or even use a bug vacuum. Each of these techniques requires time and
planning. The paperwork and inspection process for organic certification
add another time-consuming component to these farms.
Organic farmers describe how their success is partially due to their will-
ingness to try new things and experiment on their farms. They are also
motivated by an open mind and the desire to learn.
Since information on organic methods is not readily available, and because
many problems and solutions are locally based, many organic farmers con-
duct their own agronomic experiments. This on-farmexperimentation runs
from small changes in timing of planting to full-fledged side-by-side trials
of a crop grown with different techniques, to innovations in the types of
crops they decide to grow. The Bensons, in eastern Colorado, grow the
only dryland alfalfa in this region. Cliff explains, “The neighbors think it's
crazy to grow alfalfa here, since it receives only twelve to fourteen inches
of precipitation per year.” But according to Naioma, “The soil needed help
when we bought that land, and alfalfa helped and grew pretty well.”Naioma
described one of her husband's innovations. “He is trying new flaps on the
back of the planter to help set the seed better and have less [soil] com-
paction.” It is different from typical farm equipment, so “the neighbors just
laugh and shake their heads.”
Phil agrees that a lot of information comes from within your own farm.
“There has been a lot of experimentation, a lot of scratching our heads
and figuring things out for ourselves. We keep our hand in it, continue to
experiment, see what we come up with.”Experiments are common on Phil's
farm: “Cabbage is one of the crops that we have an insect pest problem that
can be pretty significant without a lot of good control. In the winter the
problem is your beneficials are not as active, and the cabbage aphid can get
you in the winter. We still need to do research on it.”
In Illinois, Joel is conducting field and livestock feeding experiments.
He describes his latest project: “I am dabbling in verma composting with
worms. I am working with some people out of Wisconsin, in Milwaukee.
We are going to be doing replicated trials using verma compost and pre-
plant fertilizers and verma compost sprays.” Spraying fertilizers made from
dead worms? Yes, because there are always new ideas sprouting up on these
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