Dig This: Gardener Supplies Local Restaurants From His Small, No-Dig Garden

By Charles Dowding | PermacultureMedia

Growing organic vegetables commercially for over 30 years, Charles Dowding has developed a no-dig method of cultivation for temperate climate gardening.

Charles introduces us to Homeacres, his 1/4 acre market garden. Now supplying year-round salad and fresh vegetables for local restaurants, Charles and his partner Steph Hafferty took just one winter to transform it from weedy pasture using mulch and no-dig gardening.

Learn as Charles explains the ideas behind no-dig growing, (replicating nature through mulching and minimal soil disturbance), from his various experimental raised beds, as well as the importance of soil.

Want to Get Off the Grid and Live in Harmony With Nature? Build an Earthship

Want to Get Off the Grid and Live in Harmony With Nature? Build an Earthship

Cole Mellino | February 1, 2016 2:20 pm

Earthship homes are off-grid dwellings that are some of the greenest and most economical buildings in the world. They are made from recycled materials such as glass bottles, old tires, reclaimed wood and plenty of elbow grease, and can be built anywhere in the world, according to the founder of Earthship Biotecture Michael Reynolds.

Reynolds, who has been building Earthships for 40 years, argued in the video below on PBS’s The Good Stuff that we can get off the grid entirely and generate our own electricity if we just redesign our homes. He compared a modern home to someone being hooked up to life support in a hospital. An Earthship, Reynolds said, is like that person getting up and walking out of the hospital.

Reynolds advocates for a move away from our current centralized infrastructure—power, water, sewage—which he called “archaic,” and towards sustainable buildings that run on renewable energy.

An Earthship home, which you can rent to check one out, “utilizes sustainable construction techniques so that it doesn’t need to be connected to the grid,” The Good Stuff explained. “It provides its own heating and cooling, captures and recycles its own water, produces its own food and generates its own electricity.”

Just how exactly does it do all that? Watch here to find out:

What is Kefir?

What is Kefir?

Kefir, pronounced as keh’-feer, alternately known as “Grains of the Prophet Mohammed”, “Drink of the Prophet”, “Tibetan Mushroom”, “Balm of Gilead”, “California Bees”, “Snow Lotus”, kombucha, tibcos, Yogurt Plant”, “Yogurt Mushroom”, is a cultured beverage that originally hails from Russia. It is a fermented, enzyme-rich food resembling yogurt filled with friendly bacteria, known as probiotics. Probiotics are live microorganisms, such as bacteria or yeast, that provide health benefits when consumed. Scientists who studied kefir grains were surprised to discover that there is not a single trace of bad bacteria in the grains. They even injected Escherichia coli, bacteria that commonly inhabitant the intestines, but these were killed by kefir probiotics. It seems that pathogenic organisms cannot exist anywhere near kefir.

Kefir grains are packed with good micro-organisms, micro- and macro-nutrients, essential vitamins and minerals like proteins, vitamin B, vitamin K, folic acid, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, among others. For thousands of decades ago, townsmen and shepherds of Caucasus mountain had accidentally discovered kefir who kept raw goat milk in their leather pouches. This incident accidentally produced kefir by the act of fermentation. At first, they did not know or had any medical knowledge about this food. They just knew that they felt healthier, stronger and were freed from diseases and lived longer lives after drinking it.

The first proven medical benefit of kefir was made by Russians wherein they said that it can cure tuberculosis, a disease of the lungs caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis which can lead to death if not properly treated. Not only so, Russian doctors of the Victoria era later even used kefir for healing intestinal disorders, like constipation, diarrhea, irritable bowel disease. And soon, this miraculous food was discovered. After many years of following and research, it was found out that kefir can actually treat many other more diseases. Some places in the former Soviet Union used kefir in treating allergies, atherosclerosis, intestinal disorders, respiratory diseases, cancer and many more. Since then, kefir has become a famous health drink in Russia, Causasus region, Southwestern Asia and some parts in Western Europe.

