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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 PST

Swallow

Below is an excerpt from Farm Economy: Twelve Courses in Agriculture, published in 1916, explaining the merits of rotating crops.

“Introduction – Every farmer knows that when a crop is grown on the same field year after year, it becomes inferior in quality and the yield steadily diminishes. For many years this was attributed to soil exhaustion- to the actual using up of the elements of fertility in the soil. We now know that this deterioration is not due to soil depletion alone, but to the attacks of fungi and moulds also.

Potatoes grown continuously on the same soil become infected with potato scab and all the various kinds of rots. These rots and scab organisms live through the winter in the soil and multiply with every crop until at length the field must be given up. So wheat and barley and oats transmit many similar moulds and fungi to the soil, where they live and multiply with each succeeding crop.

Some fungi rot away the roots of the grain plant so that when the hot winds come in heading time, there are no roots left to carry water to the grain heads. These heads cannot then fill out properly, the tip becoming shriveled and shrunken. In the first wind storm, the straw, having no anchoring roots left, crinkles over to the ground. These fungi are the true cause of blights.

Other fungi content themselves with entering the plant and robbing it of the food which it has stored up for itself. The plant, thus deprived of its proper nourishment, cannot grow to its full size, or reach full maturity. The fungi which produce this stunted growth are called canker fungi, and a plant attacked by them is “cankered.”

In time the field becomes infested with thousands of these different fungi which lie, literally, in ambush in the old stubble and attack the young grain plants as soon as they emerge from their protecting seed-coats.

Blight

The Principle of Rotation – Where the fields are only moderately infected with fungi, moulds, and rusts, the best method of combating them is by crop rotation.

Fortunately for the farmer a given fungus can live only on its host, the plant upon which it is accustomed to feed. Very few fungi can attack more than one kind of a plant, and those which can are confined to close relationship with the host plant. Potato scab fungi cannot affect wheat; wheat fungi cannot affect corn; corn rot fungi cannot affect cotton. It is possible for some fungi to attack both wheat and barley, because they are rather closely related and their growth habits are similar. This knowledge gives us a good method for controlling diseases.

We have only to starve the fungi out by planting in succession a number of totally different crops. Very few fungi can live more than a year without their host, and if we keep their particular host plant off the field for two or three years by substituting other crops for it, their destruction is certain. Of course these other crops bring in their particular fungi, but these are starved out in the same manner.

Thus, if we plant corn on a field which has been devoted to clover, the clover fungi cannot live on the corn plants and so die. If we follow corn with a crop of wheat, the corn fungi cannot live on the wheat and so must die. If now we return to clover, the wheat fungi cannot live. The interval of three years between each successive crop insures in most cases the death of all its particular moulds and fungi. The greater the number of different crops in a rotation, the more completely are the fungi destroyed.

Profitable Rotations – Rotations, however, must be composed of profitable crops for the locality. Otherwise the prevention is rendered useless. As a general rule a complete rotation should consist of a year of cultivated crops to get rid of weeds and insects, and a year in grain. On heavy soils, the rotation should include a forage crop to be plowed under in the fall. On sandy soils, clovers, alfalfa, soy beans, vetch, or some similar legume should be given precedence in building up the soil. Cultivated crops can usually be grown for two successive years where profitable, because cultivation holds the fungi in check for a time and cleans the land of weeds. A four or five-year rotation of profitable crops, carefully handles, will improve the quality of all. More than this, is a legume is included, the crop fed on the farm, and the manure carefully handled, the soil will be build up rather than depleted, and the use of commercial fertilizer rendered almost unnecessary.

One of the most common ways of making rotation useless is by being careless about the straw used in manure. We cannot expect to rid our fields of wheat fungi if we spread wheat straw manure over the rest of the rotation. The same is true for all our grains. Do not put manure made from a certain kind of straw upon a field that is to produce that same crop, but put the manure on a field that is to grow some entirely different crop.”

Spotlight On: Farming Systems & Approaches

Raised Bed Gardening

Raised Bed Gardening

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Raised beds may not be right for everyone, and our way is not the only way. I have seen raised beds made from rows of 5’ diameter kiddy pools, and heard of a fellow who collected junk refrigerators from the dump and lined them up on their backs into a rainbow of colored enameled steel raised beds. Even rows of five-gallon pails filled with plants count as raised beds in my estimation. Do it any way you care to, but do it if it’s right for you.

LittleField Notes Fall 2011

LittleField Notes: Fall 2011

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There is a certain set of skills and knowledge that tend to fall through the cracks of your average farm how-to book. Books of a more specialized nature are also abundant but often seem to take a fairly simple subject and make it seem daunting in scope and detail. What follows are a few tidbits of knowledge that I have found useful over the years – the little things that will inevitably need to be learned at some point in the farmer education process.

Rice as a New Staple Crop for Very Cold Climates

Rice as a New Staple Crop for Very Cold Climates

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If you were visiting Earth from some other planet and had to describe its inhabitants upon your return, you might say that the average person eats rice, and grows it as well, usually on a small scale. You’d be accurately describing the habits of over a quarter of the world’s population. Rice has a special story with an exciting chapter now unfolding in the northeast USA among a small but growing group of farmers and growers.

