2019 Crop; the debate what to plant and when.
This thread is to discuss the types of crop which could be grown, and whether to sow an Autumn or a Spring crop. General comments about the ethos of OurField has its own active thread - this thread should be focussed on specific ideas about crops for harvesting in 2019
Grahame Hunter started a proposal Mon 27 Aug 2018
Lets be commercial! Closed Sun 2 Sep 2018
The proposal to grow a commercial wheat crop was rejected.
This was a very successful vote because the outcome was clear; it is a strong no to following the traditional path of farming.
I was especially struck by Wahome's comment; he pointed out " A convenient choice now doesn't organically flow into an enlightened one later".
A few of the comments I quote below show the dilemma members found themselves in:-
"I am persuaded by the comments from other "agree" voters that stability and observation of field/soil/yield conditions this year would help us have freedom to be more experimental in future years."
"I joined this project to learn and support John Cherry to try something different."
"I worry that taking a commercial stance may well limit our choices and necessitate growing a crop that needs lots of spraying."
"Until we understand how to sell effectively beyond the farm gate we need to consider very carefully."
"good farming is a mix of building beauty, ecology and profitability. I joined this project to iterate on all three together..."
As a result of this vote, the organising team will very soon put up a vote on crops for the Cooperative to consider whilst not following a purely commercial regime. It many ways the result of the first round is exciting because it demonstrated that the group has appetite and commitment to do something which may not be the safe choice but could be special..
Voting Yes is to wish the Cooperative to grow a purely commercial Autumn wheat crop within the Conservation Agriculture no-till system prevailing at Weston.
Voting No is to wish to do something more adventurous or more experimental.
If the consensus is "NO, Lets NOT be commercial!" , there will be a follow up vote VERY SOON on the precise nature of a putatively more adventurous, more risky,more experimental crop.
If the consensus is "YES, Lets be commercial!", then the crop will most likely be be Crusoe wheat, direct drilled in September, into the cover crop which will likely be terminated with a light application of glyphosate; in a similar regime to what John Cherry is doing elsewhere at Weston.
|Agree - 13|
|Abstain - 0|
|Disagree - 20|
|Block - 0|
Tue 28 Aug 2018
Although I would be keen to explore the potential to develop a unique #OurField product, the practical realities of this are challenging (and costly) so it seems like a good idea to go with a more conventional crop, to make sure we have some money in the bank to continue growing in 2019. We can hopefully get involved in John's crop management decisions for the wheat, so it will still be a fascinating insight and a chance for collective engagement.
Wed 29 Aug 2018
I'm voting Agree for two reasons. First it would be great to understand whether the cover crop has increased soil fertility by growing a wheat crop. Second it would be good to have commercial stability this year to allow more experimentation in the years to come.
Wed 29 Aug 2018
I am persuaded by the comments from other "agree" voters that stability and observation of field/soil/yield conditions this year would help us have freedom to be more experimental in future years.
[Note from clause 5 of founding team's "manifesto of being and working together"] Greater vision - we reject traditional ideas of success and endeavour to remind ourselves of the greater good and vision of a just, sustainable and ecological future that fuels our work together
[Note from clause 5 of founding team's "manifesto of being and working together"] Greater vision - we reject traditional ideas of success and endeavour to remind ourselves of the greater good and vision of a just, sustainable and ecological future that fuels our work together [end note] Key action words for me: "work together". Otherwise, the ideal is unattainable, which would then call into question the reason for being.
[Note from clause 5 of founding team's "manifesto of being and working together"] Greater vision - we reject traditional ideas of success and endeavour to remind ourselves of the greater good and vision of a just, sustainable and ecological future that fuels our work together [end note] Key action words for me: "work together". Otherwise, the ideal is unattainable, which would call into question the reason for being. A convenient choice now doesn't organically flow into an enlightened one later.
Thu 30 Aug 2018
I’d like us to have the freedom to experiment further and to support our host farmer and his farming system. This will, hopefully, give us some financial security where currently we are running on empty.
& we’d gain a greater group knowledge of agronomy to then discuss and implement development projects as part of OurField over time.
Fri 31 Aug 2018
I do want to be more experimental and adventurous but I think it's important to recognise the lessons learnt by the 2017 investors and also accept that we're on a journey and it's a process that cannot happen overnight. We need to think long-term so with that in mind I am willing to agree to go on a more commercial route this year in order to move into more adventurous territory in the future...
Sat 1 Sep 2018
I am voting to not be commercial as I entered this with the understanding that, as a collective, we were removing an element of risk for John in order to enable more experimental decisions to be made.
Sat 1 Sep 2018
Hello! I feel a bit uncertain expressing my opinion here because I don’t have enough knowledge in farming but here it is:
If I was a proper farmer I would probably go for the crusoe wheat and for a much secure income. I have strong feelings towards heritage grains though because that’s what the world needs the most and if we can experiment with it and also fail and learn also that would be useful bunch of informations for us and others.
