March 10, 2015

For us, the winter months doesn’t mean that the farm slows down.  Even though we are not in the frozen, snow-covered fields, we are still working every day to get ready for spring.  Because before we know it, we will be back in the fields plowing, planting, cultivating and working on another successful growing season.

Some of our winter projects this year included:

  • Researching seed varieties: considering their strengths and weaknesses when growing in our area and our altitude.
  • Marketing our crops to local and nationwide businesses for potential contracts after harvest.
  • Soil and manure testing which is used to design a soil management plan for the growing season.
  • Looking for farm land to possibly purchase or rent.
  • Taking classes on: John Deere GS3 technology, Agricultural Management Systems, water conservation practices, and plant and soil sciences.
  • Networking with other farmers in the area to continue to build strong relationships with each other

Spring starts at the same time every year on the Spring Equinox, which is March 20th.  This is generally the time that most people associate with the start of the growing season.  But the most shocking thing is that for our farm, it’s not.  Spring for us seems to come earlier and earlier every year.  In fact, this year we planted our first fields of malting barley on February 20th.  Crazy! So instead of using the first day of spring as our start date, we use a different rule of thumb: If the ice is off the lakes, then the frost is out of the ground.  Once the frost is out of the ground we can start tilling the land and plant our early spring crops, like barley.

Growing Winter Wheat

Early spring is also an important time for our winter wheat.  Winter wheat is planted in late September/early October, right after corn harvest. The ideal growing scenario is that the wheat will grow for a few weeks in the fall, and when it’s about 2 inches high, a large snow storm will come and cover it.  This will protect it over the winter months from the cold temperatures and frost.  The snow also helps with accumulating additional sub-soil moisture throughout the winter months.  This keeps the wheat wet and refreshed when irrigation is not accessible.  When there are warm winter days, the wheat has an opportunity to grow and flourish before the next snow storm comes through.  This is a picture of one of our earliest planted winter wheat fields, which was planted September 26th, 2014, and has made tremendous progress this winter.  This winter wheat has a strong stand, vibrant coloration and a desirable uniform growth pattern throughout the plant.  These qualities aid in establishing a successful crop season.

Spreading Manure

Another important activity that is done once the frost has left the ground, is spreading manure.  Our organic farm must get all of the nitrogen, minerals and other nutrients necessary for proper soil management and growing conditions from manure.  We use both dairy and feedlot manure and we need a lot of it.

When the winter months are cold and the fields are frozen, we spend that time hauling and unloading manure into stock piles around the farm.  Once the fields are unfrozen, we start taking from the stock piles and begin spreading manure on each field per our soil management plan.  We then begin to incorporate the manure into the soil by disking, plowing and ripping it in.  Each truck spreads manure per the manure plan.  This plan is based from the previous falls’ soil testing and forecasting plant needs for the new crop season.

Farmers take pride in the work that they do.  And why wouldn’t they? Farmers have a lot of time, money and emotion invested into every aspect of farming.  They spend countless hours gathering data, interpreting and analyzing before implementing new ideas and techniques into their management plan.  They spend countless hours researching, selecting and discussing before purchasing a new piece of equipment, a different seed variety or even new technology that will assist them in meeting their goals this season.  So even when the field conditions don’t allow us to be in the field, our momentum does not slow down.  We just change directions until spring comes back around and we can do it all over again.