As we gather around our tables this holiday season, America’s farmers and ranchers have good reason to be thankful and to hope. Thanksgiving began on the farm, and I can’t think of a more fitting place for the roots of hope and gratitude to take hold. Yes, we have faced—and continue to face—hard times, but we don’t reserve gratitude only for the easy times.
Happy National Co-op Month! Cooperatives bring a variety of resources and services to consumers. From agriculture, utilities, finance and more, these organizations play an important role across the United States. Not only do they expand options to consumers, but they bring increase economic resources for rural communities too.
For years, conventional farming practices have depleted the soil we grow on. An overuse of fertilizer and chemicals is very common among modern farmers to maximize their crop yields. Where this might seem to be a short term solution in boosting your output, what is it doing to the long term fertility of the soil?
In fact, long term conventional farming practices can damage the rich, organic contents of the soil and make it so that the grounds we produce on are more and more dependent on the chemicals we spray. With the increased dependency of these synthetic chemicals that we are plugging into our soil, fertility level and overall production level goes down over time. So how can we ensure the health of our soils and an abundant crop for generations to come?
Get rid of the plow
It is estimated that we have 3 feet of topsoil on any given plot of land. Every time a farmer tills his or her field for planting, they are removing millimeters at a time for good. Aside from the physical removal of the soil, tilling greatly diminishes the ability for water to infiltrate and removes carbon from the soil which is vital for crop growth.
Diversify your crop (Including cover crops)
Planting a variety of crops throughout the year can help bring depleted and eroded soils back to life by delivering more of the nitrogen rich and organic content that is lost through disrupting the ground. Whether it’s a winter wheat or a perennial rye grass, it provides protection and another source for your soils nutrients. Not to mention it can create new markets and strengthen rural communities!
Diversify your rotation
Making sure to diversify the rotation that you plant your crops is vital to break pest cycles and combat resistance. It is common among Mid-Western farmers to rotate corn and soybeans from year to year. This provides natural protection from diseases, infestations and insects.