Karachay natives, Borris keev and some kefir fans were generous enough to share with us the history of kefir. They said that in Karachay or Karachayevsk, a town in Russia near Mount Elbrus, there is a statue of Karachay lady with a cup of kefir welcoming the guests of the town.

 

Kefir vs Yogurt

As kefir resembles yogurt, these two are usually compared. Many think that these two are similar but in reality, they have many differences. Both kefir and yogurt are cultured milk products but they contain different strains of micro-organisms. Yogurt contains two types of bacteria, Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus while kefir contains several other strains of bacteria not commonly found in yogurt: Lactobacillus, Leuconostoc, Acetobacter, Streptococcus and Pseudomonas species. Not only that, kefir also contains different strains of yeast like Candida, Kluyveromyces and Saccharomyces species. Another worth mentioning is that the beneficial bacteria contained in milk kefir can actually colonize the intestinal tract while those found in yogurt provide food for the healthy bacteria found in the gut, keeping our digestive tract clean. Yogurt starters are both mesophilic and thermophilic, while milk kefir are mesophilic. Mesophlic means an organism thrives best in room temperature, neither too cold or too hot, around 20 and 45°C (68 and 113 °F). Thermophilics are heat-loving. They grow best at extremely hot temperature at around 45 and 122°C (113 and 252 °F). Activated recyclable yogurt starters are re-cultured by mixing a little of the previous batch into fresh milk. Once the new batch is done, it then becomes the starter for the next batch and so on. Another way of culturing is using the direct-set or single-use yogurt starters which come in powdered form. These are usually thermophilic and are only one-time use. Although this type of yogurt can sometimes be re-cultured a few more times, but eventually, a new set of starter will be required. On the other hand, milk kefir is cultured using milk kefir grainsand requires transferring to a fresh batch of milk every 24 hours.

As all are familiar with the taste of yogurt, different varieties of yogurt starter yields yogurt that ranges from mild to tangy. The consistency ranges from a thin, liquid-like, pourable yogurt to a thicker, creamy type. Milk kefir can be a little yeasty due to the beneficial yeasts contained in the culture. It is also sourer as compared with yogurt. Both yogurt and kefir can be drained to produce cheese. Draining whey from yogurt or kefir makes thick yogurt or cheese ranging from soft to hard cheese. Both are versatile and can be used in many kitchen recipes, from appetizers, salad dressings, dips to desserts.

 

Types of Kefir

Water Kefir vs Milk Kefir

Kefir grains are very sustainable and economical. With gentle care, these grains can be recycled endless times. There are two varieties of kefir grains: water kefir which has a yellowish crystal color, and milk kefir which has a white creamy cauliflower-typeappearance that of the size of wheat kernels. Both are delicious and have many health benefits. Kefir can be taken by all generations, from young to old, male and female. Evenpregnant women are welcome to drink. It is safe and nutritious. Since milk kefir grains feed on lactose, kefir is perfect for individuals who are colon sensitive and lactose intolerant. The good thing about kefir is that it is not only curative but also preventive which means you don’t have to be sick to take it and it is safe to drink it everyday. I recommend 250ml everyday. For starters, you can try it every other day and increase slowly to reach 250ml per day.

There are a lot of differences between water kefir and milk kefir. Aside from being cheaper (since you only need water and sugar to prepare it), water kefir is also dairy-free, making it a perfect choice for those who want to avoid dairy. Water kefir is a lighter drink, making it easier to drink in larger quantities especially during warm weather for hydration.

Below is a simple summary of the primary differences between a water and milk kefir:

Appearance

Kefir Grains

Water Kefir Grains Using Brown Sugar

• Water Kefir: Yellowish, crystal in color with fizzy, bubbly appearance

Milk Kefir

• Milk Kefir: White and creamy like curds, cottage-cheese-like appearance

Content and Sources

Water Kefir: Water kefir is non-dairy and is made with fruit juices, coconut water, organic sugar water or as simple as filtered water. Never use tap water since the chemicals in it (chlorine and fluorine) destroy the kefir.

