ONE FARM TO ANOTHER
Where does the time go?
Sure, it's more of the same this year. The weather. Our on-farm research. Meetings and conferences. But with a little planning, it does keep getting better and better ... and more and more interesting.

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

 

January 7, 2005: Two-thousand-and-five! What happened to the last 5 years? Wasn’t it yesterday that everyone was discussing Y2K, computer crashes, power outages, and the like? And now it’s 2005 already. I still think of my 1992 pickup as my new truck. I suppose that shows my age. But it is January and the start of another year. The cycles of the weather and my time follow the calendar this year as with all others. So, as I’m thinking what to write about, I struggle to make it different from last year. Yet it is much the same.

In January of 2004 I talked about the coming year bringing new opportunities. The same is true for 2005. I know for our farm we are facing new challenges brought on by our efforts to seize some new opportunities in 2004. One of those challenges is to expand our work on organic no-till grain production. This is a topic of huge interest across the country. I know many of you wrote to me expressing your interest in the project and the possibilities of incorporating these production practices on your own farms. We’ll be working with several researchers and farmers in different regions of the country to experiment with the equipment and the cover-crop systems under various management scenarios and cropping systems. Included in our plans will be keeping all of you up to date with what’s happening once the field work gets rolling. This way we can follow the successes and failures together and all benefit from the experiences the participants are having.

Last year I also talked about the weather. Yeah, I know, we always talk about the weather. I said I hoped it would be better than the year before; it wasn’t. We had the wettest year on record. How we got the crops in is beyond me, but we did and our yields were extremely good. Baling hay and straw was a different story. We couldn’t put three rain-free days together to save ourselves. We got some great hay, some good hay, some not so good hay, and some stuff we’re not too proud of (sometimes all on the same day). We had corn yields on our better ground that topped 200 bushels per acre. Of course, the wetter ground that usually does well drowned out, got weedy where we couldn’t get in to cultivate, and had reduced yields. All in all, we have little to complain about. By having a diverse rotation, we always have something that grows well, even if another crop struggles.

In January I always talk about meetings and conferences and our need as farmers to gather as much information as possible on topics as diverse as our farm operations. Anything from business management to equipment modifications can be of great use as we move our operations forward. Farming is not immune to the “information age.” If we hope to remain in business, we need to gather information. This work is just as important to our futures as cleaning the barn or ordering the seeds for planting. In many cases it’s much more of a struggle that those other chores because we actually need to travel to the meeting, sit, and pay attention. I find that committing to going is the hardest part. We all know that once we get there and meet with friends (old and new), we find the time to be well-spent. And there is no excuse for saying you can’t find a quality meeting to attend. It doesn’t seem to matter where you live; there many exciting opportunities available to you. Ideas shared at these events not only add practical knowledge to your toolbox but can inspire and challenge you to succeed in your efforts.

As I said last year, here in the Northeast, we have events happening just about every week from early January through February. I know—I ’ll be at quite a few of them myself. We have state-sponsored farm shows. We have equipment shows, horse shows, dairy shows, beef shows…We have sustainable ag conferences, organic ag workshops, and state Extension seminars. Not to mention all the conventional agriculture conferences, which also have great information for growers, ranchers and farmers of all types. These are opportunities you really don’t want to miss. You may even want to think about being a speaker at one of these events. We all have information worth sharing. This learning bit is a two-way street. How many of you decided to sign up as speakers? I surely hope some of you did. I’m sure we could all learn from your experience. I know I learn something from every email you send me.

All this new knowledge and awareness of new opportunities will mean nothing if it isn’t translated into new plans or new activities. A new year means new plans. What didn’t work last year that needs to be changed? What worked great and needs to be expanded? Maybe there are massive changes in the works, or maybe all you need is some fine-tuning. The point is we all need to take some time and re-evaluate our farms, re-evaluate what resources we have at our disposal and decide how best to put them to work. With out a written plan, and you should take the time to write one, you will struggle not knowing if your on track or not, not being able to see where the information gaps are, not knowing if your marketing plan is working and, most importantly, you’ll be left next year at this time not knowing how to improve.

Well, I need to get back to pulling a presentation together for one of those meetings I need to attend. Even though I’ll be making a presentation, I’m sure I’ll learn far more than I’ll teach.

I wish for you, your family, and your farm a year of great success.

From one farm to another,

Jeff