The Vegetable Beet

In this episode, Rue Genger interviews Kevin Anderson and Annelie Livingston-Anderson to learn about the reduced tillage systems they use to produce vegetables and flowers at Good Turn Farm, in Pepin County Wisconsin. Kevin and Annelie share their favorite low-tillage production systems, benefits they’ve seen for soil health, and advice for growers who are getting started with reduced tillage methods. We also hear about the Johnson-Su composting bioreactor that Kevin and Annelie are trialing with the Land Stewardship Project.

What is The Vegetable Beet?

A live weekly interview and discussion focused on vegetable production challenges and opportunities brought to you by the Great Lakes Vegetable Producers Network. We grow more together. JOIN US LIVE! We will be broadcasting live via Zoom at 12:30 ET/11:30 CT every Wednesday from the first week of March to the first week of September. Login at

This transcript was exported on Aug 26, 2022 - view latest version here.

Ben Phillips (00:14):
Welcome to The Vegetable Beet. My name is Ben Phillips and I work with Michigan State University Extension.
Natalie Hoidal (00:20):
And my name is Natalie Hoidal. I work with the University of Minnesota Extension.
Ben Phillips (00:24):
We've been doing this podcast over the last few years and we're changing the format a little bit for this season. We're going to do some pre-recorded interviews. It might not be us doing them but we'll have some other folks featured sometimes and this is one of those episodes. Rue Genger at the University of Wisconsin was interested in interviewing vegetable farmers who do no till and low till production. So this is one of those interviews, the third that Rue has sent along in this series. How are we doing this, Natalie?
Natalie Hoidal (00:52):
So this podcast is brought to you by the Great Lakes Vegetable Producers Network. It was kickstarted by the North Central Integrated Pest Management Center and our license for transistor is held by the University Of Minnesota Extension.
Ben Phillips (01:04):
You can listen to this episode and all the rest at Take it away, Rue.
Rue Genger (01:19):
Good morning, Kevin and Annelie, and thank you for joining me today. So I'm really happy to have you here from Good Turn Farm to talk about some of the practices that you're using on your farm to reduce tillage. I wondered if you could start off by just introducing yourselves and a little bit about your farm.
Annelie (01:42):
Yeah. Thank you. I'm Annelie.
Kevin (01:44):
I'm Kevin. So Good Turn Farm is a small scale, organic production methods vegetable and cut flower farm in Stockholm, Wisconsin which is in the northern area of the Driftless region. We grow using organic practices like we said but we dropped our certification a couple years ago. We direct market all of our products within about 30 miles of the farm and we do our growing on semi-permanent beds that are slightly raised. Those beds are all 4 feet by 50 feet and we have approximately 110 of those beds out in the field in the open. And then, another 30 of those underneath cover under three hoop houses and two caterpillar tunnels. Right now, the two of us do all the labor on the farm and during the growing season, Annelie works off farm for the land stewardship projects for 16 hours a week. We also have a seven year old daughter so our labor is limited and we usually put in probably 80 to 90 hours of work on the farm per week.
Annelie (02:59):
Between the two of us. Yeah.
Rue Genger (03:01):
Uh-huh. Yeah.
Kevin (03:03):
And then, some of the main tools that we use for our farming, the caterpillar and hoop houses, of course and then we have a 40 horsepower utility tractor, a compost spreader which has ended up being pretty important now, a 6-foot flail mower, and we use the paper pot transplanter system pretty extensively. And then, we also have a lot of hand tools including a wheel hoe that gets used a lot.
Annelie (03:28):
And then tarps, I think you-
Kevin (03:30):
Oh yeah.
Annelie (03:30):
So we use a lot of tarps on the farm now.
Rue Genger (03:33):
Yeah. Uh-huh. So you've been farming since 2015 and I understand that you started trying no till just maybe around three years ago. So could you talk a little bit about why you started experimenting with reducing tillage on your farm?
Annelie (03:56):
Yeah. I can touch on that. So it's hard to pinpoint exactly how it all happened but we had heard, yeah, back in probably 2018, 2019, we were hearing about small scale, no till vegetable production from a few places including Chris Blanchard's podcast and then Andrew Mefferd's Organic No-Till Farming Revolution book was coming out around that time. So those were two places where we were hearing about it. At that time, it felt like the general narrative with vegetable farming was that it was really hard to do vegetable farming and take good care of the soil. So it was like soil health was a hot topic but it was like the ways you improve soil health on farms is through rotational grazing, having no till in conventional systems or using cover crops.
