The calendar says summer, but buyers are saying fall

Half of our apples are damaged, but prices are good. The pumpkins are prolific. And the corn is 10 feet tall. Life is good—not great, but pretty darned good.

By Jeff Moyer, The Rodale Institute® Farm Manager

The Rodale Institute's pumpkins

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


September 1, 2004: September already—the unofficial end of summer and the beginning of fall. While the calendar says it’s still summer, buyers say it’s fall. We began picking apples earlier in August, and the pumpkins have turned a beautiful shade of gold. This is the time of year to get these crops to market. Between now and the middle of October we’ll have pick-your-own apples and self-help pumpkin harvesting. Both these “family events” bring folks to our farm for a few hours of fall glory. I know lots of farms that sell corn shocks, straw bales and fall flowers all for decoration.

I never cease to be amazed by the great lengths consumers will take, and the dollars they’ll spend, to decorate their homes for fall with farm products that have nothing to do with food or food production. I guess, deep down, they all wish they could enjoy the beauty of the farm in fall—a beauty we all take for granted on a daily basis, right outside our back door.

We’ll also be wholesaling apples and pumpkins soon to local CSA’s, processors, and produce auctions. This year was a tough year for our organic apples. Both insect and disease pressures were high and our fruit is about a 50% pack out. Not at all what we had hoped for; we usually look for about 75% perfect apples. That being said, the yield is good and the prices are still high for organic fruit, even processing fruit. The pumpkins look fine and I’m sure we’ll fill many, many trucks with them.

Another item on our agenda this fall is SAFETY!

Being a research station, and not just a farm, we fall under the supervision of all the state and federal safety regulations. You may wonder why I’m bringing this up. Well, for some time now the Institute has been working on reestablishing our safety committee, holding staff training sessions on everything from equipment hazards and chemical handling to fire prevention and lifting instructions, and redoing our safety and hazard communications manual.

Where I’m heading with this discussion is that safety on this farm, or your farm, is of the highest priority. If you or I get injured, or one of our employees or family members gets hurt, the whole operation suffers. It may even come to a screeching halt.

Harvest season is the time of year when most farm accidents happen. The amazing thing is, most can be prevented. During harvest we’re all trying to beat the weather, working long hours. This is hard on the equipment … and hard on us. We often tend to take short cuts, put off repairs, and just plain old don’t think about being as safe as we should. Take this time to discuss farm safety with your family or employees. We all value the labor and enthusiasm they bring to our farms, and a safe harvest season leads to a joyous holiday season months down the road.

Even though your farm doesn’t fall under OSHA guidelines, it still makes sense to look around your farm with an eye towards safety. Farms are loaded with safety concerns. Quirky equipment that is easy for you to handle may be a danger to someone less experienced. We all have broken or loose ladders, frayed electric cords, sharp metal edges … the list goes on and on. Maybe you can tell – I’m not only the farm manager but also the safety coordinator for The Institute.

I don’t know how the weather was in your area this summer but I got some great emails from some of you that make me feel like I’m not alone in saying “it wasn’t the best.” Some of the emails really made me laugh. I guess when it gets too bad that’s about all we can do. Here we had about 10 inches of rain in July and about 5 inches in August. My farm at home, only 12 miles away, got 14 inches in July and 8 in August. The corn is over 10 feet tall, but it sure was hard trying to make decent hay. We had to make our first cutting in wrapped round bales. Second cutting was made well and went into small square bales, and third cutting is cut and still laying in the field as I write this.

Several of you wrote for more information on the compost turner discussed in a New Farm article several weeks. I’m glad to see there is interest in both composting and in shop-built turners. The one we put together in the neighbors shop has been serving us well for the past 10 years. If you take a look at the article and need more information, contact me and I’ll try and answer any of your questions. If you built your own I’d like to hear from you. Check out what readers have already said by clicking here.

Hey! The sun finally came out and that means the hay must be fitting up. I’d better get out to the field and move it around. So, till next time – “happy farming”.

From one farm to another,