Milk Kefir: Although cow milk is commonly used, milk kefir can also be made from other mammalian sources like goat, buffalo, camel and sheep. Non-dairy products can also be used like coconut milk, soy milk, nut milk and almond milk, however results may vary and nutrient sources are lesser as compared with the dairy milk products. Furthermore, dairy milk is classified as raw, pasteurized and homogenized. Raw milk comes directly from the farm while pasteurized milk is what we usually buy from the grocery. Pasteurization is the process of heating food to prevent or kill bacterial growth. Homogenized milk is pasteurized milk whose milk fatty globules are processed, reduced in size and dispersed throughout the milk. No matter what type of milk you used, kefir grains manage to feed and ferment to any type of milk used.

Both water and milk kefir grains are reusable starter culture used to make a probiotic-rich drink with live, good micro-organisms in it.

 

Usage

Water Kefir: Water kefir can be used as a base for a variety of fruit gelatine desserts, salad dressings, popsicles, and non-dairy smoothies. It can be flavoured and is a good alternative for sodas and juices.

Milk Kefir: Milk kefir can be consumed as is or flavoured. It can also be used as a base for salad dressings and smoothies. It is a great alternative for butter, buttermilk or yogurt. Milk kefir can also be made into cheese kefir by straining to remove the whey, making a variety of cheese ranging from soft, spreadable cheese kefir to a cream cheese kefir, or a hard cheese kefir. Milk kefir grains can be used to inoculate cream to make cultured butter or a sour-cream type of dressing. Extra grains may be used as leavening or to soak flour before cooking.

Both can be flavoured by adding in fresh, dried or frozen fruit; flavour extracts such as vanilla extracts, fruit juice; herbs; sweeteners such as maple syrup, honey and stevia.
Both can be used as a starter culture for fermenting vegetables.

 

Taste

Water Kefir: Most people prefer water kefir to be plain. Water kefir has a sweeter taste as compared with milk kefir. But the longer you ferment, the sweetness disappear. It also tends to have a slightly fermented flavour. Ginger ale water kefir tastes almost like a beer.
Milk Kefir: Milk kefir has a more strong flavoured cultured milk depending on the level of fermentation. Generally, well fermented kefir has a sourer or tart taste and can be a little bit carbonated.
Learning how to make and maintain kefir grains requires minimal time and effort. Kefir can easily be made at home. It is as easy as one, two and three. Below are simple steps on how to make your kefir.

 

Step on How to Create Milk Kefir

1. Buy kefir grains online.

There are a lot of distributors online, however authentic distributors don’t usually make business out of kefir. They share the grains. You only need to pay for the shipping and handling.

To buy kefir grains or video course online visit – http://www.benefitsofkefir.com/buy-kefir-grains/

2. Place the kefir grains in a clean jar filled with three-fourths full of milk. (I prefer raw milk.) For beginners, you can start with 2 tablespoons of kefir with 2 cups of milk then you may adjust later on. Stir gently with a wooden or plastic spoon then cover it with a breathable cloth to keep fruit flies or other insects out of the jar. Secure the cloth with a string or rubber band. Then leave it at a room temperature for 24 hours. (Milk kefir are mesophilic remember?)

After 24 hours, the kefir grains should be thickened and starting to separate into curds and whey. The taste and consistency of the kefir greatly depend on the duration of fermentation. The longer you let it to ferment, the thicker and sourer your kefir will be.

3. When your kefir reaches the taste and consistency you like, stir and then strain using a non metallic strainer. You can use the grains for another batch of fermentation.

To know more about Milk kefir visit – http://www.benefitsofkefir.com/kefir-milk/

 

Step on How to Create Water Kefir

1. Combine 1/3 cup of sugar in a cup of water then heat the mixture. Do not let it boil but make sure the sugar completely dissolves. Let it cool then add another 3 cups of water. Transfer in a bigger jar then add another 1 ½ cups of water.
2. Add the water kefir grains into the jar of sugar water. Cover the jar with a breathable cloth just like what you did in making the milk kefir then tie with rubber bands. Leave at room temperature for 24 hours.

