Overshoot Day 2015

 

Today is Overshoot Day. Today is the day we’ve used up all of our earth’s natural resources for 2015. For the rest of this year, we are living off of resources borrowed from our future generations.

What does that mean on the farm? Will we make any big changes because of this? What will we do differently today to make overshoot day a thing of the past?

Nothing.

That’s right. We’re not planning to make any drastic changes because of this.

Here’s why:

We’re already doing all we can to take care of our little corner of the world. Responsible farmers are all doing everything in their power to farm with conservation and good stewardship in mind. We work with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and our local Conservation District to develop and implement a plan that details for us the best practices for our farm. Here are some of the things we’re doing on our farm to work towards making Overshoot Day a thing of the past:

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Baby corn coming up in rows. You can still see last year’s stubble and organic matter on the soil surface.

NO-TILL FARMING

Remember how you used to see a farmer out plowing a field to prep for spring planting? You won’t see that here. We never turn up our soil anymore. This protects it from erosion during a heavy rain. We plant right through the layer of organic matter that is built up from years and years of no-till farming- something Cliff’s dad started and was very passionate about. By keeping the soil on the farm, we’re keeping our nutrients right where we need them to be- in the ground, accessible for the crops we’re growing.

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The fence keeps pastured animals from getting into the stream.

STREAMBANK FENCING

Animals on our farm are never allowed to wallow, wade, or stand in our waterways.

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L to R: cornfield, grass strip, riparian buffer, stream

RIPARIAN BUFFER STRIPS

We have a little stream that wanders its way through the farm. It is designated a high-quality stream, so we’re making all the efforts we can to keep it that way. On each side of the stream, there is a buffer zone- a zone we don’t touch- at all. This allows for natural vegetation and shrubs to grow and act as a filter to keep out any run off that might get close to the stream. On the outside of these vegetated strips are grass strips. We mow these grass strips two or three times per year, but they never receive any type of fertilizer- just another way to protect our pristine stream.

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Looking down a grassed waterway.

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Looking up a grassed waterway. It goes between and to the right of the cornfields.

GRASSED WATERWAYS

Our farm it situated right on the side of a hill, which makes managing rainwater during a heavy storm a little more difficult. We need to allow the heavy rainwater to still run down hill, but without digging a gutter and creating more erosion as it goes. Grassed waterways are a solution to this problem. We give up productive farm ground to set aside waterways so the water has a designated route to the stream.

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A sampling of some native wildflowers.

BEE POLLINATOR HABITAT

Bees play a sometimes unseen, but important role in agriculture. We’ve planted an area of our farm in to native wildflowers that provide the pollen and nectar these busy bees need.

Our methane digester plays a big part in helping our farm survive with less dependence on natural resources. Here are a few ways our digester, and the better manure management from it, are helping our environment:

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OUR OWN ELECTRICITY

We use methane captured from animal manure to run a 200kW generator. It makes enough electric for our two farms- plus over 100 additional neighboring homes!

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The black cover is puffed up because it’s collecting methane gas under there.

REDUCED GREENHOUSE GAS

The methane we’re capturing is 20 times more harmful to the environment than CO2. The amount we’re capturing reduces our farm’s carbon footprint by an amount that’s equivalent to removing over 200 cars from the road! Imagine what that would do for our atmosphere is digesters were more common!!

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    Liquid manure after going through the digester-all ready to make corn big and hay green!

    BETTER NUTRIENT/MANURE MANAGEMENT

When all of our cows’ manure goes through the digester, it makes the nitrogen in the manure more available for the plant- which means when we fertilize our fields with this manure, there is quicker uptake of nutrients by the plant, which means less chance for nitrogen run-off.

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Receiving a load of food waste.

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Fruit salad, anyone?

LANDFILL DIVERSION

The bacteria ‘bugs’ in our digester love to eat anything organic! We’ve started receiving old produce from large chain grocery stores to add to the mix we feed the digester. This is a win-win. We use the produce to amp up gas production of the digester, so we can spin out more kW with our generator, and we can divert this organic matter that would otherwise be heading to a landfill.

So, yeah, Overshoot Day is real, and let’s face it, a little scary. But small actions by farmers AND consumers can make a big difference in how Overshoot Day will be seen in the future. Rather than a day to fret and wring our hands in worry over our grandchildren’s planet, let’s make it a day to make others aware of how their small actions can all work towards pushing Overshoot Day back a little further each year until it’s a thing of the past.

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