Thursday, July 29, 2010

Teachable Moment

Yesterday I had that teachable moment again. 42 French speaking farmers from Quebec visited our farm to learn more about no-till. As we walked down to the modified drill planter I whipped out LuAnn's Cybershot and took this picture.

Teachable moment. I showed them how the Martin system works on a drill or planter by tip toeing over the soil one trip and gently tucking the seed into crumbly soil that warms up quickly after the planting pass. It enables farmers to plant quicker than not no tilling and get back into the field quicker after a rain event. It really works well for us.

I explained how the Martin system was developed and how I almost quit no-tilling until I met Paul Reed on AgOnline. Paul and Keith Schlapkohl and many others are my mentors and I showed them my cell phone and how I could call any of 300 people for answers to my questions. One farmer quickly pulled out his wallet and asked, how much for your cell phone? We all had a good laugh with that one.

We talked much about conservation and nutrient balance. I shared my soil and tissue tests, my prize possessions I worked hard for because they were done right and really mean something to me. I stressed tp then to get the right soil test, follow it within your crop budget and spread a little of all the nutrients it says you need, not just the NPK we get in a fertilizer bag or mix. Follow it up with tissue tests as they are more accurate on what the plant got than the soil test says they need, especially on ratios and micro nutrients. Attention to calcium and secondary and mircro nutrients has made me a lot of money.

How do you explain what you have learned in 60 years in a 3 hour visit? You don't. You outline the major points, make bullet statements, answer questions, study your group while you are talking and make adjustments. That is the mastering of teaching in a nutshell.

Every classroom is different each day depending who is there and what mood they are in. These farmers paid to get on a bus and come to the states and learn and see how others do it so they can improve their own operations.

Speaking two different languages throws a real kink in the communication. Their leader, Odette Menard, did an excellent job interpreting. I would speak a bullet point, she would speak it in French and we would talk back and forth and fine tune the communication. I have done this in Europe and China so I had some experience in doing it.

I spoke of all our differences except for two things, we both grow soybeans and we both no-till. Right there we have much in common. So I focused on seed, treatments, biologicals, inoculants, pest control, harvesting and the like. The were very impressed with the nodulation on my crop and counted 60 pods on a 160,000 population.

A couple were pushing their calculators and showed me the number and it was so large I laughed and told them I would be very happy with half that many beans.

We talked about cover crops, we talked about double crops, we talked about tillage radishes, we talked about inoculants but it all centered around no-till farming. This is the ninth cash crop in this field in seven years and I have had some cover crops, too.

I am sure they learned new ideas and they gave me personal information and invited my wife and I up to see their crops and where they live. I hope we can reciprocate some day.

As they loaded up and were ready to pull away, the UPS truck pulled up and there was a new hat for each from NoTill Farmer Magazine thanks to my good friend Alice Musser. I said see, I told you I was well connected! They cheered and saluted Alice and waved goodbye going down the road.

Today they will get to see the work of my friend David Brandt in Carroll, Ohio. They had already visited our close friends the Dean's in Bryan, Ohio and we all share tips regularly and check up on each other.

July 28 was quite a day and a very teachable moment.



  1. Great work Ed.
    Very well written as well.
    Thanks for sharing and keep up the good work evangelizing.
    You didn't mention gypsum? Keeping that one to yourself I suppose :-)

  2. Being that I once taught with you, I understand those teachable moments.


  3. Thanks for the encouragement. Tomorrow's topic, gypsum! Eddie, some of the only days you and I can relish from CNE was when we worked together. I thoroughly enjoyed working with a Christian teacher whom I really liked. That will never change.