Let’s talk about soil.
It’s not something we discuss very often here because let’s face it, it’s not all that exciting or glamorous: it’s not cute and cuddly like a newborn calf nor as exhilarating as a herd of cows galloping our to pasture.
But without soil, our world as we know it would not exist. It’s the foundation on which civilization is built. Without soil, we’d starve. Healthy soil = a healthy planet. As farmers, we’re caretakers and stewards of our land and we’re at the forefront of efforts to ensure that we hand over our soil to the next generation of farmers in better condition than we received it.
Taking care of our land is crucial to the success of our farm. Our soil grows the crops we feed to our cows. Healthy soil grows nutritious crops that keep our herd in good health and producing top quality milk. And these crops that we grow to feed our cows also help to reduce our carbon footprint by absorbing carbon dioxide. It’s obvious then that soil is an essential cornerstone on which our farm and all farms are built.
Here’s some of thing we focus on to keep our soil healthy and care for our environment :
💩 Manure: Cow poo is full of nutrition for crops. It’s an excellent fertilizer containing nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and other nutrients. It also adds organic matter to the soil which improves soil structure, aeration, soil moisture holding capacity, and water filtration capability.
🐞 Soil life: bugs, earthworms, bacteria, protazoa, nematodes, rodents, and more make their homes in soil and are all instrumental to good soil health. Without the activities of soil organisms, dead plant matter and manure would accumulate and litter the soil surface, and there would be no food for plants. These organisms all work together to break down plant matter and manure into the nutrient building blocks that plants can use. To have healthy soil it is essential to focus on feeding the soil life and not just the crop growing in the soil as well as avoiding the use of any substance that can negatively impact soil organisms. Good soil is soil that is teeming with life.
🌱 Cover crops: We minimize erosion and run off of manure or leaching of nutrients by employing the use of cover crops. These crops are planted after the main season crop, such as corn, are harvested and protect our soil during the winter months. In the spring, residue from cover crops is incorporated into the soil to build up organic matter and feed soil life.
🌾 Crop rotation: different crops have different nutritional needs. We rotate different crops through different sections of our farm to allow optimum uptake of nutrition and to discourage the buildup and potential for leaching of nutrients into ground water.
🐄 Grazing: having our herd on pasture does amazing things for our soil. First of all, the cows fertilize as they eat; the cow pies they leave behind are soon homes to bugs and organisms busily breaking down the manure into available nutrients. Secondly, the herd tramples part of the grass, which decomposes and also adds organic matter and nutrients to the soil. Thirdly, a field that has been grazed will grow back more densely than a field that has been mowed and harvested. The resulting mat-like structure of the grasses shields the soil from the sun which adds to its water retention capabilities, obviously very helpful during our dry summers,
🧪 Soil sampling: we regularly take soil samples to determine if our soil lacks or has an excess of nutrients and we adjust our application of manure accordingly. These tests are instrumental in keeping our soil life well fed and avoiding any run-off or leaching issues.
📝 Regulations: we adhere to all provincial regulations surrounding manure application, which includes times when application is forbidden, such as in periods of heavy rainfall and the winter months when crops are dormant.
Franklin D Roosevelt once said,
“a nation that destroys its soil destroys itself.”
I think all farmers agree that it’s perhaps the most important part of our job to keep our soils healthy and productive, for the current and the next generation of farmers and consumers. It only makes sense to take good care of our soil; without a vibrant productive base our farms have no foundation.