While a lot of us are feeling fatigue at home, at work, and with the general environmental and political climate, farmer Matt Herbruck was feeling it all in one place, Birdsong Farm. Matt has been operating Birdsong following certified organic practices for decades. He lives at the farm, works at the farm, and his livelihood depends on the farm being able to adapt to whatever the elements throw his way. Matt felt like he was “counting sand; trying to do the right thing at the farm only to go into town or turn on the news to see that no one else seemed to care”. Matt needed revitalization, and he found that in no-till growing.
No-till growing involves minimal soil disturbance, meaning no complete turning or disrupting of the soil by any mechanical or major means. This results in a soil substrate that allows mycelium (fungal networks), roots, and microorganisms to thrive, creating a vital soil structure. When soil structure is maintained, excess water can drain more easily, weed seeds are not constantly brought to the surface, and there is more organic matter present. More organic matter means more reliable water-holding capacity and reliable water means more life. Matt decided that no-till would be the answer to providing his crops all the tools they needed to adapt to a less than predictable environment.
To ensure cover crop seeds germinate properly he seeds them using a human-powered seeding tool called a Jang Seeder that plants the seeds below the soil surface. The final piece to his no-till growing includes silage tarps (thick plastic with black on one side and white on the other), that eliminate light and increase heat to rapidly dehydrate plants and cause germination and termination of weed seeds. In the summer months, Matt can get away with only a few weeks of tarping. When he pulls off the tarp, a bare and workable soil surface is exposed. From there he will maintain the area during the growing season with some occasional weeding and side dressing.
Through no-till practices, Birdsong Farm eliminated in-field tractor use entirely. Thereby reducing compaction (excessive weight pressing onto the ground, eliminating open spaces within soil structure). The results have been more than Matt could have imagined; reduced weeding, increased soil tilth, more beneficial insects, and crops able to cope with intense weather events (drought and excessive rain). Matt also notices an abundance of “cool” biodiversity from soil critters to mushrooms, and even variegation in plants. In the end, Matt’s decision to go no-till revitalized both him and his soil. If you’d like to see more of Birdsong Farm please follow on Instagram and Facebook.
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