May 2011 Newsletter

By Karl Kupers on May 27, 2011

For all those residing within the Pacific Northwest, you are familiar with the weather pattern that has kept the area in a near winter wonderland through April with some significant snowfall in the northern Spokane region just last week. The majority of our production region has been able to complete their planting intentions albeit later than normal. The extra rainfall is creating difficulties now but in July we will be very thankful for those extra drinks Mother Nature provided.

Wheat is a very forgiving plant and generally has the capacity to adjust to the varying environmental conditions. I was just talking with one producer this morning and he said this late start to growth will mean the plant will just grow less stalk and put more energy into making the kernel. In a traditional tillage based system this would be of no concern. It really isn’t a major concern for our producers for the plant to be shorter but the stalk or residue is what will feed the microbial population over the next year.

There is a very valid quote from one of my mentors, Carlos C. Crovetto, when he said “The grain is for the farmer, the residue is for the land”. In his most recent book he opens with acknowledgements and I want to recite from one of those paragraphs. “I thank my land for its endless benevolence and I beg forgiveness for not understanding it promptly. I thank its daily teaching and the motivations it strongly imprinted on me to overcome pressures from my peers. I fully recognize the wisdom of the land that allows me, without wavering, to continue the way it outlined for me”. This wisdom from the land, though not thought of daily, is a motivation to change when you assess your commitment to no-till. The economics of wheat production do center around the plentiful bounty annually of the kernels produced but the long term or sustainable future centers around the bounty of residue and the health of the soil biota. That is part of the motivation from the land that Carlos speaks of.

All the Shepherd’s Grain producers enjoy being a part of this change and the joy we all get when either we taste the product our grain is in or have the opportunity to host a baker or chef on our farms. When Carlos spoke of “without wavering” it is part of the transition in thinking that takes place for all those no-tilling and it is the relationship created through the market that provides the incentive to stay the course. This is why I end these newsletters with the phrase “Thank you for your support” because, that support creates the connection of the land reminding us daily of its’ wisdom and the pressures of the economics of farming.