Sunday, April 6, 2014

Soil for Future Generations

Dad had a 40 year long collaboration with the Soil Conservation Service (SCS) in the 70's dad built terraces, in the 80's he planted windbreaks and completed a wet area tiling program, and in the 90's he completed riparian strips, headlands and continued a hay rotation. In the 2000's the CSC came out with a new program to integrate various conservation practices under one umbrella. There were three tiers a first level with basic practices, a second tier with intermediate level practices and a third tier with some really stretch goals that a farm could achieve over time.

When the tier system first came out the CSC came to Dad's farm to evaluate his practices against their system. What they found was one of the few farms in the state of Iowa that met all the tier three criteria and then some. Dad didn't do all these things to achieve a tier system or fit into a government program,
he did them because they were the right thing to do for the land, for the soil and for the future generations who would farm his land.

Dad believed in doing everything possible to improve the soil and even proactively build biology and soil structure. He would do this by adding compost, cover cropping, and using various soil amendments from AgriEnergy Resources.

This was way beyond anything the SCS has ever considered and most of traditional agriculture as well. When the local SCS folks came to evaluate Dad's farm he was trying to explain some of these techniques to them and for the most part he got the “glazed over look” as this new information went solidly “over their heads”. Maybe the SCS could consider a tier 4 level in honor of Dad, this tier would be about proactive soil building instead of just slowing the soil loss.

We use these same techniques that Dad used on our farm.

Our farming is on a micro scale and we extend these techniques well beyond what Dad was able to do on a larger scale. For example, we have added 350,000 lbs of compost a year to our farm for the 12 years we have been in stewardship of our land. This is 4 million pounds of compost total. This would be 12 pounds of nearly pure organic matter per square foot and would cover the farm 6-8 inches deep.

This doesn't just improve the biology of the soil, though it does that well, it also builds organic matter at a rate 100's of times faster than would occur in nature. So instead of loosing soil at an alarming rate like most of agriculture, we are adding pure humus to our soils and building soil organic matter. This is carbon sequestration at its best. We are not just storing CO2 in some weird underground storage facility like the environmental scientists propose. We are putting the carbon back in the soil where it belongs. In addition to improving how the plants grow it improves the quality of the nutrients they contain and the shelf life of the produce. This translates to the health and vitality of the eater.

Our next post is about some of these biology enhancing techniques that Dad used.

We honor my fathers legacy in these posts. He began enhancing soils in heaven on March 30, 2014.

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