At the time it kind of felt to me... So we had been farming maybe three years at that point and it was kind of feeling like the story was that if you're a vegetable farmer, good luck. You're just not... It's really hard to take care of your soil well because you're going to be doing so much tillage for cultivation. And so, hearing these stories about small scale no-till production was really exciting to us at that time. There was also this piece around quality of life and that small scale no-till was maybe a way to improve quality of life as a small scale farmer because it may be a way to reduce weed pressure and therefore just the amount of labor, overall, that you're putting into the farm. And so, that was also very appealing to us.
So Kevin mentioned, I work for Land Stewardship Project. I am a facilitator for the farm beginnings class. In that class, we were doing demonstrations of the slake test where you put a little clump of soil into water and watch how fast it dissolves in the water and we were doing... For that, I took some soil samples from our farm and seeing the difference between the soil in our hoop houses which we had accidentally been doing no-till with because we couldn't get a tractor easily into the hoop houses. So comparing that soil with our field beds where we were using a rototiller very regularly, there was a very stark difference. And so, that was really some serious, hard evidence that using a rototiller regularly was definitely not great for our soil. And so, that was also just, I think, pushed us into looking into it more.
Rue Genger (07:06):
That's an amazing thing, I think, to see that side by side comparison.
Annelie (07:13):
Rue Genger (07:14):
Something that I think it's so valuable to occasionally stop and do those tests which the slake test is great because it's not actually all that difficult to do.
Annelie (07:25):
Rue Genger (07:25):
To have that comparison, it's awesome that you had those hoop house areas where you hadn't been tilling.
Annelie (07:36):
Rue Genger (07:37):
I know that sometimes people look at a fence row as a comparison as well if they don't have an untilled area otherwise.
Annelie (07:46):
Rue Genger (07:46):
So yeah, that sounds like really clear evidence that-
Annelie (07:51):
Yeah. It was a great push to think harder about it just because it was so obvious, the structure of the soil was so much better in those no-till beds and the hoop houses. And then, we had also seen just some visual difference. So at the time we were already using landscape fabric on beds but burning holes into the landscape fabric and planting into the holes, occasionally those landscape fabric sheets would get left on beds over the winter and comparing... So taking the fabric off of those beds in the spring and looking at that soil compared to soil that we had tilled prior to the fall, it was just a very stark difference between just visually the quality of the soil looked a lot worse on the tilled fields, like a lot of crusting on top and cracking and stuff. Yeah. So those were the things that I think got us excited about no-till and started us down a path of exploring how to start.
Rue Genger (09:03):
Uh-huh. So we're using the word tillage a lot and I think it's really useful to talk a little bit about what that means because obviously, there's a gradient of degrees to which we disturb the soil in agriculture. So what kinds of soil disturbance are you trying to avoid and maybe give some examples of tools that you would consider tillage that's more damaging and soil disturbance that's less damaging from other tools.
Kevin (09:32):
Sure. Yeah. I really like the term no-till but I think in the context of vegetable farming, it's a hard one to apply because so many things that we do end up being some form of tillage. It seems like even, I think of harvesting carrots or potatoes which we grow, is a more aggressive tillage than we do with just about any tool that we would use in the soil. But we're trying to definitely reduce the number of times that we till and to swap out more aggressive methods with methods that do less disturbance. So for preparing beds that have gotten weedy, we've moved away from using a rototiller and then have gone to something like a wheel hoe or a harrow where you're only doing a single pass through the soil and not inverting the layers and I think that we've seen that is improving the soil health quite a bit.
Rue Genger (10:39):
Something I like about that way of thinking of it is that it offers a lot of different entry points for people who want to reduce tillage. In the systems that you have seen, I guess one thing that I get curious about is some of the interviews I've read with people who are growing in a low till system, it gives you the impression that the whole system has to be implemented and that there's going to be a painful transition process. But then, once you get this whole system implemented, you can get it working versus this other method of just looking at different parts of your operations and seeing, "Well, where can I reduce tillage?" Do you have any thoughts about that, the whole system approach versus looking for places where you can improve a little?