The taste of the drink depends on the duration of fermentation. Since the grains eat the sugar, the longer the time you let them to ferment, the less sugary you kefir drink becomes.

3. Strain the grains using a non metallic strainer and use the grains for a second batch of fermentation.
Some prefer to drink it plain, but you may add lemon, fruits, ginger, raisins or vanilla for a more flavoured beverage.

To know more about water kefir visit – http://www.benefitsofkefir.com/water-kefir/

As mentioned earlier, there are a lot of varieties of kefir. Below are some varieties I’ve made and they are all great and awesome. You might want to try them.

• Coconut Milk Kefir
• Almond Milk Kefir
• Soy Milk Kefir
• Yogurt Kefir
• Goat Milk Kefir

 

Do’s and Dont’s When Handling Kefir

1. Never mix tap water with kefir. The chemicals, chlorine and fluorine, in tap water damage the kefir. Use un-chlorinated filtered water instead.
2. Do not use metals when handling kefir. Metals react with kefir and contaminate them. Use glass, wooden or plastic utensils instead. Many prefer using glass because this is toxin-free and easier to sterilize.
3. Do not boil or overheat the kefir. Boiling kills the good bacteria.
4. Don’t freeze either. Freezing halts or stops fermentation and some grains are difficult to wake up after putting in a deep-freeze-sleep phase. If you must, you might want to learn how to revive your grains. Continue reading below and I’ll teach you how.
5. Always cover the jar with a cloth to avoid contamination.
6. Do not starve the grains. If you wish to store the milk for a longer time (more than 2 weeks), change the milk every few weeks. Feed the grains with new fresh milk to make sure they stay alive and active.

 

Steps on How to Revive Your Grains

1. Dissolve sugar in water then add the grains. Cover the container and let it stand for 3 days. Get the grains and put them in a cup of fresh milk every 24 hours.
2. After 3 days, combine the grains and with milk in a clean glass container. Cover the jar and let it stay for another 24 hours.
3. Mix to thicken and leave it for another 12 hours or more. After such time, the grains should be active once again. Remember to adjust the milk according to the taste and not the consistency of the mixture.

 

Benefits of Drinking Kefir

The benefits of drinking kefir are extensive. As mentioned above, kefir is both curative and preventive. It possess both antibacterial and anti-fungal properties. Except for a few exemptions, like those who really have super sensitive intestines, everybody is welcomed to drink. Each 175 gram of kefir provides about 20 percent of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of calcium, which is important in maintaining healthy bones and teeth. Tryptophan, an essential amino acid in kefir, has calming and relaxing effect. A single serving of plain, non-fat kefir has less than 100 calories, but provides 10.5 grams of protein, which makes you feel fuller without extra fat, thus a perfect choice for those who want to lose weight.

Kefir is known to regulate the immune system, to promote production of bile, to provide natural protection against diseases, to improve blood circulation, to regulate cholesterol and sugar levels, to regulate blood pressure, to strengthen the kidneys, to slow down aging and many more. It is excellent nourishment for the elderly, pregnant and nursing women, kids and those who are immunocompromised. It targets almost all our body system and is known to treat numerous disorders:
• Respiratory disorders: tuberculosis, acute bronchitis
• Cardiovascular disorders: hypertension, anemia
• Gastrointestinal disorders: ulcer, reflux, gastritis, hepatitis, constipation, diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, colitis, leaky gut syndrome, colon cancer
• Genitourinary disorders: urinary tract infection, prostate cancer
• Neurological/Psychological disorder: depression, anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorders (ADHD), migraine
• Dermatological disorders: eczema, acne, allergies, psoriasis
• Musculoskeletal disorders: arthritis, gout, osteoporosis, rheumatism

Although some of these health claims are still under research, most of them are from personal experiences of kefir drinkers.