Portrait of a Garden

Portrait of a Garden

As the seasons slip by at a centuries-old Dutch estate, an 85-year-old pruning master and the owner work on cultivating crops in the kitchen garden. To do this successfully requires a degree of obsessiveness, the old man explains in this calm, observational documentary. The pruning master still works every day. It would be easier if he were only 60 and young.

The Farmer and the Horse

The Farmer & The Horse

In New Jersey — land of The Sopranos, Jersey Shore, and the Turnpike — farmland is more expensive than anywhere else. It’s not an easy place to try to start a career as a farmer. But for a new generation of farmers inspired by sustainability, everything seems possible. Even a farm powered by draft horses.

An Introduction To Farm Woodlands

The farm woodland is that portion of the farm which either never was cleared for tillage or pasture, or was later given back to woods growth. Thus it occupies land that never was considered suitable, or later proved unsuitable, for farm enterprises.

Cultivating Questions Going Single

Cultivating Questions: Going Single

Going single did not occur to us until we began receiving questions from prospective teamsters who felt it would be more manageable and economical to get started with a single horse than a team. After 29 years of market gardening with two or more horses, our impetus to try out one-horse farming was not a question of management or economy, but due to the radically diverging horse temperaments on our farm.

Cuban Agriculture

Cuban Agriculture

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In December of 1979, Mary Jo and I spent two weeks traveling in Cuba on a “Farmer’s Tour of Cuba”. The tour was a first of its kind. It was organized in the U.S. by farmers, was made up of U.S. farmers and agriculturally oriented folks, and was sponsored in Cuba by A.N.A.P., the National Association of Independent Farmers. As we learned about farming we also learned how the individuals, farms, and communities we visited fit into the greater social and economic structure of Cuba.

Fjord Horses at Work in the Green Mountains of Vermont

Fjord Horses at Work in the Green Mountains of Vermont

We own a 40 jersey cow herd and sell most of their milk to Cobb Hill Cheese, who makes farmstead cheeses. We have a four-acre market garden, which we cultivate with our team of Fjord horses and which supplies produce to a CSA program, farm stand and whole sale markets. Other members of the community add to the diversity of our farm by raising hay, sheep, chickens, pigs, bees, and berries, and tending the forest and the maple sugar-bush.

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.

LittleField Notes Farm Log

LittleField Notes: Farm Log

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My starting every column with a discussion of the weather set me to thinking about that old clichéd idea of talking about the weather; how it is all old men talk about downtown at the local coffee shop; how they sit for hours telling endless lies about how the snow was deeper, the nights colder and the hills steeper when they were young. However, clichés have basis in truth, and it is true that weather is a wonderful conversation opener.

A Short History of the Horse-Drawn Mower

A Short History of the Horse-Drawn Mower

Book Excerpt: The enclosed gear, late model John Deere, Case, Oliver, David Bradley, and McCormick Deering International mowers I (we) are so fond of had a zenith of popular manufacture and use that lasted just short of 25 years. Millions of farmers with millions of mowers, built to have a serviceable life of 100 plus years, all pushed into the fence rows. I say, it was far too short of a period.

Mayfield Farm

Mayfield Farm, New South Wales, Australia

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Mayfield Farm is a small family owned and operated mixed farm situated at 1150 m above sea level on the eastern edge of the Great Dividing Range in northern New South Wales, Australia. Siblings, Sandra and Ian Bannerman, purchased the 350 acre property in October, 2013, and have converted it from a conventionally operated farm to one that is run on organic principles. Additional workers on the farm include Janette, Ian’s wife, and Jessica, Ian’s daughter.

Soil, Vegetation, and Acidity

From Dusty Shelves: Audels Gardeners and Growers Guide teaches us about soil acidity.

Birth of a Farm

Birth of a Farm

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“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.”

Low Impact Ranching

Low Impact Ranching

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This kind of low-impact management has yielded visible results for Rose who can display flourishing pasture grasses, healthy cattle, and firm banks in his riverside pasture. “I am just a detail oriented person and one of those farm boys who always likes to have a project,” Rose said. “I am trying to get the most out of my land and efforts and I really enjoy seeing the positive outcomes of a finished project.”

Beating the Beetles – War & Peace in a Houston Garden

Blooming that is, unless the cucumber beetles arrive first.
And arrive they have … “At first I thought they looked like big, yellow lady bugs.” Paul said, “Then I looked…

Sustainable Forestry

Sustainable Forestry

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After 70 plus years of industrial logging, the world’s forests are as degraded and diminished as its farmlands, or by some estimates even more so. And this is a big problem for all of us, because the forests of the world do much more than supply lumber, Brazil nuts, and maple syrup. Farmlands produce food, a basic need to be sure, but forests are responsible for protecting and purifying the air, water and soil which are even more basic.

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