Kevin (11:40):
Yeah. We talked about that a bit. I mean, like we said, we accidentally started doing that in hoop houses which it seems like it's a very easy place to start doing no-till because it's hard to till in there to begin with but also because they tend to get so much more attention and hours put into them so you can manage the weeds better in there.
Annelie (12:04):
Yup. It's kind of a smaller contained space. So yeah, we had accidentally started that way but I mean, then in the field it was similar in that we didn't have a farm wide plan in terms of how we were going to start implementing no-till but just started trying it out mostly through using landscape fabric or silage tarps and covering an area and then removing those tarps and direct seeding into those areas. And so, that was probably the first way that we really started trying it out. Specifically, I think carrots was one of the ways that we were really excited about because we were having, like many people, so many issues with seeding carrots and weed issues out competing carrots. And so, we were really excited about that and have really adopted that method of tarping our location, taking off the tarp to seed the carrots. But then, with carrots specifically, we actually put the tarp back on for usually five days or so to help the carrots germinate and to also kill any annual weeds that are popping up in that time.
Rue Genger (13:30):
Uh-huh. Nice. So at the moment, what percentage of your farm do you think is in some sort of a low till system?
Annelie (13:42):
We're probably up to 75-ish percent at this time not... So I guess in that case, we're not really counting our root crops because like Kevin said, as we're digging up carrots and potatoes, we're definitely inverting the soil. And then, there are some beds that we have to make a judgment call that we need to either use a rototiller, which happens very rarely at this point but still occasionally happens, or use some other form of tillage. But yeah, probably like 75-ish percent.
Rue Genger (14:21):
Do you see that staying pretty stable or do you see opportunities to reduce tillage further?
Kevin (14:29):
I think we're going to continue to reduce tillage. The main thing that forces us to use tillage now is because our beds get weedy because we don't have that many hours to put into it. And so, weeds often get away from us.
Rue Genger (14:45):
That makes sense and certainly a common problem.
Annelie (14:50):
Yeah. If we get to that point where we're able to cut back on the amount of weeds going to seed in the field and really get that weed seed bed reduced over time, yeah, I think we would continue to increase the amount of beds that we're doing no-till on. So moving in that direction, I think, over time.
Rue Genger (15:14):
Yeah. So when you were introducing your farm, you mentioned a number of tools you're using that feed into a no-till system or a low till system like tarps and flail mower and a compost spreader. So it sounds like you have a few different types of systems you might be using and I wondered if you could walk us through some of the systems that you have found work best for you.
Kevin (15:44):
Sure. One that we've grown to really like, we grow a lot of baby lettuce and a lot of head lettuce so if we're transitioning a few beds from one crop into a head lettuce or baby lettuce crop, we'll go through and harvest all the previous crop out and then take the flail mower over the top of the bed surface and cut that all the way down to the ground with the flail mower. And then, if there's still a lot of weeds in there we'll go through and wheel hoe and cut the roots of the weeds under the ground, then come through with the compost spreader which has been modified to put down just a four foot wide ribbon of compost and spread that right over the top of the bed surface at about a half an inch thick.
Then, we'll cover it up with a piece of landscaping fabric. We use a 3.2 ounce woven landscaping fabric that is 15 feet wide for the most part and we like those because it lets air and water through and it seems like the soil is a little bit healthier underneath them although they're not quite as effective at killing weeds. And then, we leave that on for about two weeks and once we take it off, we will see if there's still some weeds in there that we need to hoe out. If there are, we hoe them and then direct seed right into the compost with a Jang seeder and we may rake it beforehand to prepare the seed bed. And then, we spread Sustane compost which is a composted turkey litter on top of the direct seeding and then lightly rake that in and water it. And then, usually that does a pretty effective job at suppressing weeds and having a good seed bed to plant into.
Annelie (17:48):
And so, that was describing direct seeding but very similar for our paper pot transplanter system. So we use the paper pot, we sell a lot of head lettuce, wholesale, and so we do a fair amount of that. Very similar, once the tarp is removed, then if everything is looking good, then we can just plant directly into that with the paper pot transplanter.
Rue Genger (18:18):
You're finding that you have friable enough soil that you can go through with the paper pot transplanter and it breaks through the soil fairly easily?
