Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Making Your Small Farm Profitable :: Chapter 5 Book Report

**Sorry about the late post today. I have been experiencing some problems with blogger and just realized that my post never made it up! Hopefully we will be back on schedule for our first thing it the morning post tomorrow**

"Weatherproofing Your Farm" is the title of chapter five in Ron Macher's book, "Making Your Small Farm Profitable". While there was plenty of information in this chapter that I have gathered from other sources it did contain a bunch of new thoughts on the subjects of weather and climate. Plus, I think the title alone made me think about the ideas of windbreaks and water in a totally different way. When it gets right down to it you have to realize that your weather and your climate greatly effects how profitable your farm is going to be. With that in mind if you can do little things to, "weatherproof" your farm you may be one step ahead in the game.

The chapter begins with a short overview of the effects of climate on the farm and of the importance of water to the farm. But, Mr. Macher quickly gets to the topic at hand, "altering your farm environment. The discussion begins with a look at shelter. According to the author, and I tend to agree, the best sort of shelter is three-sided, portable, has lots of bedding, and isn't overly tall for the animals using it. For most of the year (including very cold or warm times) animals will do fine without shelter, but in extremely cold and windy weather or possibly on a really hot day shelter does add to their comfort (although a three-sided building wouldn't probably make it warmer on a hot day). Besides a man made shelter tree groves or stands of cedar trees can also make a good shelter when the weather gets rough.

Conserving water is another important way to alter the weather on your farm according to Mr. Macher. Basically there are just a few ways to provide water for your farm ... you can wait for it to rain, you can use irrigation, or you can just save and conserve every drop of water that hits your farm. Waiting for rain and irrigation each have their place on farms across the country, but saving the water that hits the farm is probably the the most sustainable for the small farm. Ponds are one way to save the water that hits your farm. It is important to fence your livestock out of the pond, but ponds can provide water for your livestock through pumping or gravity. Plus, you can stock your pond to provide recreation or another income source. Cover crops also help save water by helping to control water and wind erosion. The cover crop will slow down the water as in runs down the field and give it more time to soak into the ground which always helps later in the season or in dry times. Finally, Mr. Macher talks about timing. When you plant your crops and work the soil is important to water loss. Whenever you have bare soil you are going to lose water through evaporation, so it is important to do these things in the spring when there is plenty of moisture available.

Much of the rest of the chapter discusses windbreaks and their role in creating microclimates on your farm. According to some University research a wind break will have up to a 40% energy savings for your buildings and farm. That kind of savings makes them impossible not to have I think! Plus, windbreaks of trees and bushes provide needed environments for the diversity of your farm. Another interesting concept that Mr. Macher discusses is the use of grain crops as windbreaks. Planting taller crops in strips with shorter crops between those strips will create a wind break that will benefit all the crops. For the small farmer thinking outside of the box like this is something that will increase sustainability and profitability (two very important 'bilities...).

Of course you can also extend your growing season buy using such things as greenhouses, grow lights, plastic covered hoops, cold frames, and so much more. Not everything will help everyone's profitability, but it is important for small farmers to find ways to at least lessen the effects of our climate and temperature. So, take a walk around your land and observe the climate and weather. Are their places that don't get the early frost? Places protected from the wind and weather that would make great calving areas? What does your farm have and need to alter the effects of climate and weather?

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