Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Sustainable Agriculture

The AGCO Corporation on Facebook is having a contest and I thought I would share my entry today:

Agricultural Sustainability

The first I heard of Sustainable Agriculture was in Robert Rodale's New Farm magazine in the 70's. It made sense as our farm practiced similar methods to the ones he described since grandpa moved his family the home farm in 1918.

It consisted of a 5 year crop rotation, limited plowing, and raising enough livestock to consume all of the production of the 300 acre general farm. The manure was spread back on the soil and cultivation was kept to a minimum to protect the nearly and highly erodible soils on the farm.

This worked well until the agricultural crises kept building momentum in each decadal cycle and the wheat price couldn't be fed or sold at a profit nor the livestock or products you fed it to. There was no room on the farm for a third generation so I was sent to college to make my own life.

I taught vocational agriculture and became an extension agent in 16 years. By then the sustainability movement was growing and agents visited Rodale's Farm and taught the principals to those who were interested. Most of agriculture went to specialized production instead and cash grain farming, confinement hog and poultry production instead. Beef, dairy and lamb remained pretty much the sustainable way but dairy soon joined specialization.

The essence of sustainability to me is leaving the place better than you found it. That is very difficult to do and make a living while you do it. That means crop production should be no till or minimum till and soil loss should be kept near to zero as possible. Amending the soil for balanced, high production must be economically efficient. Resources must match ability. I am interested in soils and machinery so crop production is my forte, where others are good at husbandry and better adapted to livestock production.

I taught in my classrooms the principle of healthy soil, healthy plant, healthy livestock, healthy human. The chain is connected. Rodale and Albrecht's teachings helped me learn these principles and teach them to others.

My mentor Paul Reed, Washington, Iowa teaches “speak with your fields.” Farmers will ask you how you did that. My crops right now are speaking volumes through this record drought. This is because of the sustainable practices of no till, balanced fertility, crop rotation and careful management. This is the best I can do for sustainable agriculture.

I do this profitably by farming with used AGCO machinery and preventive maintenance. AGCO is usually the best buy in the marketplace new or used and lasts a long time. We still use 50 and 60 year old equipment. The White 5100 notill planter is the best one ever built in my mind and I have taught notill to thousands of other farmers across this country and beyond. The Gleaner combine was the last farmer built combine on the market even I can keep running. The AGCO cab is as good as any and the AGCO tractor is the best buy in the world.

I keep my cost of production low using these methods while yielding beyond my county average. The best part is my soil doesn't wash away and gets more productive each year. Cover crops is an exciting new part of our crop rotation.

Sustainable Agriculture is a must for my grand children and just makes good common sense. AGCO keeps me farming sustainably.

Ed Winkle
HyMark Consulting LLC
3308 Martinsville Road
Martinsville, Ohio 45146
937-685-9365

References:
HyMark Videos:
http://www.youtube.com/user/hymark88/videos


I hope you enjoy the videos and get something from my blog!
Ed Winkle

10 comments:

  1. Rodale and Albrecht were like the experimental and scientific arms of sustainable agriculture.
    And for the idealists, there was the Whole Earth Catalog, if you remember that. ^-^

    Acres, USA (acresusa.com) is the only magazine on sustainable agriculture that's left from these times and that I know of. Are there other such resources?

    I wish some of the reference work from French agronomists Dominique Soltner and Claude Aubert were translated into English. Soltner popularized the Albrecht teachings in France, and added some of its own. His manuals are mandatory reading in all French agricultural colleges. He has been a no-till practitioner for over 15 years too. Claude Aubert did a lot of great professional work at the IFOAM and when he led the Nature & Progrès syndicate of organic farmers (natureetprogres.org), he also wrote many vulgarization books for gardeners or about health, especially now in the Terre Vivante (living earth, terrevivante.org) publishing company and experimental farm. Both have great bimonthly magazines too. In French... :(

    ReplyDelete
  2. Yes, I had the Whole Earth Catalog and read Organic Gardening and Farming, New Farm and others for years. My friend soil life is one of the few practicing Albrecht theorists in Ohio or the nation that I know of so we talk regularly.

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