Kevin (18:29):
If you put the compost down and tarp it and there's some moisture, rain, or sprinkler that goes on top of that, then yes but that's not always the case.
Rue Genger (18:40):
Uh-huh. Yeah.
Annelie (18:41):
Rue Genger (18:42):
I was wondering about putting the compost down before you're putting the landscape fabric on. Do you think that is part of getting a good tilth in that bed?
Kevin (18:51):
Yeah. We have a pretty good earthworm population now that has built up over time. And so, they work that plant material and the compost down a little bit and so that does loosen up the soil a fair amount.
Annelie (19:04):
We did have or we do have clay loam soil. And so, starting out, it was pretty heavy. Amending with compost a lot over time has helped with that. But yes, we can definitely still get beds that are just too hard to paper pot into immediately. Yeah.
Rue Genger (19:25):
What do you do in that situation?
Kevin (19:28):
If it's not too bad, I might work it with a wheel hoe. And then, if it is too bad, I've got a tractor mounted cultivator that has really wide sweeps that aren't very aggressively pitched. And so, I can run that through the soil at about two inches deep, pretty slowly so it's not really moving a lot of dirt around and that loosens it up enough to work it through. But in that case, you do see more weed seed coming up.
Rue Genger (19:56):
Yeah. Of course. So you mentioned two different types of compost, the Sustane that's the turkey litter compost, and then I was wondering where you get the other compost that you're using to put down before the landscape fabric and what the feed material, the feed stock is for that compost.
Kevin (20:18):
Yup. We buy a lot of compost from Cowsmo Compost in, I think, they're in Cochrane, Wisconsin and a lot of farms in our region buy from them. They are a compost producer that mixes dairy cow manure with wood chip and a few other things.
Annelie (20:41):
Yeah, I'm not sure [inaudible 00:20:41].
Kevin (20:41):
And they turn it a lot so I think it ends up being a bacterial dominated compost but they're one of the few compost producers in Western Wisconsin.
Rue Genger (20:52):
Uh-huh. Yeah. Definitely a product that's important to get as locally as you can when you're using a lot of it.
Annelie (21:00):
Kevin (21:01):
Annelie (21:02):
So we're getting... I mean, do you not have an estimate of how many yards per year we've been getting in?
Kevin (21:07):
Probably 50 to 80 yards a year that we buy in.
Annelie (21:10):
Rue Genger (21:10):
Mm-hmm. So you said that you're using that system that you described for both direct seeded and transplants, so is that the main system that you're using on your farm?
Kevin (21:29):
For shorter season crops, yes, it is. So things like carrots, all the baby greens, all the head lettuce, Salanova lettuce is all done that way. For things that are in the ground longer, we often use landscape fabric with holes burned into it. And then, for a few other crops like potatoes and garlic, we do a heavy mulch with finely chopped hay.
Rue Genger (21:56):
Uh-huh. So I have done a lot of potato trials where I have used straw as a mulch and procuring the straw and chopping the store are both definitely big tasks. I am lucky in that I can get straw at the research station that I work at. But chopping and applying the straw, that's a big day. So I'm very curious to hear both where you're getting your hay from and how you're applying it.
Kevin (22:31):
Right. That's something that we didn't talk about when we were saying what our farm situation is but the farm that we're on now is a small area that's part of my multi-generational family farm which my father still operates as a conventional no-till corn, bean, and hay rotation. And so, he has a decent amount of hay ground that's part of the rotation to just maintain soil health in that system that's available and we've bought some old mid-scale dairy hay handling equipment. So a silage chopper and a couple chopper boxes to chop the hay and to move it over here and to move it around. That stuff is fairly cheap at auction now but saves a huge amount of time.
Rue Genger (23:24):
So is that a chopper that you've got it tractor mounted and is it actually spreading it onto the field as you go down the row or are you having to manually spread it?
Kevin (23:35):
We still... Well, there's a couple different ways we do it but we do manually spread some of it in the case where I can't get over the top of it with the spreader that we have. But if I can, we'll... It's a tractor mounted chopper that chops into a, we would call it chopper box, and then that can dump it out into a pile or it can spread it into a single windrow. But if we dump it out into a pile, then I can load it into our manure spreader and take that over the top of a row if a crop isn't very tall. So if the potatoes have just been planted, you can get over the top of them but after things have grown up a bit, then you have to bring it in there by hand with a pitchfork.
Rue Genger (24:22):
I have spent many hours doing that in our potato trials so I'm always looking for a more effective way to handle that kind of material. We've tried the landscape mulch spreaders in the past that have the fan and the big pipe, the big flexible hose to spread it out which works okay. But any way you do it, it's quite a bit of work.
Kevin (24:47):
Yeah. It's just a lot of material to move.
Annelie (24:47):
Rue Genger (24:53):
It is. Yeah. It is. So I always like to ask people about systems that they might have tried and dropped because there are so many different systems out there for low till or no-till and some things just don't work in some locations. So are there any things that just didn't work out for you?
Annelie (25:16):
We did start early on doing some crimping of winter rye and trying that out. So we talked about our bed system which is we have the hundred-ish beds out in the field and then under hoop houses, we're also trying out some production in the field that's more of a low intensity single row, a longer row. In the past, we've tried doing that with crimping winter eye but just didn't have a dense enough stand and some of the weed suppression was just not great.
So that's something that maybe we would come back to in the future specifically for winter squash, was a good crop for that system, we felt, if we could get a strong enough stand of winter rye so that's something that at this time we have dropped. We've also tried doing more like bringing in transfer mulch onto a bed and transplanting crops into that. But depending on the crop, we've seen some stuff just really hate it. Peppers really hated being in mulch, I think, just because it was cooler in the early season. So that's something that we don't do a lot of right now, it's more that bringing the mulch in once the plants are growing for potatoes or the garlic.
Rue Genger (26:47):
Annelie (26:49):
Rue Genger (26:50):
Yeah. The more cover crop based methods, I think, are really interesting but it seems like there's a lot more work that's needed to develop those systems for vegetables.
Annelie (27:03):
Yeah. It's definitely a higher level of no-till I would say.
Kevin (27:03):
Annelie (27:08):
That was something we're going to talk about at the end in terms of advice but the tarping is definitely a great beginner way to start with no-till and then I think the organic mulch is definitely an added benefit because it is feeding the soil and that's awesome. But in terms of weed suppression, it's definitely something that is trickier.
Rue Genger (27:35):
Yeah. I sometimes think just finding the right equipment to handle those systems as well.
Annelie (27:44):
Rue Genger (27:45):
I'm working on a project with a small roller crimper that goes behind a two wheel tractor and it's a nice system in many ways but we're still learning a lot about it in terms of what crops it's going to handle well and what crops are going to bounce back from it. So yeah, there's still a lot of trial and error going on. And then, other parts of that system like how you're going to seed a cover crop in a reduced tillage system, things like that become challenging as well. Yeah. So what are the next steps that you're looking at? Is there low hanging fruit or do you feel like you've picked all the low hanging fruit? Are there systems where you'd really to find a way to reduce tillage?
Annelie (28:40):
I think some maybe low hanging fruit would be just improving our hand weeding in the field of any weeds that are getting too big and going to go to seed. That's something that if we can, again, I mentioned this, but just reducing that weed seed bed over time, that would just equal less need for cultivation in the future and therefore just overall reducing our tillage again. So that's something that we would like to see we'd like to move towards but like Kevin mentioned, we just have limited labor available for the farm and so yeah, right now, the weeds are there and yeah, that's just an always goal, I guess, is to get better at getting those weeds that are going to seed out in the field.
Kevin (29:41):
Rue Genger (29:41):
Kevin (29:42):
I think we'd also, as part of that, like to try doing a true deep compost mulch on some of the beds. We've done that a few times with more sensitive crops like carrots that don't like having any weeds and it works well. We just would need multiple hundreds of yards of compost so we're trying to make our own compost out of some of that chopped hay and bringing in some manure from our neighbors to make our own so we can try that.
Rue Genger (30:12):
Uh-huh. That actually reminds me of the question I wanted to ask about how you initially set up your beds and whether you had amended them with much compost initially or if they were field soil that you had shaped.
Kevin (30:29):
They were field soil to start with and we shaped them into raised beds using a back blade for the most part and then leveling them off and using a rototiller across the top. It worked for making nice looking beds but they got very weedy very quick and the soil dried out and crusted and was in rough shape.
Rue Genger (30:52):
At this point-
Kevin (30:52):
And so, we didn't... Go ahead.
Rue Genger (30:53):
Sorry, go ahead. Go ahead.
