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View Diary: Putting Agriculture on a Low Chemical Diet (46 comments)

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  •  Rotation (8+ / 0-)

    As for as the rotation, absolutely that is how you would like to do it.As it's a slightly lopsided rotation, if you were doing this from scratch the first year you'd probably start out one field corn (with full nitrogen fertilizer recommendation), one beans, oats/alfalfa and then one of any of the three...so you'd always be a little lopsided in your rotation. Maybe plant a year of oats (wheat, more likely around here. You can make money with wheat) with no alfalfa, seed it to a cover crop in the fall, and then back to corn the next year to get all four fields on an even schedule. Not a big deal.

    Cows for dairy...you have to be a cow guy. I grew up with cows; I would never be a dairyman myself. My parents just got out of it and dad has never been happier. Right now, the feed price is high (even growing it yourself you have to assign the cost you could have made selling the crop for cash) and the milk price is low, making it terribly unprofitable. Most dairy farmers right now are barely hanging on. I know of a region in upstate New York that is just being devasted...guys are liquidating and leaving farms just empty. So there's that. It's a cyclical thing, you have to try to plan to weather the cycles in dairy production.

    Iowa is a good model for much of the midwestern corn belt...Iowa, Illinois (where I am), Indiana, Wisconsin. Parts of Missouri, a little of Nebraska (although, their big sustainability problem is water. Lots of irrigation out that way). So the crop mix is appropriate across several states. I know less about the eastern seaboard and the south is, of course, completely different. Heavy in cotton, soybeans and other things.

    It's interesting to talk about these things, but farmers--especially corn belt farmers--are a very conservative (both little c and big C) lot, very resistant to change. Massive uphill road to make any big shift in our current production models. Most of us are farming like our fathers did in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, just bigger and with less animals on the farm. And, bluntly, while the wider economy has suffered in the last five years, grain farming has been very, very, very, very good.

    •  My grandfather farmed in upstate NY (6+ / 0-)

      Practically his last words to me were to not go into farming.

      He had a dairy herd, chickens, as well as growing corn, wheat, and forage crops. I can barely remember when there were still a couple of horses in the barn. There was a small apple orchard, but that was more for family needs than a cash crop.

      Dairy farming is just crazy - I've seen news stories about how hard it is to keep going. The prices farmers get for their milk are just too low. That's why some of them are going into cheese production - trying to turn it into something they can have a higher margin on.

      One of the other things driving people out of the farming business is the cost of the machinery needed to carry it out, and the size of the farms needed to justify that expense. And then you have the energy costs associated with running all that equipment...

      "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

      by xaxnar on Sun Oct 21, 2012 at 02:45:15 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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