Small Farmer's Journal

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Small Farmer's Journal
PO Box 1627
Sisters, Oregon 97759
800-876-2893
541-549-2064
agrarian@smallfarmersjournal.com
Mon - Thu, 8am - 4pm PDT

Marketable Cover Crops
Marketable Cover Crops

Marketable cover crop of turnips in late September. About 40% of the crop was harvested, first as turnip greens and then the roots, before turning under the middle of November.

Marketable Cover Crops

by Klaus Karbaumer, photos by LeAnn Karbaumer, both of Platte City, MO

Our small horse-powered farm of about seventeen acres is divided up into roughly two acres of crop land, eight acres of permanent pasture, and five acres of hayfield. The rest of the land includes a pond, the farmstead and barnyard. We are actually over-stocked with four big Belgians and one Haflinger as our workforce, but since we also do hayrides two teams are just fine. Besides, we value the manure which we collect by stabling the horses for about ten hours a day. We keep up to 200 hens for our free-range egg production.

On our two acres of growing areas we raise about 50 different varieties of vegetables and herbs each year. Our records for 2009 indicate we sold a total of 9,600 pounds of our produce while still keeping enough for ourselves. Our produce serves an average of 70 to 80 CSA members, passersby who come in from the road, restaurants, and occasionally a farmers’ market.

We obviously have to work our land intensively for that kind of production. Since we strictly adhere to natural production methods without any pesticides and fertilizers whatsoever, we try to observe principles of crop rotation, succession, and companion planting very carefully. For many years I have admired the work of Anne and Eric Nordell with their intricate rotation and fallow patterns. Their method of weeding the soil, not the plant is very intriguing. Unfortunately, due to different climate and soil conditions, following their example is not feasible for us.

Marketable Cover Crops

Mustard sown thickly suffocates everything and breaks up the soil nicely. This marketable cover crop was planted in August following the harvest of potatoes which were partly overgrown with grass. We give our CSA members recipes for the manifold uses of the mustard greens which should be cut when young and tender.

First, we do not have enough land suitable for vegetable production to use long periods of fallowing. Second, grass is our major weed challenge. Even relatively short fallow periods resulted in increased grass growth where I didn’t need it. Our summers here are very warm so occasional very heavy rain brought forth the grass quickly. The grass problem was aggravated by using large amounts of mulch, consisting of old hay, to rapidly improve the worn out soil during the first years on the farm. As a consequence, I prefer to keep crops in the ground all the time to shade out the grass.

Our cover crops have to provide the benefits of smothering weeds, improving soil structure, and replenishing organic matter. They also have to produce some income. For these purposes, we use turnips, mustard and lettuce within our plant successions. I broadcast these seeds thickly on areas where cover crops are necessary and let them do their work. Not all of the plants get harvested then, of course, as this would defeat the purpose. But enough will be taken for marketing so that money can be made while having the beneficial effect of the cover.

It is true that I use the brassica family vegetables quite often because they are so effective at suppressing weeds, fighting nematodes, and making the soil more friable. I try to let a year go by before I plant turnips, mustard, radishes, cabbage, etc… on the same spot. Sometimes the rotation is shorter and I have not experienced bad results. I think it is because of our rapid succession of different plants within one growing cycle.

Marketable Cover Crops

We sowed this mustard very early in April, sold a portion as greens in May, then cut down the remainder in June when it started blooming which kills it completely. We planted a later variety of tomatoes (next to stakes) directly into the dead mustard. As the succulent mustard decomposes quickly in our hot climate, we maintain the mulch around the tomatoes by adding vegetable thinnings and trimmings, such as turnip leaves and excess lettuce.

For example, a plant succession might look like this: spring lettuce, summer tomatoes, fall turnips and overwintering spinach. Or it could be spring radishes followed by summer carrots sown alongside green beans, then Asian greens in the fall.

By the way, I have green beans pretty much on every plot (staggered timing, of course). They are a wonderful help of replenishing the soil with nitrogen, plus they suffocate weeds effectively since I plant the rows densely.

Also, lettuce lasts longer in the fall and even in cold weather stays tender for quite some time when grown tightly. Throughout the year, I plow shallowly and allow for the appropriate time interval before new crops are planted.

The results of these practices can be seen in our increased yields, the soil becoming more and more friable, as can be experienced that plowing and/or disking is easier for the horses, and that I have fewer and fewer problems with grasses, which are my biggest enemy. Also, due to increased tilth I find it easier and easier to grow good carrots which were a major problem when I started. I am convinced that marketable cover crops have merit and that other farmers might benefit from them, too. But by no means do I want to suggest that the system is perfect. I am learning from mistakes every year.

Marketable Cover Crops

Fall plowing after the tomato harvest shows the beautiful tilth created by the marketable cover crop of mustard and mulch of vegetables.

Spotlight On: People

Sack Sewing with Wayne Ryan

Sack Sewing with Wayne Ryan

by:
from issue:

Watching Wayne’s sure hands it was easy for me to forget that this is a 91 year old man. There was strength, economy, elegance and thrift in his every stroke.

