Forum Friday// Downsides, Opinions, & Amendments
One of our aims for No-Till Growers is to be as responsive to the growing no-till community as possible.
It began as a vehicle to answer our questions about no-till, challenge our assumptions, and—literally and figuratively—get to the bottom of it. Little did we know that, in terms of soil biology, it’s damn near bottomless (we know more about the ocean than living soil). If we were asking these questions, surely someone else out there was, too. Which is why we decided to cut our affiliations with content providers and limit our sponsorships, because we want to be supported by—and beholden to—the growers out there, like ourselves. We ALSO feel it’s important we do the work AS full-time farmers.
Sure, we’ve heard and read the success stories, and most of them are no-doubt real and inspiring, but it’s sometimes easy to lose sight of the process. No-till is not prescriptive and doesn’t lend itself to the reductive copy-and-paste strategies of most agricultural extension handbooks (though mine can still be quite useful because it’s regionally specific, but that’s a whole other…). These no/low-till farms developed their unique systems over years, decades even, and encountered setback after setback. Which leads me to our first entry…
The Downsides of Deep Compost Mulch
This ain’t clickbait. If, in fact, no-till has a larger role to play in the future of farming, we want to be honest both about it’s successes, pioneers, and potential as well as it’s drawbacks, pitfalls, and blind spots. It’s difficult to tease these details out of an hour long interview with another grower, because we typically just want to hear about what they are doing right, but there is a lot of value in sharing what we f@#$-up, too (it isn’t pretty, so we tend to crop it out in our highly social-media attuned world). Our hope is, in sharing these parts of our experience, we can work together to make some of these downsides not so down, or at least prevent others from making the same mistakes.
Get Efficient, or Get Out
I recently wrote a not-so no-till specific op-ed about small-scale farmings new favorite eff word: efficient. We here at NTG agree, improving efficiencies on our farms makes them easier to work, easier to grow, and easier on our bodies and minds, but should not come at the cost of what we value about our respective farms. Let us know your thoughts, feelings, concerns on this one. More importantly, it’s Spring (at least here in the Northern Hemisphere), so get after it, and don’t let perfection—efficiency or otherwise—be the enemy of the good.
The hot topic(s) in our growers community over the week were soil amendments, especially sources and costs of N. Let’s face it, market growers are losing a lot of nutrients through the farm gate and, somehow, those need replacing. Most of us are always on the lookout for better, more sustainable options. Crowhead has been “seeking alternatives to fertilizer derived from industrial chicken factories, and wondering what experience others have had with seed meals or alternative sources like bat guano, etc. Honestly, since not using the poultry product everyone I know uses, I have had very hit and miss results. Perhaps because of seed meals not being as available in cold soils?”
Here is a place we see No-Till Growers being of use to the wider community. Farmer Jesse and I will be trialing the efficacy of these fertilizers, side-by-side, and sharing our results. Because, we’re just as curious, too. What’s the difference, in effect, between alfalfa meal and the chicken manure most of use? Unfortunately, you’ll have to wait a few months on that one. Good things take time, you know.