoes, about an acre and a half of pumpkins and about a half acre of sweet corn. We have about an acre of mixed vegetables in our garden and that’s it. Up until last year we had a three acre CSA farm (Community Supported Agriculture) operating within the physical confines of our farm, but we lost our CSA manager and haven’t found a replacement to date. We’re still very interested in finding the right person to get the program back on its feet. We get calls every week from potential customers wishing to buy subscriptions. So, if you know anyone who is interested in starting up their own vegetable CSA in southeastern PA, tell them about the opportunity, or let me know.

This year I added another tool to my arsenal to battle weeds in row crops. I bought an S-Tine cultivator from KMC (Kelley Manufacturing Corporation). It’s a 4-row set up with 5 tines per row and rolling shields for first cultivation. I’ve only had brief opportunity to use it prior to writing this article, but judging by the few rows I did get to run through I think I’m going to like it. I got it mainly for soybeans but I’m planning on using it for the first cultivation in corn. I think I’ll be able to perform more precise operations with this new tool than I could with the heavy residue unit I’ve been using. I still plan on using that machine for the second cultivation.

Every week I hear from more and more of you who are interested in organic no-till production strategies. We just submitted a grant proposal to conduct some on-farm research to move this cover crop management system from our farm out onto other farms to see its potential under diverse management situations, on different soils, with different crops and different weather patterns. For me this is very exciting since I’ve been working towards growing corn and soybeans organically without tillage for a long time. While our system is by no means considered continuous no-till, I have gotten to the point where I can plant corn or soybeans in the spring without tilling the soil. These are very positive steps. Now we need more minds and hands working on fine tuning the system. I always like to hear who is doing what so, please continue to email me.

Well, the sun is coming out and I might be able to get in the fields after lunch. I’d like to finish up soybean planting before Memorial Day which is this weekend. I hope your crops are all doing well and that you have time to enjoy your family this holiday weekend.

From One Farm To Another

Jeff