We are living in a time when lots of forces are coming together to reshape our approach to agriculture. It will take more and more land to feed a growing population, and access to land is also an increasing stress point. There are many approaches to address our future, and relying on only one philosophy will leave us with an incomplete model.  

Conservation tillage has been used on larger scale farms for years, the idea being less disruption of the soil is better for all concerned parties. Not only for the people who walk this world, but also for the complex array of life forms that inhabit the soil under our feet and the residents of our waterways who are spared the runoff of eroded soils and excess fertility. The adaptation of these techniques has allowed smaller growers, and specifically organic growers who don’t rely on chemical herbicides to control weed pressure, to incorporate aspects of this approach in the style of No Till. There are lots of resources available for folks who are working on adapting their farms to this model, and it’s something we hear about from our growers here at HMS all the time. 

There is a newer, less talked about option in the hills of Vermont where I have lived for the past 27 years that brings together community action as well as utilizing otherwise arguably marginal land for agriculture. We call it Go Till farming. It typically happens during mud season in early spring, and this year our tillage season has been a pretty epic one. There are definitely challenges in this burgeoning movement, and careful planning can make or break a season. Bed prep can happen quite suddenly, oftentimes just between the time that one leaves to do errands and then returns to find the road ahead in prime condition for planting. 


Varietal selection requires some special approaches. I work with a seed company from Detroit, Motor City Seeds, as they have proven winners that are road tested and perform in the heavily mineralized soil types I work with. Some of my favorites are Dentside, Suspension Lifter and Muncie M22.  

It takes a little finesse to get the depth right, but my Earthway does a pretty good job in this setting. Typically, my town and I can coordinate, and they will help finish off the planting with the York, and all I have to do is wait to harvest. Weed pressure is typically nonexistent in these soils, so summer maintenance is usually pretty light, and I can turn my attention to other, quieter places on the farm. 

 

Wherever you spend the upcoming season, I hope that the road ahead is gentle and supporting as we make our way down our chosen paths. Aim for the ridges, hit the gas, and keep the shiny side up.