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It's time to get messy in our growing ways

Someone asked my recently why I call my farm the "Dirt Farm." Well, that's got me mind-wandering down a long road of insights.

My farm is aptly named the Dirt Farm because of the complete irony of who I am as Little Ms. Flossy - a nickname given to me by my hippie father when he learned I'd rather gussy up in front of the mirror than hang out weeding a row of carrots. I'm vain in all ways. I like a spotlessly clean house, thrive in environments of beauty that are more often reflected in gardening and home remodeling magazines than nature, and simply cannot stand dirt on my hands, feet or body.

I'm also not a fan of mechanized farming (shh, don't tell William!). Not having the money to buy a tractor or tiller when I bought the farm didn't bother me in the least. I figured I could be like the turn-of-the-century (last) dirt farmers who farmed without machinery by necessity. Of course, by "farming" I mean veggies and a few perennial gardens, so tractors aren't typically needed. Even so, William will be the first to tell you, BIG machinery has visited the Dirt Farm a number of times to lend a little horse power to projects. Like most of us struggling with how to do things right, I am a hypocrite weak in my resignation, and the first to admit relief when a machine can take on a big job in a matter of minutes.

The third reason why I call my farm the "Dirt Farm" is because I want to be a carbon farmer! I want to grow soil. When I bought the farm, I was excited to use some of the practices the sciency researchers were finding more beneficial to soil building and carbon sequestration than the modern farming practices we see around us. Here was my chance to build on a lifetime of lessons in organic farming, play with ideas of permaculture, work with intercropping, and stay away from tillage. On my little plot, I'm far from the holistic ways of carbon farmers/ranchers, but building soil to fulfill my farm's motto - "Savior the soil, but try not to eat it!" is a big focus for me....and increasingly so.

As my mind has been wandering through news of carbon sequestration and global warming lately, I've been questioning everything I do as a farmer and human on this land. Yesterday I was mowing my Pretty Like the City golf course of a lawn at the Dirt Farm all the while wondering why I was spending my time doing that. I was on a tractor, burning diesel, getting a sunburn, and admiring, yes loving even, the sea of pastoral green lawn punctuated by flower gardens and landscaping that is the magazine view of the Driftless Dirt Farm. Why my lawn doesn't look like the ditches around here full of wild flowers, or why I don't have goats were really the questions I was asking myself. Or some alpacas, or some sheep, or a few cows even? If I really want to grow soil, I should graze a few animals on the land instead of mowing with a tractor and definitely let it be A LOT less tidy!

Of course, the answer to why I don't have animals on the farm comes from the foot that is in the city living sphere of my life. I don't have animals because then I won't be able to travel, or I'll have to learn how to manage them, or they might step on my foot and break it, or I don't know how to care for them-what if they get sick?...that list goes on and on. One thing I do know is that if I was smart and less afraid, I'd have animals on my 15 acre farm and be less worried about making it "Pretty Like the City" because I know from my daily walk along our country roads that Mother Nature doesn't do green blankets of lawn or monocropped corn and soybeans. Mother Nature wants our land to look like the ditches where hundreds of species exist both as growing plants and sub-soil organisms. Mother Nature wants a messy compilation of all kinds of plants that grow together in some sort of symbiotic relationship of healthy and happy. And, I've heard lately that this may just be the way to reverse global warming.

In thinking about why I named the farm the "Dirt Farm" I humbly face the realization that if I want to grow dirt, I'd better learn how to get my hands dirty! Well, perhaps just a paradigm shift is needed...

Sending love from the farm!


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Have you heard about Kernza--a perennial whole grain cousin of wheat with a really deep root system that keeps topsoil from heading downhill to the river. I've had the opportunity to bake with the flour (as has Sandra @ the Smiling Pelican) and make some dishes using the whole grain. It's a bit chewy, even after overnight soaking and a fairly long cook time, but it smells like cinnamon when you cook it and tastes great!

Sarah Brenner
Sarah Brenner
Sep 01, 2021
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Yes, I have heard of it. I enjoy hearing you and Sandra experimenting!

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