Recently NRCS hosted a webinar regarding the importance of the carbon cycle in maintaining soils and agricultural systems, with a special emphasis on understanding the importance of nutrient cycling to better manage hayland. “Hayland is one of those land uses that many of us just often overlook,” said NRCS’s National Soil Health and Sustainability Team Leader David Lamm. “We think that just because something green is growing out there that means everything is fine in the soil ecosystem and all functions are go.” That’s not necessarily always the case, though. “We have actually a fairly degraded situation on our hayland acres because of our standard production” method of removing hay, said the webinar’s featured presenter, Jay Fuhrer. Removing all that vegetative matter removes carbon from the system and ultimately deleteriously impacts soils, and succeeding years’ hay crops. [Read more…]
The Pennsylvania Cattlemen’s Association held their 2015 annual Cattlemen’s Banquet at the PA Farm Show Complex VIP Banquet Center the evening of March 27. As part of the association’s daylong events, the banquet followed the 42nd annual Pennsylvania Performance Tested Bull Sale at the Pennsylvania Livestock Evaluation Center in Pennsylvania Furnace, Centre County earlier that day. [Read more…]
Farmers have understood for centuries that animal manure helps return vital nutrients to crop fields. Many farmers pull mechanical spreaders behind fossil fuel-burning tractors to move manure into fields, but at Polyface farm, livestock spread their own manure. Joel Salatin of Polyface Farm in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley advocates rotational grazing; they blend livestock and pasture species to puzzle pests.
Well managed grazing concentrates livestock in one area for a short period and then move them on. At Polyface farm, portable electric fences contain grazing beef herds. Farmers move the fences and livestock daily. Salatin said his animals look forward to their fresh “salad bar” each morning. The cattle graze forage at a sustainable level. They trample their manure patties ensuring good soil contact and starting the decomposition process. [Read more…]
by Sanne Kure-Jensen
Rachel Armstrong led an informative webinar on the legal considerations regarding unpaid and compensated volunteers. “Ag. law is incredibly complex,” said Rachel Armstrong, lawyer and former grower. Farmers should carefully distinguish between a volunteer and employee. A volunteer must not displace a regularly paid employee doing similar work. The largest volunteer risk is injury. Volunteers often arrive unskilled or untrained in specific farm activities and may not use the same caution as experienced farmers. Armstrong recognizes that consumers everywhere value their connection to the land, wanting to reconnect with the land and with farmers who grow their food. Many farm customers happily volunteer for their favorite farmer. Farmers must manage risks in all aspects of farming. Risk of injury, liability or employment law violations is serious. Accident prevention keeps everyone safe. Armstrong recommended all farmers purchase a Commercial General Liability (CGL) policy for interns, employees, seasonal employees and other farm guests who volunteer for compensation. A commercial policy also ensures coverage for off-farm activities (CSA drop sites) value-added processing, agritoursim, transportation to markets and for distribution, if you sell anyone else’s products. Armstrong also recommends a Farm Liability Insurance (like homeowner’s liability policy). This protects the landowner in case of an accident on the farm property. This is separate from a CGL. Shop around and describe all aspects of your business to potential insurance agents. [Read more…]
With the spring growing season finally upon us, it’s time to consider warm-season forage crops. Forage soybeans are one option to consider. In the early part of the last century, soybeans were grown primarily for forage. Today, of course, they are grown mainly for the oil and protein value of their seed. But soybeans, high in protein and highly palatable, can be harvested for hay or silage. You can use seed varieties of soybeans as forage but you need to consider that some herbicides approved for use in soybeans as a seed crop are not allowed for soybeans as a forage crop. If you’re starting out planting soybeans as forage it makes sense to consider one of the many forage soybeans available on the market due to their greater yield potential. [Read more…]