On a beautiful, sunny, July day in Spring Green, we gathered on Otter Creek Organic Farm to hear from farmers Gary Zimmer and Patrick Michaels. Patrick has been diversifying the farm's crops, adding perennials like blueberries and elderberries. Elderberries are a low-cost crop that have many uses.
Gary shared about how important rye is to his farming system. For one, rye keeps the soil covered and allows him to reduce the amount of tillage passes in his organic system.
There was a lively discussion of the merits and downsides of tillage, and probably the main takeaway from Gary on the matter was to think of it in terms of disturbances rather than tillage. The point being that an herbicide spray to terminate a cover crop also has it drawbacks, and farmers often have to make tradeoffs to make a system work over the long run. Some reasons why Gary prefers rye to wheat is that it is hardier than rye and is more drought resilient. It can also be planted after corn is harvested.
Gary also went into detail about how they use compost on the farm. The reason why they started composting rather than using raw manure is to ensure that weed seeds are killed by the high temperatures generated by the composting process. The only fertility inputs that they use are compost and the sulfur and boron they add to it. Gary also encourages farmers to use compost because then the nutrients, and especially nitrogen, is with a stable carbon source and is less likely to run off or leach out.
After walking through the fields, we returned to the barn for a lunch of local meats from Uplands members Seven Seeds Organic Farm. Thanks to all who attended, and thanks especially to Gary Zimmer and Patrick Michaels of Otter Creek Organic Farm for hosting. Stay in touch for our next field day coming up this fall.
For more information, Agri-View reporter Lynn Grooms wrote this article on the event.
Please enjoy the slideshow below of several photographs from the day.
If you attended, please let us know what you thought via this form: https://forms.gle/TpFMeETGx4CnjKZeA