The book begins with basics: the hows and whys of managing crop rotation and a short lecture on soil tilth and nutrition. Then Mohler and Johnson offer more than a dozen farm-tested crop sequences from the field, along with a step-by-step rotation planning guide. Even so, it’s not a fill-in-the-blank and you’re ready to plant type guide. The editors don’t tell growers which crop should follow what. Instead, they challenge growers to become intimately acquainted with their land, topography, crops and markets and guide them to develop a crop rotation program suited to their particular farm and cultural style.
Wow! Cultivating over 5-½ acres of market garden vegetables with a wheel hoe! We can’t help thinking that a good team of cultivating horses would just slow down the energetic farmers at the Sunflower Cooperative. We wish we had some of that sunflower power for quickly cultivating by hand Daniel’s wide ranging questions, especially the ones that open up new ground for this column, such as the topics of irrigation and seed varieties. Perhaps it won’t seem like such a long row for us to hoe if we begin by cultivating the more familiar territory of how the perennials and house gardens fit into the bio-extensive rotation.
This information appeared in L.H. Bailey’s Cyclopedia of American Agriculture from 1900. It was one approach to field design at a time when rotation was king. Though the menu of crop succession is important and useful, we find the sterile approach to field reshaping, in the name of “efficiency,” to be harsh and somewhat suspect. With the return of our small farms and good farming comes a renewed interest in the powerful tool of crop rotation. It preserves soil, builds soil, activates the calendar year in helpful ways and spreads the farmer’s risk.