March 27, 2012

Going Green on the Farm

Farmers have been apart of the "Going Green" movement since the beginning.  In fact we have been "Going Green" before it was thought to be Cool!!  Up until now it was thought of as just doing the best we could for the land and natural resources and cutting the cost of production enough to put food our their table and make food as affordable as possible for those who buy it.  Now that being environmental stewards has been coined with a more romantic sounding name I guess we have finally been joined the "cool kids group".  On our place my husband often says that we are going green every time a piece of red equipment is replaced with a piece of green equipment.  But the topic of which brand (or color) of equipment is preferred is one that will trigger more debate than I can cover in this blog post....  We focus on making sure that we keep in mind what is best for the land and those who inhabit it when ever we make a decisions on growing crops and managing the pastures.  While "going green" has such a romantic sound to it, the smell isn't always so romantic....  Like many other farmers we use organic fertilizer to help in putting back the nutrients that were removed from harvesting the hay and corn. 
The Biggest of the 4 piles.  Notice the
Peak of the barn barely sticking up over the
top of the pile!!
Organic fertilizer is a prettier sounding synonym for animal waste, manure, or many other more colorful terms.  We just call it poop in our house.  We stock pile our manure from the pens where our calves spend a few months of their lives in big piles.  These piles are more than just place to store the manure.  We leave these piles in the pens not so that our cattle can stand in their own waste but these piles provide a dry spot to lay down when it rains.  The piles are the first place in the pen to dry off.  The decomposition of the organic matter also releases heat in the winter it will help melt the snow off the pile and again will provide a dry place to sleep.  They are also a great place to play.  For some reason cattle find it great fun to run up and down the piles and fight over who gets to be the king for the moment! 

My sister's dog watches Mark load the
Manure Spreader!  She had a great time
riding in the tractor

We use this renewable organic form of fertilizer on our fields to help replace the nutrients removed during corn harvest.  We replace the nutrients taken away in the form of corn various ways (leave stock residue in the field, commercial fertilizer, and manure).  We have a company that we consult with on making our crop management decisions.  They take soil samples every year and know how much of each nutrient needs to be replaced in order for our farm ground to remain productive and sustainable.  If we don't replace what we took out we will see a decrease in production but on the other hand if we put to much back on the fields we are wasting money and can have some negative impacts on the land and ground water.  It is a very delicate balance of give and take.  We give back what we took and we recycle our nutrients from the hay we produce and feed and the distillers grain we feed (our corn is used to make ethanol and distillers grain) in the form of organic fertilizer.  Our place may smell for a few days but we know we are doing the best for our land by applying our homemade fertilizer.
Heading out the field with another load!! 

This is what it kind of looks like when
the "S&%t hits the fan"!! 
 I am sure Going Green will soon be a "buzz" word not too many speak about someday as the fad to go green fades.  We will then be out of date and out of style because we will still be Going Green even when it is not "Cool".  In my own mind Going Green on the Farm is like that little black dress that NEVER goes out of style!!!

We can see the Barn again!!!! 

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