Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Getting Started With Organic Grains Part 1 of 2

I thought I would post just some basic information on my thought processes with getting started in organic grain farming. I am not a scientific man although I adore science and natural studies. My writings are simply based on experience and what I've learned from others. Please take what I say with a grain of salt and recognize that there are myriad methods to accomplish the same task.

Once I had a few essential pieces of farm equipment collected I could imagine getting started with our first organic crops.

Organic farming is basically easy but thing always pop up that throw your plans out the window. The first thing you need to do is figure out what you have for soil and what was planted previously on your land. Without chemicals, the soil needs to be free of weeds and have plenty of nitrogen for your first crop…wheat. The ideal piece of land to get started with is a field of alfalfa or other legumous hay crop. If you can obtain this land in fall and break it then all the better. I broke my land in spring and worked like a demon to get the soil down to a good fluffy seed bed. It was a clean alfalfa crop the previous year.




2nd year…the next crop to go in would be something like Barley or Oats or perhaps even another year of wheat if you had enough moisture and the weeds stayed down. Barley and Oats need a little less nitrogen to perform well. Oats is especially good at suppressing any weeds that may have gotten a little established in the first year.

3rd year…if you planted wheat or barley in the 2nd year you will want to plant oats this year

4th year…now you have a field that probably has a bit of a weed problem and is definitely down in fertility, at least from a nitrogen standpoint. The soil itself will be noticeable more healthy and manageable. This is the year to get control of the weeds. Depending on the problem you may be able to get away with seeding a buckwheat crop to harvest. Buckwheat can be planted extremely late so you can spend a leisurely spring of intermittent tillage that will upset the weed patterns already established in previous years. In goes the buckwheat and with any luck at all you will have a nice crop to harvest in the fall.




Another option for years 3 or 4 would be to plant a crop of Fall Rye after plowing down a legume like peas or beans/oats. That would re-establish the nitrogen and get a good kill on the weeds.

The 5th year and possibly 6th should be spent trying to find a way to get the nitrogen levels back up. Any kind of legume can be planted here…preferably something that can be cut once or twice in the year to really bugger up the weed's ideas of prospering.

This is an idea of what I do. With different areas, there will be different ways of doing things. The basics of organics is to build soil wealth, keep the weeds out and grow crops that people want to buy.




As you can see in these pictures our first tractor and equipment were not very fancy! It is funny to see where we were only a few short years ago. Our first field crop was potatoes! We still plant a few every year, but it is not what we love to do so we keep it small. Maybe with the upcoming farmers markets we will see a need to step up our potato operations.

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