Kevin (30:55):
So we didn't add heavy compost to it to begin with.
Annelie (31:00):
You're talking about the very initial beds? Yeah. And so, those initial beds too had grass aisles in between the beds. So the beds were 4 feet by 50 feet still but they had grass aisles in between and there were reasons we did that. I mean, it was nice to walk on those grass aisles.
Rue Genger (31:21):
Kevin (31:21):
Annelie (31:23):
It looked nice and it was also good for erosion and stuff. But as we started to moving into no-till, we realized pretty quickly that we needed to have larger blocks that we could cover with these large tarps. And so, at that time we took out those grass aisles and then we just have blocks of different sizes but they're all 50 feet long and then just have beds within those blocks.
Rue Genger (31:53):
Do you have anything down in the aisles like landscape fabric to cover the soil?
Annelie (31:58):
No. No. We just try to keep the aisles small-ish, so shooting for maybe 18 inches for an aisle and then keeping those, in theory, hoed with a wheel hoe, I guess or we're working on creating a tractor mounted cultivator that can just sweep the aisles. But at this point, oftentimes they just end up whatever weeds are going to come up in those aisles and sometimes we will use our weed whip to cut them down but are not necessarily cultivating the aisles all the time. Just, again, based on time available.
Rue Genger (32:42):
Yeah. Yeah. I know a lot of people have tried living aisles and that can be pretty popular but then also can be pretty invasive in the no-till system and yeah, that's always the balance.
Annelie (33:02):
Yeah. Yeah.
Rue Genger (33:04):
Yep. So I also wanted to ask you about the compost bioreactor project I saw, I think, on your website or on your social media. That looks really interesting. I wondered if you could describe that a little bit.
Kevin (33:21):
Yeah. So I think three years ago, I started hearing about the Johnson-Su composting method and that people were seeing some good results with it, and first tried creating a Johnson-Su bioreactor, they call it. And then, we got involved with the Land Stewardship Project that they're creating some of these across, I think, six different farms in the area and then looking at the compost carefully to see what's in it.
But the Johnson-Su composting system is basically creating a static aerated pile of compost by making a big bin that's about 4 feet in diameter and 6 feet tall and filling it with... They're pretty indiscriminate about what type of compost source material you put in but we're putting in chopped hay and forest soil and a little bit of manure. And then, you put air tubes in every couple of feet inside the bin so that ideally, air is within six inches of any place in the compost and then keep it well watered and try and maintain a consistent temperature and allow microbes and fungal hyphae to take over the whole thing for one year. It's supposed to create an extremely biodiverse and rich compost that you then use as a soil inoculant instead of something that you would put on thick on the soil. And so, you can either do an extract or a compost tea or just spread the compost on very lightly across the soil and then water it in to try and kickstart soil life in a broader area.
Rue Genger (35:18):
So you're really using it as an inoculant where you're hoping that those microbes from the compost are going to establish in the soil.
Kevin (35:25):
That's the idea. Yeah.
Annelie (35:25):
Rue Genger (35:25):
Uh-huh. That is cool.
Annelie (35:28):
Yeah. The idea is that by not tilling it, you end... Or by not... Sorry. By not turning the compost, you end up with a more diverse microbiology within the compost versus-
Rue Genger (35:42):
And a more fungal heavy I would imagine.
Annelie (35:44):
Yeah. It's more fungal heavy. Yep. Mm-hmm.
Rue Genger (35:45):
Yeah. Oh, that is really interesting. Have you used much of the compost in your fields or is it more to produce samples for analysis for the project?
Kevin (35:56):
The project's focus is just to produce the compost and then analyze the compost. We use it hit and miss throughout the field and have not done it in a controlled way that we could say that we've seen results using it and not using it.
Annelie (36:15):
But maybe in the future we would do some more, yeah, controlled comparisons and see what we see.
Kevin (36:15):
Rue Genger (36:21):
Yeah. That sounds really cool.
Kevin (36:24):
Rue Genger (36:25):
Yeah. So I really appreciate the time that you've spent to describe all these systems on your farm and walk us through them and was wondering whether in closing you could tell us a little bit about what advice you would give to other farmers who are also growing vegetables who would like to reduce tillage.
