Today I was lucky enough to visit with Leilani Zimmer-Durand who works for Midwestern BioAg the company her father Gary Zimmer set up. We had a look around the family farm along with her collegue Tracey and two interns. So I spent the morning with four young ladies! The Zimmer’s farm has been organic I think since about 1995. It is a dairy and crop farm. Wisconsin is America’s Dairyland but in the last few decades the number of dairy farmers has fallen from 200,000 to 10,000 in the state, the number of cows has remained the same. Their farm in on high Magnesium soils in the wooded rolling hills of Wisconsin.
Their general roatation would be 2-3 years of Alfalfa, two corn crops and then soya beans.Firstly we were lucky enough to see their farm worker rotary hoeing their organic sweetcorn
This is what the crop looked after hoeing
This is the rotary hoe close up
This field will be cultivated another two times. Four times in total I think. Speaking to their worker he was talking about corn borer and that all he has done in the past is add turpentine to the bags of seed and gets no problems. Sounds cheaper than trained BT corn seed! They also grow organic corn and they get 180 bushels from 60 units of nitrogen ( fish and chicken manure) the rule of thumb is one pound of nitrogen gives you one bushel of corn. They are achieving it with one to three! They cover crop before corn with legumes and cereal rye. They like to mulch the rye in when green and shin height. They find this gives them great biological activity and nitrogen boost even though the rye is not a legume.
Then we went to see some conventional planted organic soya beans that had just been cultivated.
After that we went to see some organic no till soya beans planted into cereal rye that was crimped will a roller. This is the second year they had tried this.
The really interesting this was that next to the seed row where the rye had been parted and their was bare ground there was some weeds coming. Underneath the mulch there was no weeds but lots of moisture and biological activity ( apologies for the thumb)
The yield last year was only 2-3 bushels down on the tilled system but obviously the costs were much lower.
They were also growing wheat which is rare now in the Midwest. It is a variety from Germany. It is the first year of growing it. There is a huge premium for organic winter wheat in the area.
They have previously frost seeded red clover and planted barley with it and grown that for forage. Also triticale and peas. They are always trying something new.
In their alfalfa field they also plant it with grasses. The interesting thing is that now their Calcium levels are up they have to increase the seeding rate of the grasses as they do not grow well in high calcium but do in high magnesium, BG control in the UK?
It was a cracking crop of Lucerne.
The interns that we I spent the morning with were spending the afternoon soil sampling. So the discussion got onto soil sampling protocol. I was releived to hear that they take about 20 cores per field and mix them up and do that once every four years. Exactly what I do. No use of grid patterns, GPS or W shapes, keep it simple!
I had a great morning with the ladies and was interested to see the farm I had read about in “The Biological Farmer”. Thank you to Leilani for her time and for lunch. (It wasn’t burgers which was a relief!)