For people who wish to learn more about the benefits of kefir visit –http://www.benefitsofkefir.com/probiotic-benefits-of-milk-kefir-and-water-kefir/

For people who are interest to use kefir as beauty product visit –http://www.benefitsofkefir.com/beauty-product-recipe/

 

Artificial Kefir

Here, I would like you to take note of another type of kefir: the artificial kefir. As the name implies, this type of kefir is not real. It is store-bought commercial kefir that lacks the probiotics that can be found in the traditional, real kefir. This type of kefir should be avoided. Don’t waste your bucks on these.

 

Conclusion

To conclude, kefir is a cultured, creamy food with amazing health benefits. It is delicious to eat and easy to make. It is also cheap and economical. So why not start your own kefir to prove it yourself! Enjoy! =)

http://www.benefitsofkefir.com/

Cover Crops, a Farming Revolution With Deep Roots in the Past

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/07/business/cover-crops-a-farming-revolution-with-deep-roots-in-the-past.html?_r=0

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Dan DeSutter, in a field of dried-up daikon radish, sunflower, turnip and hairy vetch, has been experimenting with cover crops for 17 years. Credit David Kasnic for The New York Times

When Mark Anson came home with his hair on fire after a seminar on the seemingly soporific topic of soil health, his younger brother, Doug, was skeptical.

What had Mark lit up was cover crops: fields of noncash crops like hairy vetch and cereal rye that act on soil like a nourishing facial after the harvest.

Mark, 60, and his two brothers, together with assorted sons and sons-in-law, run Anson Farms, a big commercial soybean and corn operation in Indiana and Illinois. Concern about the soil quality of the family’s fields had nagged at him for some time. “Our corn was wilting when temperatures hit 103 degrees,” he said, and such heat isn’t so unusual in the summer. “I felt like I had a gorilla on my shoulder.” What he learned about the benefits of cover crops gave him hope.

But to Doug, planting some noncommercial crops seemed an antiquated practice, like using a horse-drawn plow. Cover crops had long been replaced by fertilizers. Still, he shared his brother’s concern about their soil. Its texture was different, not as loamy as it had once been, and a lot of it was running off into ditches and other waterways when it rained.

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Dan DeSutter’s 5,000-acre farm near Attica, Ind. Credit David Kasnic for The New York Times

So in 2010 the family decided to humor Mark by sowing some 1,200 acres, which Mark describes as highly eroded farmland, with wheat cleanings and cereal rye. Additionally, they spread some cover crops to eroded areas in a few fields.

The next spring, Doug had to admit that the soil texture on that strip was better. And the water that ran off it during a rainstorm was clear, a sign that the roots of the cover crops were anchoring valuable topsoil in place.

But Doug didn’t become a believer until 2013, when the family was grappling with a terrible drought. “In the part of a field where we had planted cover crops, we were getting 20 to 25 bushels of corn more per acre than in places where no cover crops had been planted,” he said. “That showed me it made financial sense to do this.”

Now some 13,000 of the 20,000 acres that the family farms across nine counties are planted with cover crops after harvesting, and farmers around them are beginning to embrace the practice.

Cover crops are coming back in other areas of the country, too. The practice of seeding fields between harvests not only keeps topsoil in place, it also adds carbon to the soil and helps the beneficial microbes, fungus, bacteria and worms in it thrive.

These properties have led philanthropies like the Howard G. Buffett Foundation and the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation to underwrite research on cover crops, while Monsanto, together with the Walton Family Foundation, recently put up the money to support the Soil Health Partnership, a five-year project of the National Corn Growers Association to identify, test and measure the impact of cover cropping and other practices to improve soil health.

Cover cropping is still used only by a small minority of farmers. When the Agriculture Department asked for the first time about cover cropping for its 2012 Census of Agriculture report, just 10.3 million acres — out of about 390 million total acres of farmland sown in crops — on 133,124 farms were planted with cover crops. The next census won’t be done until 2017, but experts say that the practice has spread. In an annual survey of about 1,200 farmers, the mean acreage reported as being sown in cover crops was 259 in 2014. That was double the mean reported by respondents in 2010, though results are not directly comparable because different farmers may have been involved in the surveys, said a spokesman for the Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education, a federal government program, which conducted the survey.
“We’ve never seen anything taken up as rapidly as using cover crops,” said Barry Fisher, a soil health specialist at the Natural Resources Conservation Service, an agency within the Agriculture Department.

