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PostPosted: Wed Sep 22, 2004 11:05 pm 
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Location: Dalhart, Texas
I enjoy reading the posts under Organic Farming. I live in an area where our average rainfall has been appx 1" for the past 5 or 6 years. This year we have recieved about 6" of rain, and my father tells me we haven't even reached normalcy yet. My father believes a lack of precipitation makes organic farming impractical because our natural gas bill increases as we decrease in annual rainfall. In many areas up here, a dryland farmer has a rough time. And I have heard many stories in the early morning breakfast corrals on how someone is about to go bankrupt. A lack of irrigation was a big contributor to the Dust Bowl in our area. This is why so much irrigation exists up here in the Panhandle of Texas. My father tells me the midwest has very little irrigation when compared to us due to their precipitation.

I wish someone would tell me the real story. My father has expanded the farm by 50% making 6,100 acres. He has been farming for about 17 years. From all the positives I have read about Organic Farming, farmers will be even more profitable and expand even quicker if they were organic. I guess only time and research can answer this for me.

Try to shed some light on me. I sure do appreciate. :D


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 23, 2004 10:23 am 
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And let the opinions fly :lol:

Here's my opinion. I'm an armchair farmer. I read about what people are doing and try to assimilate it into theoretical farms in my mind. Here's what I think I know.

There is a cotton farmer in the Panhandle using a no-till method that keeps him in tall cotton every year. This is not to say he has the best crops, but he does make the most profit in his area. Here's how. At the end of the season, instead of spraying to kill the cotton tops, he mows them down and leaves them in place as a mulch. This leaves the plant roots intact in the ground. During the cotton season he sprays his plants with 1 gallon of liquid molasses per acre and he does this 4 times. That is his entire program. Oh, and he stopped irrigating a couple years ago. What happens is this, his roots remain in the soil all year. This allows a cluster of beneficial fungi to grow on his roots. When the plant needs water, the cotton roots do not grow deep enough but the beneficial fungi can grow yards deep into the soil and actually retrieve moisture for the plants. Do they get enough water? Well, his plants are greener longer into a drought and about the same in normal years. But once the neighbors start watering, their plants come out bigger than his. So what's the logic in this? Think about it. During a normal year his production is the same as his neighbors. During a drought his production is less than his neighbors by a significant amount. Here's the beauty: he has no irrigation costs. He has no irrigation equipment, no extra labor, no personal time, no parts to buy, no maintenance, no storage, no equipment to move it, no buildings to store it, no equipment insurance to buy, and no maintenance on the buildings he doesn't have. In the end he makes a lot more because his expenses are hardly anything.

Here's another idea that is not about crop farming. Livestock are being used in the Sonoran desert to revive and restore prairie grasses. If it can be done there, it can be done anywhere. Assuming you are starting with sterile soil, you can bring in cattle and scatter hay bales around for them to eat. At the same time, scatter tall fescue, alfalfa, and red clover seed. Don't do anything special, just scatter it and let the animals work their magic. Select your hay for the forage you want to have right away. The cattle will eat the hay, scatter some seeds, spread manure around, and punch the seed and manure into the soil with their feet. You'll find the seeds growing first in the cattle's footprints. Before I forget, you have to provide water and mineral for the animals. In your area you might start with 2 animals per 10 acres keeping them fed with the hay. Keep them fenced to 10 acres, too. You can move the hay around to keep the animals moving. After feeding them on the 10 acres for 2 weeks, move them to a different 10 acres and continue the process. Two weeks later move them to a third pasture. Build yourself at least 8 pastures like this and preferable 16 or more. What you will be doing is basically planting seed in the fields using the cattle to do the work for you. Then you take the cows off the field to let the grass grow by itself. At the end of the rotation your first field will have had no animals on it for 16 to 32 weeks. You should have pretty tall grass there by that time. Bring the animals back to eat the grass and it may be so thick that you don't have to feed any supplemental hay. Have the hay on hand anyway. The second time around the rotation you will need less supplemental for sure. Each time around your grass will thicken up and grow taller between feedings. In time your fencelines will begin to look like a forest of native grass on your side and a bare rock desert on the outside. The only difference is proper animal management. You'll also find that with 100% coverage of native grasses, you no longer have any erosion or soil loss. You'll also find your old tanks no longer hold water. That's because the water never flows to them. All the water will sink in and feed the grasses or fill the rising underground water table. There's a guy in Mason using this technique on 2,000 of his 3,000 acres. He manages his cattle so that they all calve in the same week in the spring. He doesn't wean until about October and takes them to market at 675 pounds in November. Again, his costs are nil. He uses no fertilizer, medicines, insecticide, herbicide, seed, irrigation, labor, equipment, or buildings. He gets the same $700 to $900 per cwt as the neighbors, but his expenses are about $35/cwt while his neighbors spend up to $400/cwt. One more trick to this is the management of manure. If you find you have no dung beetles distributing your manure, then you need to bring in chickens to do that for you. Let the manure ripen for 3 days after you rotate the cattle out and bring in chickens to scratch through it in search of parasites and flies. They will spread your manure for you so you don't have to. Plus they clean up the parasites and flies so you don't have to. You can either eat the chickens or just collect eggs, but you need something to manage your manure. But first give the dung beetles a chance. They are the best. There's more on this but I'm already beyond my limit :wink:

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 23, 2004 9:04 pm 
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Joined: Tue Sep 14, 2004 1:30 pm
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Location: Dalhart, Texas
Quote:
He has no irrigation equipment, no extra labor, no personal time, no parts to buy, no maintenance, no storage, no equipment to move it, no buildings to store it, no equipment insurance to buy, and no maintenance on the buildings he doesn't have. In the end he makes a lot more because his expenses are hardly anything.

