Then and Now
The middle of May use to mean that the crops had been planted and sprayed, and our thoughts were turning to making first crop hay. We always started planting as soon as it was fit, practicing no-till as much as possible, and a two pass herbicide program. It was a labor efficient way to grow our crops. Our spring would then proceed from one seasonal task to another, generally completing one task before beginning the next.
A lot has changed since starting our journey to organic production. Our first year was a shocker! We were naïve and unprepared to change from an almost all no-till, to a full organic production system approach. One of the first things we did was move our planting start dates back about two weeks- instead of planting in the end of April to mid-May, we now start in mid-May and end in early June. The later start date allows our crops the “statistically” best weather for maximum plant growth. Weeds will also be growing, but hopefully the crops will out compete/grow them.
Still there is nothing harder than breaking an old habit. To say we (Dad and I) were a little twitchy or anxious would be an understatement. Very similar to being the only high strung horse left in the stable after the rest of the herd goes out for a ride…we were left to paw, prance, and whinny all to ourselves. We stayed close to home the first year, avoiding all the progress by the neighbors- trying to ease our pain.
Our focus remains on soil health and conservation, by utilizing cover crops so our fields have something covering/growing on them year round. Our spring season begins in early May by working our growing covers into the soil to become fertilizer for the row crops we will grow for the year. About 10 days later we begin planting corn and harvesting hay while we are making field passes to control the weeds. After the hay is finished, we jump right to planting soybeans and making more field passes in both corn and soybean fields to continue the battle against the ever present weeds. Our “spring” work ends around the end of June.
I’ll never forget that our daughter asked Catherine the first spring of organic farming if I was sleeping in the tractor. Well, if I had spent 4 to 5 hours more it would have been true. We have since added labor to help us with the workload on our farm, and are very thankful to all that help us live our dream!