Sunday, April 27, 2008

Field Day at Spring Valley Eco-Farms

Today we had about 80 or more people out at Dr. Jordan's farm for an educational field day. The rains blessed the midday from about 1 until 2:30, then the skies cleared and we were able to lead the crowd with relative ease.

Personally, I realized how important it is to have places like the farm to introduce people to new farming concepts, and the little 100 acre farm on Spring Valley Road is an amazing place for just such an activity.

The day and the group was split into three sections. Dr. Jordan gave an overview of the history of the farm and an introduction to soils and soil organic matter. Krista took folks up to her research plots to talk about no-till and alleycropping research. Jason used the bulk of the day to discuss the principle concepts of the vegetable operation and the new livestock enterprises.

It was a lot to take in a day. My role was mainly to transport the groups around the farm, and I enjoyed getting into conversations with our guests about yesterdays annual Old Timey Seed Swap, and the challenges we are up against in creating valid arguments for conventional farmers to make the switch to organic agriculture.

As much as I'd like to rehash all the great discussions of the day, I'll keep it simple and focus on the things that best caught my attention.

Jason's discussion of the spader was of great interest. This tillage tool is important in organic agriculture as a way to incorporate cover crop residues throughout the soil horizon without pulverizing the soil and damaging soil texture and organic matter. It penetrates to a depth of 14 inches. Cover crop incorporation should be carried out about 30 days before you plan on planting into the bed. I am breaking this rule pretty badly in my own garden this year. I tilled my weeds under two weeks ago and I planted lettuces within one week and now have planted okra and a few tomatoes this week. Oh well, I'm learning.

They don't make Spaders in the U.S. This one is from Italy. They come in quite a few sizes, including one you can use behind a walking tractor.

We showed the group the new Freedom Rangers chickens. These birds are a beautiful reddish color and come from European breedstock. They are considered hardier for organic and sustainable production, and also possess a richer flavor with more dark meat. Unfortunately the folks that run this business just closed it down so this might be the last batch of these guys. Back to the old Cornish Cross.

It's always great to get the opportunity to hear Dr. Jordan talk about soils and organic matter and how he realized we've really got our work cut out for us in the southeast in preserving organic matter. I love it when he brings up that the GA state legislature declared Red Clay as the official soil of Georgia, which he says is like declaring Smog as the official air of Los Angeles. I noticed today how he explains that because forests are perennial and slow growing, they don't have the same nutrient demands as your agricultural crops, so the slow release of nutrients from more lignous organic matter is not limiting. He then showed a cross section of soil from the vegetable plot and discussed how compost was needed on a regular basis.

Well. That's a quick and dirty summary. I've got an audio recording of Dr. J's talk that I'll try and link to my website soon.

No comments: