How are you? I had another busy week at school. On Saturday, I participated in a state solo and ensemble competition. I did a trombone solo and received a two rating. I am very happy, since this is my first year doing this.
I receive many questions from friends and readers about different organic practices we do. Since we are 100% certified organic, we cannot use pesticides, insecticides, herbicides, hormones, antibiotics, etc. These products can pose dangers to the crops, animals, farmers, and the consumers. How do we keep bugs, weeds, and illness away from our crops and livestock?
On our farm, we grow corn, soybeans, barley, hay and pasture. Each field has a crop rotation. Rotating these crops solves a few problems. Certain bugs like certain crops. If a field is corn one year and soybeans the next, the bugs will not do damage in the field since the crop was rotated. Another practice is to organically treat the seed before we plant the crop. In the corn and soybeans, we mix in a garlic solution. We purchase garlic powder from a health food store in Decorah by the box. We mix this garlic powder with hot water and stir. The ratio is 1 pound of garlic powder to 2 quarts of hot water. The garlic solution can treat about six bushels of seed corn. Dry garlic powder can also be spread directly in the seed. During the harvesting season, when we transfer harvested soybeans or harvested corn in grain bins, we put a little diatomaceous earth in the grain. Diatomaceous earth is 30 million year old shells of microscopic sea creatures called diatoms. This white powder is very fine. Insects crawl in it and it itches their body. The insects scratch themselves to death.
Weed control is a challenge. We have many implements to use to solve this problem. Before a field goes to corn, we plow the hay or pasture over. Before the corn, soybeans, and barley crops, we use the following implements to dig up, cut up, and destroy weeds: disc, field cultivator, harrow, plow, chisel plow, and drag. While the crop is growing, we use a rotary hoe. This implement is only helpful when the weeds just sprout. When the weeds are too tall and the root system is too strong for a rotary hoe, then we use a row crop cultivator. In the soybean fields, we walk through with machetes cutting tall weeds out by hand. The fall before the soybean or barley crop is planted, our cattle or sows are moved into the field to clean up leftover grain that was either missed or spilled from the combine. Leftover grain can start a new plant.
We cannot use hormones or antibiotics on our livestock. It is forbidden for organic meat. In smaller pig feed diet, we use vinegar. Vinegar increases energy levels and makes for a better feed quality. Protein is a very important ingredient, too. Protein is found in soybeans, sunflowers, and a few other grains.
Farm Fact: We have many old books about raising pigs and different feed ingredients from the 1950's. These books help us learn different practices for caring and feeding for hogs. It is valuable, as those practices were developed before the use of synthetic pesticides.