So, we have been on a new journey in our crop systems. We are grazing our cattle using non-selective grazing methods. That is the cattle are on small paddocks and eat 80% or more of the grass before moving. This could be 4 to 5 moves a day. It is basically a clean your plate system. If left to an entire field, the cows pick the best grasses and leave the unfavorable. If this continues, only the unfavorable grasses go to seed and the best grasses slowly die out., replaced with weeds. This is also going to allow us to use less acreage in the summer and stockpile winter forage. Instead of using fossil fuels and iron to bale our hay and put it in the barn, we will leave it in the field, the cattle will harvest it when they need. They can go through two feet of snow for grass, so we have a lot of time to harvest if we look at the past winters. We will have hay as back up if needed, but i don't think we will be making hay next year!
The sweet corn will be produced from now on using cover cropping systems as the means for weed control and nutrient supplementation. We have decided that corporate agriculture will no longer be one of our partners. Monsanto,, Sygenta, Bayer, and all the other fertilizer and spray companies are not welcome here. While in the past we were very conventional, we have made the leap to provide healthier food. Healthier for us, our animals, our soils, and our customers. Instead of all the chemical inputs, we will be using the soil and crops to feed and weed the sweet corn. We plant our corn in one week intervals. We are also cultivating the weeds out and after one or two cultivations we will add in a cover crop. These crops are low growing smother crops that bring up nitrogen and nutrients from the soils to feed the corn. The smother part is our weeding system. These crops will create a mat that weeds will not grow through. It is a huge experiment. I contacted Penn State Ag department about a soil test i took, and while discussing mentioned my plans. The gentleman on the phone said that they (PSU AG) were doing the same trials as I was. We are experimenting with when to cover crop and which work best. Unlike other years with our corn, if the plan fails ( I don't think it will) I will have great pasture for my animals without sprays and chemicals. In other years we could not graze the corn for a long time because of the herbicide we used. That is a huge benefit to our operation.
While many think we are going the wrong way, I believe our changes are imperative to our well being as a family, farm, and producer. I do not believe that dumping more money into the pockets of the corporations will help us get ahead. I believe that we have harmed our soils using those chemicals, but we will now fix them. We have been using our livestock only to heal the pasture soils (our pastures have seen no chemicals in 8 years) and our yields have grown to twice what they were. Can you believe that without an ounce of chemical we are making more grass than before? The salesmen that visit us do not! Proper animal rotation and management has doubled our grasses on pastured fields.
We will keep you updated on the progress, but things are going well.
Some pictures of our progress......