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?
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
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.
us with comments, suggestions and questions.