Black Dog Farms

  (Twin Falls, Idaho)
Eatin' Good, Livin' Good
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Fertilizer Cost: Nill

Quick, when you think of Idaho what comes to mind? 

My wife and I were just talking a day or two ago that we do not even know a potato farmer ( or a skinhead for all of you who went that direction). Here we are living in the middle of ag country in the state that is well known as a potato growing champion and I can't name even one potato grower. Kinda funny.

I do however know some farmers who grow other types of crops. And one of the topics they continually discuss is how much their fertilizer costs have increased this year. A few are reporting that they will be up around $150-$200 per acre for fertilizer. Interesting.

And perplexing to a guy like me. You see, I use no fertilizer on the food that I grow. OK, I  might mix up a little compost including some chicken manure early in the season.  Sure sometimes my stuff does not look as pretty as theirs.Often I fight a problem bug or two on my crop, but I still manage to grow lots of food.

And I will put mine up against theirs in a blind taste test any day of the week.

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A couple of quick questions - you mention that you amend your soil with compost and chicken manure as opposed to using other fertilzers. I was wondering how much you use per acre, do you make it yourself (i.e., do you have your own chickens and/or composting arrangment) and if not, how do your costs compare to your neighbors? You imply less and I was wondering how much less.

Thanks for the post!

Posted by Chris Piekarz on April 09, 2011 at 11:31 AM MDT #

My fertilizer costs run about $400 an acre, but I am using organic amendments and feeding the soil for the future. For instance, I use greensand for potassium AND trace minerals. I don't have animals and grow only fruits, vegetables, dry beans and grain on around 2 acres by hand and with a tiller. I also have green manure in my rotation.

Based on my web research, your manure is providing adequate amounts of soil nutrients and I suspect that the old ways of mixed farming (like where I grew up in Minnesota in the 1950's and 1960's) were putting enough fertility back into the soil that the inefficiency of chemical fertilizer was being masked by the REAL fertility from the manure. This changed in the 1970's as farmers took more animals off the land. Then the problem of chemical fertilizer had no "cover" or camouflage so the very real problems started showing up.

You are doing the right thing with mixed agriculture, even on your small scale.

Posted by Walter on April 11, 2011 at 10:04 AM MDT #

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