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“We’ve concentrated on the physical and chemical aspects of farming but not the biological,” said Mr. DeSutter, an Indiana farmer who has experimented with cover crops. Credit David Kasnic for The New York Times

Interest in cover crops is coming from buyers, too. Dan Barber, a prominent chef who uses locally grown foods, has championed incorporating cover crops like clover and millet into cuisine as a way of encouraging farmers to grow them.

The Blue Ox Malthouse in Maine was established to coax farmers there to grow barley as a cover crop, which the company then turns into malt that is sold to the state’s craft beer industry. Half a dozen farmers are producing good-quality barley as a cover crop, and others “are interested in turning the grains they’ve been growing as cover crops into something there’s a value-added market for,” said Joel Alex, Blue Ox’s founder and maltster.

One measure of how rapidly the practice is growing is the booming demand for cover crop seeds. Keith Berns, a fourth-generation family farmer in central Nebraska, started making cover-crop seed mixtures in 2010, and the business “just kind of took off,” Mr. Berns said.

He and his brother, Brian, turned what started as a hobby into a thriving enterprise. This year, Green Cover Seed, their company, will sell enough seed to cover 500,000 acres in cover crops.

Last fall, the Berns brothers were recognized as White House Champions of Change for Sustainable and Climate-Smart Agriculture. “We have been kind of surprised at how fast our business has grown,” Keith said. “The reason is that because it’s working agronomically and doing what it’s advertised to do.”

Modern farming practices like applying fertilizer and herbicides and not tilling their fields, or “no till,” have helped farmers increase yields and reduced labor, but they have also unintentionally interfered with root systems, increased erosion and disrupted underground microbial activity and insect life that are vital to plant and soil health. (Many farmers deploying cover crops continue to use herbicides, although often less than they did in the past, but they often can do without fertilizers.)

“We’ve concentrated on the physical and chemical aspects of farming but not the biological,” said Dan DeSutter, who farms 5,000 acres near Attica, Ind.

Mr. DeSutter began fooling around with cover crops about 17 years ago, after Purdue University used one of his fields for research trials. One spring he was repairing a drainage tile in the test field and came across the deep, webbed root system that some Oregon ryegrass had put into the soil.

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Mark Anson, center, has planted cover crops between harvests on 13,000 of the 20,000 acres his family farms in Indiana and Illinois. Credit Andrew Spear for The New York Times

“I thought to myself, I have been pulling the guts out of my tractor to remove compaction 14 inches deep with a ripper,” Mr. DeSutter said, “and this plant has just bored a system of micropores four feet deep between cash crops all on its own.”

The roots he stumbled across had created a natural aeration system that helped conserve water and trap nutrients in the soil, which would otherwise be prone to leaching. “That was the aha moment,” he said.
Today, all 5,000 acres he farms are sown after the harvest of corn and soy with a mixture of as many as 12 different crops, including sunflower, sorghum, buckwheat, turnips and hairy vetch, each of which delivers a different benefit. Most die off in the winter and decompose, leaving behind a rich layer of organic matter that gradually sinks into the earth. Farmers use a planter or seed drill to punch the seeds for their cash crops into the decaying cover crop.

Before cultivation, Indiana was blanketed in prairie grasses and forest, and the carbon content of the soil was as high as 10 percent in places. Today, after decades of tillage, which moves carbon from the soil into the atmosphere, and monocropping, the level on many farms is below 2 percent, Mr. Fisher said. Cover crops restore organic matter back into the soil, at a rate of about 1 percent every five years.

“As we put carbon back into the soil, it gives us a bigger tank to store water naturally,” Mr. DeSutter said. “This is one way we build resilience into the system.”

