ASK Jeff: The Rodale Institute’s farm manager, Jeff Moyer, answers your hardcore farming questions

Transitioning and buried under Canadian thistle--advice?

Posted November 9, 2004

What Jeff brings to the table

Jeff Moyer, who’s been the farm manager here at the 333-acre Rodale Institute research farm for more than a quarter of a century, receives lots of mail from farmers just like you asking for advice. Jeff’s hands-in-the-dirt experience over the past 26 years has run the gamut from refining the farm's cover cropping and crop rotation systems (including managing 270 acres in a rotation of corn, small grains, hay, and edible soy beans for a Japanese market) to overseeing The Rodale Institue Farming Systems Trial®, the world’s longest running side-by-side comparison of organic and conventional agriculture. We thought it would be fun and informative to share some of these farmer-to-farmer exchanges, and Jeff’s practical wisdom, with our readers … and we’ll be doing it on a regular basis.

Got a question of your own? Send it to Jeff at:

Dear Jeff,

We are transitioning and have one holy mess of Canadian thistle on a wonderful clay base, so soil tilth/building is my first priority. Started with buckwheat, left it on too long, put in rye and we have had just way too much rain! Alas, welcome to farming! Look forward to what you have to offer.

Thank You,
Carol Woodring

Dear Carol,

You have the right idea with the buckwheat and rye. The trick is to have a quick turnaround with successive tillages and replanting of the buckwheat (several in a season), then fall planting of rye. The idea is to not let the thistle plants get any energy for at least 12 months through tillage and cover crops. As far as the rain goes …. not much I can offer there.

Good luck,


Have some questions to Ask Jeff? E-mail him directly at