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Is Your New Ground Green? Probably Not.

Richard Abraham June 2023 Painting

the corner leading to Lake View Organic Farm

First let's define terms. William often refers to one of his fields as "New Ground." By this he means a strip of land his father cleared to farm probably 60 years ago! It's a strip of mostly flat land wedged between his sugarbush to the east and our neighbors land in CRP to the west. I know, more defining needed. CRP is a federal program started by Ronald Reagan in 1985 where landowners are paid to take their land out of agricultural production. CRP stands for Conservation Reserve Program. This is a program that definitely supports the environment, but to farm next to CRP land is pretty tricky because it usually entails mountains of critter activity. On William's "New Ground" the mountains are literal and physical - gophers love the forest, the prairies and William's field in between - they leave huge piles of dirt dotting the field that explode into a cloud of dust when the tractor bobbles through. It's pretty impossible to grow much besides hay on this little piece of land, but we're seeing this dry summer, how beneficial that really is! Why is that, you ask? Well...

The New Ground on William's farm is lush and green, not dry to the bone like some of the fields around us. In fact, anywhere he has perennial or cover crops growing, we see lush green fields. But in places where tillage was used to prepare land for spring planting, it is brown and very dry. You can see this in Richard's painting above. Where the fields are lush and green, you are seeing either a perennial pollinator garden or hay fields. But where you see that brown squared off piece on the right, you see ground that was tilled and will not be very resilient to this year's drought. Our neighbors were out with bulldozers and backhoes this Spring clearing a small patch of woods that butted up against their fields. This, literal "New Ground" is dry to the bone, the crop planted into it is in complete shock.

In our little part of drought-stricken Western Wisconsin, we see clear evidence of the value of Regenerative Agriculture. Two of the main tenets of RA include the idea of armoring the soil, keeping live crops growing at all times, and using no tillage. If you drive around out here, it's very easy to see where guys use "No till" methods, grow alfalfa hay, rye, winter wheat, or some other form of perennial or late fall planted crop. These crops are healthy and can handle the shock of this drought whereas the ground that was plowed, disked or otherwise cultivated, isn't able to protect the crops from this lack of water we're experiencing. If we don't get some rain soon, there will be significant crop loss this year. Sadly, the organic row crop farmers have lots of weeds to contend with, so cultivation is still commonly used. "Conventional" farmers can more easily "no-till" because they can use herbicides to keep the weeds at bay. I personally, am very excited and hopeful that some of the new crops that Regenerative Agriculture is promoting, like Kernza, perennial flax and others will give farmers alternatives to standard corn and soybean row crops.

This year's weather might just be a big wake up call to all of us. Grow better. Grow Green. No more "New Ground." Put the bulldozers away, boys.

Stop out to the FARM STORE. We're stocked up with all sorts of wonderful goodies. The gardens are starting to give green goodness, so there will be something with basil for certain!

The new ducks are out in their kiddie pool, the cat is ready to greet you when you come and the mooies are pretty cute coming in to eat as their pasture is just too dry this year.

We're praying for rain and learning from the lessons Mother Nature is presenting with this drought!

Sending love from the farm,


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