Annelie (36:49):
Yeah. So I kind of touched on the fact that we think that tarps are a really great way to start for beginners and that organic mulch we would consider a little more advanced. So overall, in the no-till system, ideally you would be using a lot of compost just to amend your soil overall. And so, you would want to find a good source for that compost like we talked about finding a way to move it efficiently around your farm, ideally rather than maybe all by hand, I guess.
And then, just like anything else, that with no-till there's going to be a learning curve. And so, I think the way that we did it in terms of just trying it out on a few beds first and slowly learning the system and getting better at it over a few years, I think that was probably an okay way to do that. The tarps don't always work great for perennial weeds so that's something to just keep in mind. If you have a lot of perennial weeds like quack grass or thistle, it doesn't work great. If you leave the tarps on for a really long time, you can take care of those perennial weeds but you do have to leave it on for, I would say, months.
Kevin (36:49):
Annelie (38:18):
Yeah. So there's that. Kevin also mentioned the idea that hoop houses are a great place to start trying it out because it's small and contained and it's also just harder to get a tractor in there for tillage anyways.
And then, just in terms of resources, I'm sure this has probably come up in these conversations before, but the, there's a no-till market gardeners podcast that came out, I think, started maybe three years ago probably? They just interview people who are doing no-till vegetable production for the most part, sometimes flowers as well and that's a really great resource. And then, I also mentioned early on the, Andrew Mefferd's book, The Organic No-till Farming Revolution, I just looked at the book on my shelf.
Similarly, he is, for the most part, he explains in the beginning of that book an overview of different types of small scale, no-till vegetable production and what the different systems can look like which is basically split into... It all comes down to mulching and that mulch can either be biological, biodegradable mulch or it can be plastic mulch. And so, he outlines that really well and that was really helpful for me because it just simplified the whole idea, I think. And then, he interviews different farmers who are doing small scale, no-till, and it's just helpful to hear what other folks are doing. Yeah.
Rue Genger (40:10):
Yeah. I think having those examples of other people trying things is... It's always good to be... I often think about how it's good to be reminded that other people are learning as they go as well.
Annelie (40:28):
Yeah, absolutely.
Rue Genger (40:29):
Yeah. Sometimes the... Well, I was also going to say what you said about just starting a little smaller is important because some of these systems in the experimentation that I'm doing, I have a few trials on different farms, when you have to implement the same system on a certain number of beds and you don't find out until you're in late spring how much labor it's going to be-
Kevin (41:05):
Annelie (41:05):
Rue Genger (41:06):
Suddenly, you realize this huge commitment that you have and maybe there was a modification that you could have done that would've made it easier but learning that on a small scale first is really nice.
Annelie (41:18):
Yeah, definitely.
Rue Genger (41:19):
Yeah. So once again, thank you very much for joining me. Is there anything that you'd like to add as we finish up?
Kevin (41:32):
Yeah. I'd say adopting no-till has made us feel better farmers and that's nice when it works well, of course. And then, we're seeing, just being out in the field often, we're seeing good improvements in soil structure and soil life and that feels good as a land steward and that yeah, generally, using the system makes our farm function smoother and better and feels more sustainable in the long run.
Annelie (42:11):
Yeah. It makes me feel hopeful for sure for the future that these systems feel very sustainable and that we could keep doing this for maybe a long time.
Kevin (42:11):
Rue Genger (42:21):
Yeah. That is good news.
Annelie (42:23):
Kevin (42:23):
Rue Genger (42:24):
Awesome. Well, it's been a pleasure hearing from you and-
Annelie (42:29):
Yeah. Thank you, Rue.
Rue Genger (42:30):
Kevin and Annelie from Good Turn Farm, thank you so much.
Kevin (42:35):
Thank you.
Annelie (42:36):
Thank you.
Ben Phillips (42:40):
That concludes this episode of The Vegetable Beet. If you'd like to check out all of our past episodes, head on over to Sweet.
Natalie Hoidal (42:52):
Ben Phillips (42:52):
Thanks, Natalie.
Natalie Hoidal (42:52):
Ben Phillips (42:52):
I got to run.
Natalie Hoidal (42:52):
Ben Phillips (42:56):
Okay. See you.
Natalie Hoidal (42:56):
All right. Okay. Bye.
Ben Phillips (42:56):

gengercast3 (Completed 08/24/22)
Transcript by
Page of