The adoption of cover cropping has been especially rapid in Indiana — about one million of the 12.5 million acres of farmland there are planted with cover crops between harvests. A strong collaboration between Purdue University and state and federal farm services gave birth to the Indiana Conservation Cropping Systems Initiative, a program that offers education and research to farmers in the state.

Rob Myers, director of extension programs for the north central region of SARE, and a professor at the University of Missouri, said Maryland also ranked high in the use of cover crops. The state reimburses farmers for the cost of cover crop seed and has been informing them about the impact that fertilizer runoff has on Chesapeake Bay.

Despite the support for cover cropping in Indiana, there is still resistance to change. Farmers are notoriously reluctant to offer their neighbors advice about farming, and cover cropping carries with it an implicit criticism of practices — reliance on fertilizers and pesticides, and so forth — that farmers for the last generation have used to increase productivity and reduce work.

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Forage turnips are one of the cover crops Dan DeSutter uses on his farm. Credit David Kasnic for The New York Times

“All those old guys sitting around shooting the breeze at the feed store get real quiet when I pull up,” Mr. DeSutter said, only half in jest.

Neighbors have made pointed comments about his “messy” fields. The fields sown with a cover crop cocktail are often blanketed in dying, decaying and thriving plants at the same time. In December, spindly black stalks, the remnants of sunflowers, shot up here and there from one of Mr. DeSutter’s fields, which were covered in a yellowing broadleaf and bright green hairy vetch.

But the biggest obstacle to more farmers adopting cover crops is the lack of data and research on their benefits. “Fewer of our neighbors think we’re crazy than when we started planting cover crops, but there’s still a lot of skepticism out there,” said Rodney Rulon, whose family farms 6,200 acres in northeastern Indiana and plants about four-fifths of them with cover crops.
Rulon Enterprises, the family business, has begun collecting data on some of its fields. He has found, for instance, an increase in organic matter and higher corn yields — an average of 12.8 bushels an acre more in one of his cover-cropped fields, said Mr. Rulon, who shared some of this data in December at the 70th Corn & Sorghum Seed Research Conference.

“You really start seeing a difference in your soil within two or three years,” Mr. Rulon said.

The Rulons spend about $100,000 a year on cover crop seed, or about $26 an acre. But they also saved about $57,000 on fertilizer they no longer needed, and bigger yields mean about $107,000 in extra income.

Including the value of improved soil quality, less erosion and other improvements, Mr. Rulon estimates that Rulon Enterprises gets about $244,000 of net economic benefit from cover crops annually, or a little more than $69 an acre.

The federal government is mulling ways to persuade farmers to adopt cover cropping. There is a small subsidy system; Rulon Enterprises, for instance, gets $40,000 to help offset the cost of cover crops and support other conservation practices.

But Mr. Rulon and Mr. DeSutter believe that landowners are the real key to taking cover crops mainstream. Most farmers work some fields leased from absentee owners, and thus have less incentive to maintain and invest in improving soil quality on that land.

“Why should landowners see the value of their land diminished because the soil on it has become unhealthy?” said Mr. DeSutter. “I’d like to see landowners give preferential treatment to farmers who are working to improve the value of the land they lease by using cover crops.”

Success! Leigh’s Bees at the Hungry Hollow Farm Festival!

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FOUND- Quality Garden Tools!

GRUB HOE BY DEWIT TOOLS (left), ROUND POINT SHOVEL WITH D-HANDLE BY SHW (right)

Hello! Finally some good, handmade garden tools! I found this great little company that only buys handmade, quality products. The Grub Hoe was handmade in Holland with a lifetime guarantee and the the shovel was made in Germany with a lifetime guaranty as well.

They were much pricier than other garden tools that you would find at the big box stores. The average hoe and shovel at these big stores cost around $20, where the hoe pictured costs $36.50 and the shovel $55, but these seem worth it. I don’t know about you, but I would rather invest my money into something that lasts vs buying something cheaper that will break end up breaking!

I didn’t get these that long ago, so I haven’t really used them yet. Ill let you know how they are in Spring.