From the Field - June 2016

By Shepherd's Grain on June 28, 2016

Update on Annual Meeting, growing crop update.

On June 15th we hosted our annual owner and grower meeting at the Dahman Artisan Barn in Uniontown Washington. This annual event is a valued time for us to get together, share information, celebrate our growers, and look to the future. While much of the meeting is a chance for us on the management team to inform our farm families on how things are going, current market trends, and our forecasts for the future, it is also a chance for us to learn from them, their challenges, concerns, and innovations to continually improve. I inevitably walk away with a greater understanding of the complexity of their work and a feeling of privilege to work for such a progressive and forward thinking group of people.

This year we were joined by David Montgomery, a tenured professor of geology at the University of Washington and author of several books including "Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations" and the subject of his talk at our meeting "The Hidden Half of Nature: The Microbial Roots of Life and Health". 

His most recent work was co-authored with his wife and professor of biology, Anne Bikle. David walked us through their personal journey leading to the book and the mesmerizing story of the invisible world they discovered and that science is increasingly realizing is critical to the long term sustainability of agriculture and our own human microbiome. While Shepherd's Grain farmers are well aware of the importance of soil biology to the work they do, David took us even deeper into the emerging science connecting us to the microscopic allies in and around us all. And how over the last century, humans have been inadvertently undermining our own health and the health of the environment with our well-intended, but misinformed practices. During the course of our conversations that day it was clear that our commitment to soil health is more important than ever. Also clear was that while we continue to improve our understanding and agricultural practices, public policy and cultural practices are lagging behind. It was affirmational to hear David confirm that tillage is at the heart of the problem and we must continue to eliminate it as a standard practice in agriculture. Just as we hear more about the devastating affect of broad spectrum antibiotic use on the health of our gut microbiome and the cascading ailments that result and have proliferated since the 1950's, tillage - the broad spectrum antibiotic of the soil, has a similar debilitating affect on our agricultural lands. Just as the quality and diversity of our own diet affects the diversity of our intestinal flora, the diversity (or lack thereof) of the crops we grow has the same affect on our invisible allies in the soil. 

It made clear to us that our partnerships with university research programs is a critical component of developing a broader acceptance and application of conservation practices for the service of future generations of farmers and consumers. In fact, one of the most significant takeaways of the day was a resounding commitment to increase our own research efforts and our commitment to you, the people that support our farms when you buy the fruit of their labor.

2016 Crop Update

June is here and it is a critical month for the health of the wheat in the growing region of Shepherd's Grain producers. Last June, we were hit with over a week of scorching hot weather. That weather, combined with an already lack of moisture in the soil, really stressed out some wheat fields. Shepherd's Grain growers were able to withstand much of that heat because they were able to retain more moisture because the soil was protected by the previous year's crop's residue. That residue was there because the Shepherd's Grain growers did not use tillage to bury it in the soil.

June is a beautiful month as everything is green. But all of the growers hope for a few rain showers in June to give the crops that extra drink of water as they carry on to maturing and ripening. Below is a picture of our growing region in the first week of June... Beautiful! 

A few soaking rains in June can really mean a big bump in the yields, and thus a bump in spirit for the growers. Much of what they do is determined by the weather. But Shepherd's Grain growers do all they can do in their sustainable farm management practices to ensure that extremes in weather do not destroy their crops. Last July heavy rains came into the region and Shepherd's Grain farmers withstood the event.  Some tillage based farmers did not, as seen in the photo below, where extreme soil erosion took place.  

Thank you for supporting Shepherd's Grain, because it really does help support truly sustainable agriculture.

The Shepherd's Grain Management Team and Producers