By Farmer Richard
In our newsletter article two weeks ago entitled “Soil….Our Hope for a Climate Solution,” we briefly discussed the importance of using cover crops as a means of “regenerative farming” to not only build soil, but also as a means of capturing atmospheric carbon through plants and storing it in the soil. This week we want to share more about what it means to plant cover crops on our farm and why we consider them to be an important part of our production system. We’ve been using cover crops for over 40 years, mainly as a means of enhancing soil quality. Only recently have we learned that cover crops are an important tool we can use to help mitigate climate change, both by reducing excessive atmospheric carbon as well as their role in making our soils more resilient to erratic weather conditions. We know that soils with high organic matter hold water better in drought conditions and are able to drain better in times of excess moisture. There are many benefits to including cover crops in farming systems and, from a farmer’s perspective, I can’t understand why every farmer wouldn’t want to plant them!
|Cover Crop starting to grow just before winter settles in.|
|Leave no ground exposed for the winter!|
Many of our long term crew members understand our goals with regards to planting cover crops, but in the heat of the busy late summer and fall harvest season when we need all available hands on deck to harvest, it’s easy to put planting cover crops on the back-burner
|Japanese millet planted in between rows of strawberries.|
|An Austrian Winter Peas cover crop, notice the|
the white nitrogen nodules already forming on the roots this fall.
|Even our cold frame greenhouse gets a cover crop!|
As we continue our conversation about the future of our food system and what we want it to be, we feel it is important for you, the eater, to understand the growing system and practices we employ. Not all food is created equal and it’s up to you to make an informed decision as to what type of farming practices you want your food purchases to support. There are some conventional, chemical farmers who are trying to improve their soil quality with cover crops and are taking advantage of the assistance and incentives offered by the NRCS (Natural Resources and Conservation Services). While this is good, it’s hard to make much positive headway when the cash crops being planted require chemical inputs that damage and degrade soil as well as cause other problems to the ecosystem and environment around them.
We hope you too can appreciate the benefits of cover crops in an organic farming system and will choose to support local producers who prioritize integrating cover crops into their agricultural systems. We’ll do our part, but we need the support of consumers to turn the tide and shape our food system into the future.