Q&A

DEAR NEW FARM:

I have just bought 78 acres in Albany County New York to save it from development. A farmer has leased 35 acres of it at a nominal fee from the previous owner and planted it with corn for many years. The soil looks eroded and devoid of life other than the corn. What can I do to restore the health of this piece of earth?

Margaret Snowden
New York

 

DEAR MARGARET:

You just described our farm a little more than 30 years ago, before we started farming it using sound organic practices—which we’ve improved upon over time—including cover cropping, a solid rotation plan, and the addition of compost, which all serve to build up depleted soils. We are now in the process of putting together an online transition course that tells this story in detail and shares our successes and our methods in order to benefit other farmers transitioning to organic. It should be online (and it will be free, by, the way) sometime next fall. In the meantime, continue reading real farmer success stories in the pages of New Farm and visit our online book store for great reference materials.

Recently, we ran a story about how one group of farmers in similar shoes started a CSA and then got a land trust and the community involved in order preserve the future and integrity of the farm and business in perpetuity: Preserving Peacework: a long-term alternative to farm ownership.

You are absolutely right that corn on corn is no rotation at all. And if you want to farm the land organically, please keep in mind that there’s a three year waiting period between the use of synthetic pesticides, herbicides and other prohibited substances and the time you may seek organic certification.

Good luck,
NF

 

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