Ripening

Poetry Corner: What A Boy Lies Awake Wondering

This is a poem from Paul Hunter’s book Ripening.

The Shallow Insistence

…a life of melody, poetry and farming?

Loose Hay with Ryan Foxley

Loose Hay with Ryan Foxley A Farmrun Production by Andrew Plotsky

Birth of a Farm

Birth of a Farm

by:
from issue:

“Isn’t it nice?” I offer to my supper companions, “to see our beautiful horses right while we’re eating? I feel like I’m on a Kentucky horse farm, with rolling bluegrass vistas.” I sweep my arm dramatically towards the view, the rigged up electric fence, the lawn straggling down to the pond, the three horses, one of whom is relieving herself at the moment. “Oh, huh,” he answers. “I was thinking it was more like a cheesy bed and breakfast.”

Central Oregon Food and Farms

Central Oregon Food and Farms

Who is growing food in the high desert? How can you find it? And how can you contribute to creating a vibrant local food community in Central Oregon? Find out here! By consuming more Central Oregon grown food we keep money in our region, support local businesses, and have delicious, fresh food to eat.

Fjordworks A History of Wrecks Part 3

Fjordworks: A History of Wrecks Part 3

Working with horses can and should be safe and fun and profitable. The road to getting there need not be so fraught with danger and catastrophe as ours has been. I hope the telling of our story, in both its disasters and successes will not dissuade but rather inspire would-be teamsters to join the horse-powered ranks and avoid the pitfalls of the un-mentored greenhorn.

Ham & Eggs

Ham & Eggs

Max Godfrey leads Ham & Eggs, at Plant & Sing 2012 at Sylvester Manor.

What We Really Lose

What We Really Lose

by:
from issue:

A few minutes with my Old Man will bring you stories Hollywood could never write. Stories of driving the canned milk to town at age 12 in the family pickup, not having a car to drive, driving new Cadillacs, eating home raised meals, eating at the Four Seasons as Presidents walked out while he was walking in, farming with only horses, then new tractors, then big tractors, then not farming, then doing it again with 50 year old tractors, then once more with no tractors.

New York Horsefarmer Ed Button and his Belgians

New York Horsefarmer: Ed Button and his Belgians

In New York State one does not explore the world of draft horses long before the name of Ed Button is invariably and most respectfully mentioned. Ed’s name can be heard in the conversations of nearly everyone concerned with heavy horses from the most experienced teamsters to the most novice horse hobbyists. His career with Belgians includes a vast catalog of activities: showing, pulling, training, farming, breeding, and driving, which Ed says, “I’ve been doing since I was old enough to hold the lines.”

Today I Prepare

Today I Prepare by Lynn Miller Summering towards seated moments found without splinter found with or without care. No audience save the critical unbecoming self. Were it a long race to now, surprised to be amongst the last running with a chance to go to the target beyond end, tanks full with cupped felt. So […]

The Way To The Farm

Lise Hubbe stops mid-furrow at plowing demonstration for Evergreen State College students. She explains that the plow was going too deep…

Bonjour de France

Bonjour de France

by:
from issue:

A little sign of life from France. Everything is going rather well at the tiniest of farms. Besides the veggies I have been plowing in the vineyards of the Bordeaux area to add some extra income. The drafthorses are back over there, so they need horsemen.

Fjordworks: A History of Wrecks Part 1

Fjordworks: A History of Wrecks Part 1

I am certainly not the most able of dairymen, nor the most skilled among vegetable growers, and by no means am I to be counted amongst the ranks of the master teamsters of draft horses. If there is anything remarkable about my story it is that someone could know so little about farming as I did when I started out and still manage to make a good life of it.

No Starving Children!

You’d never be able to harvest the broccoli or the hay or milk the cows or make the cheese if it were subject to government process. Not only are our industrial farms too big…

Rainshadow Organics

Rainshadow Organics

by:
from issue:

Saralee Lawrence and Ashanti Samuels are Rainshadow Organics, a burgeoning, certified organic operation which fully embraces the tenets of mixed crop and livestock farming. At its core is a full-force market garden. The entire farm comprises one hundred and eighty acres situated in the magnificent, high desert region of central Oregon and subject to a painfully short growing season (some years just slightly over 2 months).

Sustainable

Sustainable

Sustainable is a documentary film that weaves together expert analysis of America’s food system with a powerful narrative of one extraordinary farmer who is determined to create a sustainable future for his community. In a region dominated by commodity crops, Marty Travis has managed to maintain a farming model that is both economically viable and environmentally safe.

Honoring Our Teachers

Honoring Our Teachers

by:
from issue:

I believe that there exist many great practicing teachers, some of who deliberately set out to become one and others who may have never graduated from college but are none-the-less excellent and capable teachers. I would hazard a guess that many readers of Small Farmer’s Journal know more than one teacher who falls within this latter category. My grandfather, and artist and author Eric Sloane, were two such teachers.

Small Farmer's Journal

Small Farmer's Journal
PO Box 1627
Sisters, Oregon 97759
800-876-2893
541-549-2064
agrarian@smallfarmersjournal.com
Mon - Thu, 8am - 4pm PDT