The Holidays, snow accumulation and time with family makes this a wonderful time of the year. Everyone at our house is either on break or taking advantage of the season to do a lot less of the everyday and a lot more of the fun holiday things. The farmer in me feels like all of this free time should be put to good use. Of course there is just about nothing to do that wouldn’t be better done at another time. So I catch up on sports, read last summers’ magazines, and waste time on the computer.
The garden plan is all set, seeds are ordered, and CSA info prepped. Not a lot to bother with. During years past I made efforts to read books on relevant topics during this lull in the season. I ordered many through Inter-Library loan and read them and made notes. I re-read important works by Coleman, Rodale,..etc.to expand understanding. I went to the Conferences to exchange ideas and make contacts. Over time I developed a set of questions that I worked on answering and I realized that so many of them were not addressed by books or conference discussions.
The questions had little to do with the science of farming (agriculture) and more to do with what I call the managing variables part of farming (art). All plants need a set of basic factors to produce a crop; water, CO2, sunlight, nutrients,…The scientist will indicate so much water, and so much N-P-K and blah, blah , blah….This farmer knows that you can put all of these things together and still end up with a poor crop. What factors contribute to a fantastic crop? What can I do to make a good crop a great crop? How do I duplicate lasts years exceptional root crops with this years’ conditions? Over the years you build a base of information. A crop may be spectacular and you wonder which variable or what combination of variables allowed the crop to push the limits of genetic potential? Which planting method with these conditions will favor the crop best? I know a few vegetable farmers that concern themselves with gross yield. So their questions are always about what inputs will give the greatest yield. I ask how will these methods impact product quality? Which cultivation methods favor plant growth? Is saved seed from healthy mature plants more vigorous than purchased seed? I have 4 hours of time and how do I use it to best impact the farm? Will the field composting of year old manures be a better net return than windrowing and turning? The questions keep accumulating and getting partially answered. It seems the answers are a bit more complex than I often imagine. Which of course makes sense, I’m dealing with a complex natural system that we only understand in a general manner.
I’ve been reading some thought provoking works not necessarily farm related. One is the following by Charles Eisenstein, http://sacred-economics.com/ His work on scarcity and money are very relevant and thought provoking. There is plenty that applies to farming in this work! I also enjoyed The Rise of Rome by Everitt. Before long the season will turn and I’ll be in the field. Looking to answer more questions.
Posted by Farmer Pete @ 05:03 PM EST