ONE FARM TO ANOTHER
Great weather. Good yields? We’ve got our fingers crossed.
Jeff gives an update on equipment purchases, crop progress, farm building maintenance, new approaches to no-till … and the fire of 2004.

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:
jeff.moyer@rodaleinst.org

Phone: 610-683-1420

Mailing address:
611 Siegfriedale Rd.
Kutztown, PA 19530

July 20, 2004 : It’s hard to believe, but here we are in the middle of another summer growing season. I must be getting old because it seems like it was just time to plant corn and now it’s shoulder high. Where does the time go!

We’re busy making second cutting hay, finishing up with our row crop cultivations, and getting started on wheat harvesting. The apples are starting to size up and so are the potatoes. I hope you’ve been enjoying the same fine weather we’ve been having here in Southeastern Pennsylvania. Although it’s still early and a lot can go wrong with the weather, the crops look great and we’re hopeful we’ll enjoy good yields.

Our new plot combine for our research activities has finally arrived. This combine will replace the old Massey Harris 35’s we’ve been using since – well, forever. They were just getting tired. The new machine has an air-conditioned cab, something the old 35’s never had. Yes, I know we’re spoiled, but we ARE getting older and creature comforts seem more important then they used to. This machine also collects better data and downloads it directly into the computer. It also cleans out faster between plots, which should save us valuable time during harvest.

It wasn’t cheap. Costs run about the same for these small units as they do for the full sized versions and you know how much they are. But, like on any farm, there are costs to “staying in the game,” and I guess that’s one of them for us as a research farm. If we get as many years out of it as we did the 35’s, I’ll have no complaints.

One of our field highlights for this year is our organic no-till soybeans. We’ve tried a lot of new treatments--some with the new crop roller we’ve been discussing on the web site, and others without it. We tried planting on 30 inch rows and drilling on 8 inch rows. This year the best plots are those where we planted on 30 inch rows behind the roller in rye. These plots are practically weed free. And there was no tillage to establish the beans, no herbicide, and no cultivation. My kind of system.

We also planted pumpkins no-till for the first time into Hairy Vetch in full bloom the first week in June. It seems to have worked great. Again, no tillage to establish the pumpkins, no herbicide, and no cultivation. It was strictly a one pass operation. We DID walk through the pumpkins one time with hoes to get the pigweed that was coming up in the row.

What I SHOULD have done was remove the residue managers from the front of the planter. That’s what I did for the soybeans and it allowed me to close the cover crop back up over the row more tightly. This seems to hold the weeds back better than moving the cover crop away from the row and then trying to move it back.

Our demonstration garden took a step backward last month when we had a building fire that destroyed our pavilion. It was a 24 foot by 48 foot building that sat in the middle of the garden, serving as a seminar site and storage building. The fire is still under investigation. Those of you who have had fires know how destructive they can be. It’s not only the building or the lost productivity but the emotional loss as well. Fortunately, no one was hurt and the building will be replaced.

This year is a big painting year for farm buildings. We try to paint something every year; the appearance of the farm is very important. You know how these old buildings hate to hold paint. But this year we need to really get going, so we’re painting the large white barn in the center of the farmstead as well as the main house, which houses our administrative team. This house was built in 1797 and the barn around 1819.

The job was too big for us to handle on our own so we hired painters. I hate painting! I’m glad to see they pulled in today to get started. For those history buffs out there, I should say that this farm was first settled in 1721, so it’s been around for some time. Knowing the history of a place gives me a better sense of where I fit in, as well as a greater sense of responsibility to those who came before me and to those who will come after.

Well, that’s a brief snap shot of what’s happening with farm operations here at The Rodale Institute this month. Let me know what's going on, on your farm.

From One Farm To Another

Jeff