Compost turner extraordinaire.
We always love to report on the creative work being
done here on the research farm. Our organic
no-till roller, for example, is a great innovation that has
created quite a stir. At least two other farms are now constructing
and testing their own versions of the tool.
There’s another amazing homegrown tool here on the farm we’ve
been wanting to write about for some time now—our farm-scale
compost turner. And now, in August, when we’ve been spreading
compost on our recently-harvested oat ground, seems like a good
time to tell the story.
Several years back, farm manager Jeff Moyer and neighbor John Brubaker
snagged a junker dump truck from a local salvage yard, and through
the magic of world-class welding, hydraulics and imagination they
converted it into a compost turner that can handle windrows 12 feet
wide and 6 feet tall. In
her story this issue, staff writer Laura Sayre tells
about its construction, and also about the role compost plays in
our farm operation. The story is chock full of details about how
we make our compost, when we apply it, and how often and how much
we apply. An added bonus: Laura
uncovered old slides illustrating the construction of the turner.
We’ve taken these images and new photos of the turner in operation
and made them into a slideshow.
We hope it will give those of you out there with the skill and the
will enough information to build your own. If you have any questions
about its construction, please contact Jeff directly at email@example.com.
Organic mega dairies … There’s
been a lot of buzz on ag list serves and elsewhere recently about
Aurora Dairy Group’s certification of its 4,000-cow dairy
operation in Platteville, Colorado. Laura Sayre provides a
careful summary of the event ... and the issues. We've
also reprinted a
piece from The Stockman Grass Farmer that takes the
view that Aurora's move is a direct result of the USDA's decision
not to enforce the "access to pasture" rules of the National
What do you think? Does the certification of
Aurora Organic's dairy and bottling facilities represent a bright
new dawn for the U.S. organic dairy sector, bringing organic milk
to millions of regular American consumers nationwide and prompting
the conversion of thousands of acres of farmland to organic production?
Or does it herald a tough new era for small, family-owned organic
dairies, in which the premium for organic milk will erode and the
difference between organic and conventional foods will become less
meaningful? Send us your thoughts by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On a different scale altogether …
Dairyman David Iles runs a 190-cow pasture-based dairy herd in North
Carolina. During the 1980s and early '90s, Iles ran a much larger
conventional operation and generated lots of dollars—but he
was always in debt. So he transitioned to pasture, cut his production
and started to see consistent profits. Writer Chris Bickers describes
Iles’ operation in detail. He also describes
a dairy pasture research program at North Carolina State University
that has been working for 6 years to develop a new system that will
allow dairies in the Southeast to compete effectively with larger
confinement systems in other parts of the country. Bickers
describes the pasture-based system they’ve developed—and
Other highlights for me this issue:
Chris Hill, Executive Editor
forget to check out our latest Organic
Price Index. Coming tomorrow,
August 18: All new prices for the Grassroots OPX.
Nineteen markets in 15 states.
Let us now give thanks to the glorious
George Devault discusses the care and feeding of
his most dependable cash crop. See
hymn to blueberry production, below left.
The Compost Magician: Take
a closer look at our homegrown farm-scale compost turner. See
at left for more details.
Pasture-based dairy: A
North Carolina experienced the two Ps--pasture, then profit. See
at left for more.
The state of corn in Mexico: What's
been the impact of NAFTA and U.S. corn dumping? Don Lotter takes
an up close and personal look. See
at left for more.