[Market-farming] Tillage is tillage

road's end farm organic101 at linkny.com
Wed Feb 7 16:24:40 EST 2007


On Feb 7, 2007, at 12:13 PM, Tradingpost wrote:

>
> I've relocated and have to start over at the age of 63, but what I'm 
> doing
> or not doing shouldn't convince anyone to risk time and capital with my
> exact methods. We're in semi-arid central NM on land that's never been
> farmed, so permanent no-till beds need to be preceded with digging 
> down and
> building up with frames to hold mulch in high winds. Starting over with
> back trouble doesn't sound promising. And if and when I ever quit 
> learning,
> the only thing I'll be good for is pushing up daisies. Even if I could
> claim to be an expert it wouldn't make any difference since experts are
> notorious for disagreeing.

Not necessary to be an expert to let people know what is working for 
you personally (or, at least equally important, what isn't working).

One reason experts disagree is that different things work in different 
situations; even if the underlying principles are the same, the details 
will vary because the climate/microclimate/soil type/soil 
condition/crops & varieties/market/etc. varies.
>
> I mentioned Eliot Coleman because he's got 30 years of growing behind 
> him
> and succeeded financially, growing sustainably without power equipment 
> or
> chemicals, on a miniscule area of land in a harsh climate. That ought 
> to be
> an example worth investigating. I thought it very odd that no one here
> asked how does he do it,

Can't speak for others, but I didn't ask how Coleman does it because I 
already have his books. They are widely available and widely read, so 
this might also be why no one else on the list asked.

>
> It also appears to me that no one writer or researcher has all the 
> answers,
>>

Agreed. No one farmer, either.

This isn't only because the entire universe won't fit in any one head; 
but also because no one specific set of answers is going to fit more 
than one farm perfectly. We can learn a good deal from each other 
anyway.

We can learn best from each other if everybody feels free to post, not 
only what does work for them, but what doesn't work for them, and why. 
Saying that something didn't work out on your place, and/or for other 
people you know, does not in any way mean that it can't work for 
somebody else, and it doesn't mean that nobody else should try it. But 
it's essential information for each farm to use to help decide what 
methods, varieties, etc. to try out, and what to watch for when doing 
so.

If I had known, the first year that I tried planting into a killed rye 
and vetch cover crop, that others had had a large surge of vigorous 
weeds coming up through that mowed mulch about three weeks later, I 
would have either tried this on a smaller scale or would have planned 
things differently. (I did have the sense to try it with only half the 
field, and so lost only half the crop.) The report I had read, however, 
(on the tomato trials in New Jersey some years ago), had not mentioned 
this growth of weeds, and had also not mentioned the herbicide that the 
people who wrote the report had used to control it, instead just 
repeating that the mowed rye and vetch formed a "heavy, 
weed-suppressant mulch". (I was able to talk to one of them directly at 
a NOFA conference a couple of years after that, and confirmed that 
herbicides had been used at that point and for that reason.)

I have learned from that experience, three things: for one, to try on a 
smaller scale first; for two, to check multiple sources of information 
when available; and for three, that when I leave a mowed cover crop in 
the field at planting, I'll need to cultivate about three weeks later 
for weed control. There are a lot of people working on this, and there 
may well be a way around it other than cultivation or herbicide; though 
an alternative that worked in some operations might not in others. In 
the meantime, anyone contemplating planting into a killed mulch is 
likely to find it useful to know what has not worked for others; while 
that person might be the one to solve the problem, they're more likely 
to do so, not less, if they know in advance that the problem might 
occur.

-- Rivka; Finger Lakes NY, Zone 5 mostly
Fresh-market organic produce, small scale
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