Converting Your Farm to Organic for Profit and Pleasure—Chapter 4: Flexibility Is Key

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of flexibility to increase your potential for success as an organic producer. Of course, you should have certain guidelines and goals in mind, such as rotations that include soil building crops, as discussed in previous chapters. But it is equally important not to allow your rotations and routines to become so rigid that you do not consider the reality you see unfolding before you.

Your field conditions are constantly changing. The weather and even the climate are in a constant state of flux. Amidst all these changes, as you become more observant, you will see cycles of weeds, insects and disease. It is imperative you respond to these things as they occur and the best way to observe them is to walk your fields. Often. Takes notes. Look for the good things as well as the bad, then review what has been done in the recent past that may contribute to these positive or negative trends.

This is why farming strictly by the calendar, such as seeding in accordance with a strict rotation, is not always your best bet. You must think of your farm as a living organism, not an enclosed factory where everything is controlled. In nature nothing is “controlled” over the long term. There is a certain level of organization, order, balance and predictability in nature, but assuming absolute control from a human perspective will lead to frustration and disappointment. The further you are from a balance, the more difficult it is to maintain. Here on our farm, we try to farm to manage weeds, disease and pests rather than eradicate or control them. I suggest that, instead of farming by a calendar, farm according to soil conditions, especially moisture and temperature. We judge the advancement of the season by the appearance of different types of wild flowers more than what day of the year it is.

With increasingly more erratic weather, we are becoming more and more familiar with the realization that when the farm is ready, the farmer must be ready as well. Over the past recent years, we have seen the prime windows for seeding, harvest and other “scheduled” activities grow smaller and smaller. So when it is time to go, you must be ready to go, and you must go long and hard until you are finished.

Study your farm; learn its needs and secrets. Being aware of your land and prepared to act is key to maximizing long term productivity, nutrition, balance and sustainability. And I think you will find, as I did, a deeper joy and satisfaction in farming.