#FarmWeird with SWCD on Dec. 15

#FarmWeird with SWCD on Dec. 15

#FarmWeird is an attention-grabbing tag, isn’t it? Our friends at Ashland SWCD have arranged for Jason Mauck of Constant Canopy, the man behind #FarmWeird, to speak at an event called “Keep It Together” on Wednesday, Dec. 15 at 6 p.m. at the Ohio Theatre in Loudonville. Holmes SWCD is one of the co-sponsors of this free event, along with Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District, Farm Bureau and other SWCDs.

As I was doing some research for this column, I watched some blogs interviewing Mauck and thought to myself, “Wow, this guy makes a lot of sense.” An apostle of relay cropping, he is the Indiana record soybean yield holder (108 bushel/acre) on a plot that was relay cropped with wheat. Relay cropping is planting two different crops that come off at two different times. But he’s not necessarily preaching yield; he’s researching how he can utilize different variables to make an efficient system through plant diversity and capturing sunlight as a no-cost derivative.

Mauck farms Constant Canopy as “400 acres of chaos,” using relay cropping, grazing, variable seeding rates and livestock manure. He also works 3,000 acres of corn, soybeans and wheat in a more traditional farming system, plus 25,000 hogs/year. Although he grew up on a family farm, he began his career as a landscape contractor and has a degree in marketing.

Since coming back to farming, he has been experimenting with ways to lower the costs of goods sold through natural systems that are ideally positioned to capture sunlight and rain. Some of these ideas are managing weeds through canopy and relay harvesting wheat at the right time so soybeans grow horizontally to fill the void and capture more sunlight, strengthening their roots and producing more pods. He also advocates using biochar, a granular carbon substance produced by pyrolysis of organic matter.

Oh, and in his free time, he just bought a meat company and is experimenting with mobile co-ops for sheep and chicken tractors to prime fields for the next year’s crop. One of his comments was that if meat is the end game of raising crops, why not figure out a way to raise regenerative meat as part of the system?

Mauck is an easy going and entertaining presenter who will appeal to almost everyone, from farmer to gardener, landowner to land lessor. He questions the constant inputs of modern agriculture and encourages focus on a healthy plant microbiome instead, which leads to healthy soil and clean water, the goal of every farmer and conservationist.

I really like this quote from Mauck on the Constant Canopy website, “We have treated the soil as a medium to hold fertilizer in order to grow corn and soybeans instead of the foundation of the next generation.” His presentation will certainly introduce some new ideas about crop production.

Please join us Wednesday, Dec. 15 at 6 p.m. at Ohio Theatre in Loudonville to listen to Mauck and also learn about cost-share opportunities available from your SWCD, MWCD and H2Ohio. Jason Tyrell with the Ohio Department of Agriculture also will give a review of winter manure application guidelines, best-management practices and regulation.

The event is free, and your local SWCDs are providing pizza from Trails End Pizza at no cost to attendees. RSVP to 419-281-7645. Hope to see you there.

Michelle Wood oversees the day-to-day operations of the Holmes County Soil and Water Conservation District. With a lifelong passion for the outdoors and a background in communications, she appreciates the conservation district grassroots model that enables the local board and staff to create programs that meet the conservation needs of Holmes County. Call her at 330-674-2811 or email her at mwood@co.holmes.oh.us.