Farm Report January 2022

The cold wintery month of January is the time of year that the farm committee can kick back in front of a roaring fire and reflect on the results of last season’s plantings in the fields. We were very pleased with this past growing season. We learned a lot this past year, and like every growing season, the lessons learned will help us in our future plantings. We encountered difficulties during the 2021 growing season, issues like seed populations at planting, soil temperature that effected germination, and weed problems. The challenges we faced were very valuable learning opportunities that will help us when planting the fields in the future. The cold winter months are also a time for planning and we have started to come up with our plan for the 2022 Spring planting. More to come on that in future Farm Reports.

On a particularly brisk Saturday afternoon, we toured our fields to see how the Fall/Winter crops were doing. We were happy to see that the fields looked great. The corn in the B4 field that we planted Winter Rye into in November was serving its purpose. As we made our way through the B4, we flushed a huge bevy of dove feeding on the corn and there was plenty of sign showing the deer were enjoying it also. It was great to see the winter rye growing very well that was planted into the standing corn. We planted it a little late in the season because we had to wait for the corn to dry down. Planting too early before the corn had dried could have resulted in the corn molding when pushed to the ground. It was great to see that the farm fields are providing an abundance of food and habitat for the wildlife. 

The winter months are also a time when farmers learn and share information with other farmers and with agriculture experts. The Farm Committee attends seminars and meetings to learn about soil health, the latest in equipment and techniques, and the direction farming is going. We were very excited to host a soil health seminar at the chapter. The speaker was Steve Groff a 3rd generation farmer from Lancaster, PA who has been using soil health practices for nearly 40 years. His efforts have gotten noticed as Steve has spoken all over the U.S. and Canada and in 13 other countries. He started a cover crop coach webinar series that the chapter’s Farm Committee Chairman was a member of that allowed him to learn from Steve and farmers all over the world on soil health and cover crops. Steve and Dr. Ray Weil worked together to create the tillage radish our favorite tillage tool on the farm. Steve introduced the U.S. to the roller-crimper, a farming tool used to terminate crops to reduce the use of herbicides. The meeting was a success. We had 35 people attend either in person or on the Zoom call. Steve spoke on soil health, farmer/land owner relationship, and the direction farming was headed. He spoke on the many benefits that cover crops have on the environment and conservation.

The highlight of the meeting was a visit to our fields with Steve. Those who braved the cold walked down to our field planted in cover crops to hear Steve’s expert opinion on the state of our fields and the progress we’ve made on soil health. Steve plunged a shovel into the soil, turned it over, and explained what was going on in our soil. Our soil was alive. The worms were just inches below the soil hard at work. Steve showed us mycorrhizal fungi and explained its crucial rule that it plays in healthy soils. He pointed out nitrogen nodules on the roots of the Hairy Vetch planted in the field. We all got to smell what healthy soil smelled like according to Steve. The fact that he was impressed with our soil health in the fields and the direction the farm committee was heading in the future was very rewarding to us and our efforts. I want to thank all of those who attended the meeting and those who helped make it possible. We hope to have many educational function like this in the future.

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