I recently purchased a piece of land that seems to be all
sand: Sagebrush grows great. I want to turn it into an organic
farm but will have to wait on certification. While in the
waiting stages, what can I do to build the soil?
There a couple of things you should be doing while waiting
for certification. First, get started by taking some soil
tests from the field areas you want to plant. While this test
won't give you all the answers, it will tell you where your
soil is from a chemical point of view. You should also be
working on building your farm system plan. This will include
the crops you'd like to grow, etc.
Once you have an idea of what you'd like to produce, start
to design a crop rotation that will indicate what crops will
follow other crops in a time sequence. Try to develop a five-
to seven-year plan. Depending on what is in the field now
and where you'd like to be in each point of the rotation,
you might be able to get some cover crops started in certain
fields. These cover crops will be the backbone of your soil-building
plan, contributing nitrogen through legumes, mining minerals,
holding soil in place, and contributing to the soil organic
matter content, which in sandy soil will be a big help.
You might also begin to search for materials suitable for
composting. Making compost from municipal waste, yard waste
or animal manures can be an important component to your soil-building
program. As you begin to formulate an organic system plan,
you should be able to see how and where the pieces fit together.
If you have specific questions along the way, drop me an email
or ask the question of other farmers through New
Farm's forum section to keep you on the right track.