Sat 1 Sep 2018
I find I have changed my mind today after reading people's views and thinking about why I wanted a safer option (because we haven't sold the Spelt). I realise as a 2017 member I will need to cover more costs but can't dismiss why I joined in 2017 and why 2018 members have joined us.
Sat 1 Sep 2018
I am happy to grow a commercial crop, but would like to test some of the herbicide-free no till methods for removing the cover crop, as demonstrated by agro-ecology europe on their farms
I agree with Harriet. I'm happy to grow something commercial so we have the funds to experiment and be more adventurous next year - this will give us more time to really research and plan perhaps with a look beyong 2019 too, instead of being what can feel quite reactional and not giving good thought into what "experimental and adventurous" looks like.
Where I currently disagree is the role of herbicides and whether we can explore an option free of this?
Sun 2 Sep 2018
I joined OurField for the adventure and like the idea of doing more experimental farming. I think we do have to be mindful of our financial situation but feel as we have a significant majority willing to take this route we can work out a way to keep the project financed.
Grahame Hunter started a proposal Thu 13 Sep 2018
We support a heritage wheat or population wheat crop to be grown in the conservation agriculture system used at Weston Closed Sun 23 Sep 2018
19 of 64 members agreed that John Cherry should plant a heritage wheat or population wheat crop on the OurField 15.64 Hectare field.
There were no dissents. On this basis a wheat crop will be sown on the land during October.
The final choice between which of two populations to plant will be taken by those attending the 30th September meeting, which will also be a useful time to discuss the many implications around population crops, glyphosate, soil fertility and grazing between crops.
As well as all the invited members of the co-operative, the agronomist Richard Harding will be there, I will be there, and John Cherry will be there. We hope Andy Forbes who has provided some of the heritage wheat seed can make it too.
You are of course welcome to bring guests especially any friends with specialised and useful knowledge about seeds, baking, distilling or other matters.
There have been many diverse suggestions but after careful discussion it has become apparent that few are viable for this year, although would not be excluded for future years. For ancient grains such as Emmer or Einkorn, we have run out of time to source seed this year, and there are unresolved doubts about the market and whether these need to be hulled.
The choice proposed by voting “YES”, is one which John Cherry believes is likely to lead to good results within the methodology of farming at Weston. The steps will be to..
Fence and put water into the field, then graze cattle in a mob rotation to eat as much as possible of the cover crop
Spread a pile of manure which John has at Weston, to further add to the fertility of the field
Use the least amount of glyphosate which John and Richard Harding believe is necessary to terminate the remaining crop
Sow into the residual stubble, without ploughing,
A Wakelins population wheat described here
A heritage wheat population from Andy Forbes (see report from Rosy Benson in this thread).
In order to understand the implications of this, there is some anecdotal evidence that the heritage wheat population could yield around 1/3 the crop of a modern variety, but with far fewer input costs and might obtain up to double the price; so resulting in a similar financial result to a commercial modern wheat..
To avoid running out of time, John and I agreed the expenditure of cooperative funds in order for Weston to purchase 1.5 tonnes of the Heritage Wheat population seed from Andy Forbes: and John Cherry has already purchased Wakelins Population seed so both are possibilities.
John would use what we do not need for OurField on other fields at Weston, and the various costs adjusted correctly by me according to the seed OurField actually uses.
If the eventual result of this poll is “NO” to a grain crop, then John Cherry will take up all the seed purchased, for no cost to the OrField members.
To vote “NO” to the proposal means the field will be left fallow with a cover crop for Autumn, which could include a crop of beans; and the discussions continued for a Spring crop or Autumn crop in 2019.
If the vote is "YES", then I propose that the final decision which of the two populations to plant can be taken at the 30th September meeting by a show of hands of those who attend, after listening to the discussions .
Richard Harding (the agronomist) and John Cherry will be at the 30 September meeting; we hope too Andy Forbes could attend, and that a lively discussion can be held to understand the implication of this choice.
It is hoped that attending the 30th September meeting will therefore help members understand and vote in an informed way on cascading decisions from a “Yes” result, including issues that effect input costs, glyphosate use, risks of lodging from tall wheat, what a "legal" seed is, etc.
I apologise that there is not a broader range of choices, but really we ran out of time to research and understand what these could mean. The idea to plant Spelt again has been discarded as John is still holding his entire 2017 Spelt harvest unsold, (50+ tonnes) with all the the OurField Spelt also unsold.
|Agree - 17|
|Abstain - 0|
|Disagree - 0|
|Block - 0|
Thu 13 Sep 2018
Field fertility & end market needs forethought. Heritage wants low fertility or can lodge, fall over. Wakelyns is mix of moderns. & who will buy the grain?
Sun 23 Sep 2018
If possible to discuss about trying non chemical alternatives to terminate so we can sell to places like e5 that are looking for organic, maybe our market options will be broader?