I guess the farmer hires custom farmers to harvest, plant, and prepare the land for each year since he has no parts, maintenance, or storage.

Yeah, the no-till approach is the new way to plant, but this approach requires a special planter and custom planters aren't too reliable sometimes unless you know someone who does the planting properly without cutting corners. My father is doing the no-till on small plots, but the custom planters sometimes mess up by leaving bare spots in the fields where no seed is planted or not creating straight rows when planting which can cause the crop to grow at various heights. An un-uniform crop can make harvest difficult. I think farming is a cut-throat business at times because some people make business hard (i.e., feedyards). So my father tries to do most of the farm work via his farm hands because he does not tolerate mistakes when they're made by his farm hands.

We grow corn, wheat, and a little dryland milo and dryland wheat. My father has heard that cotton has had a rough year because cotton needs so much heat to allow the bulbs to open up. Our summer this year has been quite cool.

I think my father is hilarious because he thinks some of the organic farmers have to use chemicals sometime. I think this shows his skepticism. He is like this because there have been a few farmers that tried to convert to organic farming, but then later came close to foreclosure. One of them (my uncle) even had a doctor in the organic field helping. I think they did not do the research and financial planning will enough to be successful.

Interesting point about the beneficial fungi. In regards to the rancher scenario, the beneficial fungi must provide enough moisture to the plants to grow because you didn't mention irrigation. He must have good soil and precipitation. Our soil is a sandy loam, but not sandy enough to grow potatoes or peanuts and I wrote how much annual precipitation we have obtained. I just hope this year's precipitation will break our 5-6 or so year drought.

Please do not view this post as criticism. I am just relating your post with my work on the farm and from what my father has mentioned to me.

I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your post. It is very intriguing.


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 Post subject: Slowly converting.
PostPosted: Sun Oct 10, 2004 11:52 am 
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Location: Dallas,TX
I am reading these posts with great interests as you are in the area my family still farms. I am originally from Guymon, OK just northeast of Dalhart. I see the difficulties they face and the narrow margins they live on. It makes me sad because I know it doesn't have to be that way, but battling conventional wisdom in farming is a tall order. We are talking about their livelihood, and change doesn't come easily because it's literally betting the farm. I've talked a blue streak to them and now they are beginning to listen. I hope you are successful and I hope we can help you. So here is my contribution.

Since you want to learn more and investigate other methods toward natural & sustainable farming, let me suggest that you read some of the information on the Enviromate website. I think you will find it intriguing, and the owner, Randy Mosley, has someone working with him up in Guymon. Take a look and read some of the research information. Check it out at www.enviromateinc.com, click on Technical Data and read some of his articles. His research and work is primarily in humates. He is a really sincere, smart man and he's worked hard to make his products affordable and effective. He works with farmers and ranchers all over the world.

Give Randy a call and he can direct you to people in your area who can provide more information. I'd love to hear about any progress. The Dust Bowl wasn't just caused by a lack of precipitation; the massive changes effected on the soil & landscape by farmers & ranchers had a lot to do with it. Plowing practices, thousands of acres of soil left bare, and other "conventional wisdom" helped in large part to create the situation.
All the plowing destroyed the beneficial fungus and other soil life, leaving nothing to hold in the moisture and keep the soil in place.

I hope we can learn from those mistakes and prevent it from happening again. I know you do too, because it's your family out there struggling, just like mine. It's personal.

Good luck and blessings.
Kathe

Kathe :D


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 12, 2004 8:23 am 
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crsublette wrote:
Quote:
He has no irrigation equipment, no extra labor, no personal time, no parts to buy, no maintenance, no storage, no equipment to move it, no buildings to store it, no equipment insurance to buy, and no maintenance on the buildings he doesn't have. In the end he makes a lot more because his expenses are hardly anything.

I guess the farmer hires custom farmers to harvest, plant, and prepare the land for each year since he has no parts, maintenance, or storage.
Next time I talk to the source for this story I'll ask for the details on this important concern. I have heard of farmers having formal and informal co-ops where equipment is owned by a group and borrowed/rented as needed. The co-op would be another expense that an equipment owner would not necessarily have.

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 13, 2006 9:02 pm 
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Location: New Milford,NEW JERSEY
Howdy again:

It was very interesting to read about your efforts at organic farming and the lack of irrigation. Maybe we can help by bringing some more life back in these soils by remineralizing them with rock dust. I've been on a crusade for awhile, with others, to promote this concept and set up a way to get the surplus fines in the quarries around the country, onto the soils. This will involve setting up a data base of the quarries, to start.

Here is a letter from Mark Kuhar, who is working with me. I look forward to my Texas friends to show us the best way to connect to you guys on this forum. I'll post more articles to give a bigger picture. Thanks.

Mineral Man (also known as Peter)

Peter -- It was great to speak with you today. The way I see it, we should create a multi-magazine/association/industry/advocate group to discuss ways to move forward on the issue of soil remineralization. Let’s say for the sake of argument that we call this effort The National Soil Remineralization Task Force. Let’s put together a list of names of people that should attend an organizational meeting of this task force. Then we can plan a time and place. I’ll contact the National Lime Association and Industrial Minerals Association of North America, as well as the National Stone Sand and Gravel Association. If we can get buy-in from all three, we can ask for their support through their members. Further up the road, I’ll solicit support from Rock Products magazine, Bio-Cycle magazine and a few others. Meanwhile, I’ve sent an email to Richard Meininger, who was the point person on remineralization for the old NAA, and I’ve run down a phone number for Bob Able, so I’ll contact him. Let me know your thoughts on how you would like to see this thing proceed.

Sincerely

Mark Kuhar

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