Monday, February 25, 2013

This Week on the Farm

This past week was a pretty busy one on our farm.

It started out with a round of soil tests. Each year, we (Phillip) test our soils to help us plan for the year. Soil testing allows us to see exactly what nutrients are left in the ground from the previous year. It also gives us a clear picture of our pH levels.

Why would we want to know that much detail about our farmland? By knowing exactly what is in the soil, we know how much fertilizer and lime to apply. We always strive to put the correct amount of extra nutrients in our land; the amount that a growing crop will need to thrive, but not too much as it will be wasted if the plant can't take up the nutrients. The cost of spreading fertilizer and lime can really add up, and we definitely don't want our money to go to waste.

This year, Phillip again sampled our soils using a method called grid sampling. He used GPS technology to take samples throughout our fields in the exact same spots as last year - 65 samples total over 100 acres.

He is able to use that grid sampling technology to create a map of our fields and a "prescription" for the year's fertilizer and lime applications. We are using software that allows us to pull that prescription from or computer, put it on an SD card, and give it to the family farmers who come in to spread our lime and apply our fertilizer.

The applicators we use have the ability to apply whatever we need on a variable basis, based on our prescription map. "Variable application" means that not only are we getting exactly the nutrients we need, but we're getting them exactly where we need them. It helps us to limit the amount of chemicals we need to put on our ground and ensure that we are helping our crops reach their full potential.

This time of year is also crammed full of ag education. As an Extension Agent, Phillip spends many nights teaching or moderating classes for other farmers in the area. This week, it was classes on crop pests and irrigation.

I also had some educational opportunities in the past week. Friday I headed to Baltimore for our annual CommonGround conference. We are a group of women who actively farm and are giving consumers a place to ask questions about how their food is grown, direct from the farmers who grow it. On Saturday we attended the B'More Healthy Expo at the Baltimore Convention Center to talk one on one with attendees about their food.

I think we had some great conversations at the Expo. People asked questions about organic food, genetic engineering, local food, and my favorite, "How did those chickens get such big breasts?"

We were also invited to share some information via a cooking demo with a Fox 45 reporter. Hopefully no one noticed how nervous I was! Jennifer Cross, another CommonGround volunteer, was on stage with me and we fielded some questions about farming and food while we made smoothies.

The coming week looks like it's going to be a busy one too. Farm families are busy year-round, not just during planting and harvest seasons.