Sustainable Farming Association

One Farm’s Spring Update: Herbs, Laying Hens, and Bed-Building

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A few weeks ago I asked for you to share what you’ve been doing on your farms with me and I wanted to share this short story of what Bil and Alise of Under The Sun Herbs have been up to on their farm. Below follows their account of their farm projects this spring.

It’s really starting to feel like we’re connecting the dots on our farm. In our second season on 10 acres near Madelia, we are taking a regenerative approach to our herb-growing operation. It’s like putting puzzle pieces together to achieve our goals of a more sustainable livelihood.

I’ve been dreaming of incorporating our laying hens into our field rotations for a year now, and just last week I completed our mobile coop, the Chickshaw, and got electric netting to get them out of the run and on pasture. The goal is to put them to work scratching the ground, eating weeds, seeds, and bugs, and leaving their fertile manure without lifting a shovel or pushing a wheelbarrow. Bonus, we also get eggs!

We will then form our permanent raised beds. The lower walkways will be covered with cardboard and mulch. This allows the beds to drain easily and gives us a clean path, even after (or during) rain. Next we will use a giant thick plastic tarp to cover the area for up to a few months, which will kill any weeds the chickens didn’t get.

After the tarp is removed, we will plant a cover crop mix to suppress any persistent weeds, build organic matter and fertility, and grow deep roots to break up and feed the soil and microorganisms. Sequestering carbon from the air to fight climate change is the cherry on top.

If we decide not to harvest cover crop seed, we will terminate by crimping or cutting at flowering stage, allowing it to become mulch, which protects from wind and rain erosion, holds moisture and cools soil during drought, and creates the perfect habitat for soil life to thrive.

If all goes as planned, we will have a clean, fertile bed to plant next year’s herb crop into – without much labor for prep – and plenty of added benefits to keep the circle of life spinning in our little corner of paradise.

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