The 2014 Project

We’re are so excited about any version of a normal rain year that we are doubling down on that hope. We are going to add greens to our native grass pastures. Yep, greens. As in turnip and mustard greens, kale, and collards. What’s the point? We love our native grasses, both for their beauty and history as well as for the different varieties’ ability to thrive in different weather...hot, cold, dry or wet. Our thinking is this - why not take that even further back in time when grasses included what we now think of as vegetables? Kale, collards, turnip and mustard greens.

That thought led to another and caused us to expand our thinking when it comes to the soil conditioners, the legume plants. Our land has improved as we nurtured the spread of clovers. The clovers are legumes, known for their soil-enriching qualities as well as for their nutritional value. But they are fairly short-term in their season. We could extend that beneficial quality by adding the warm weather legumes - southern peas being the prime example. Peas, be they blackeyes, purple hulls or others, grow well into the summer and thereby extend the legumes in our pastures from early spring into mid-summer.

Then in the fall we will do it again with the greens and the peas being planted in late August to mid-September. Adding the greens in the late summer and early fall will give our livestock a richer pasture at a time when the native grasses tend to be poor. And the legume season will be extended from 3 months to seven or eight with the blackeyes and purple hulls.

How do we plant all of these grassy vegetables and legumes without plowing up the ground and disturbing the root system of the native grasses? With our new no-till seed drill. Here’s how it works. It has nine disks along the front row. The disks cut a narrow trench in the soil about 1/4 inch deep. Behind the disks are the seed drops. They drop the seed into the trench just opened by the disks. Behind the seed drops are the packers. They pack the seed into the trench and cover them with the dirt standing alongside the trench. The no-till drill allows us to plant among the native grasses without disturbing them.

Like everything in farming, the savings come down the line if it works as planned. But the potential is here for a win-win-win outcome. Better food for our livestock; improved, more prolific soils; and a reduced need for imported hay in the fall and winter. All of that translates to better food for you. There is a lot of upside potential in the 2014 Project. We believe in it.

JVF