Cover Crop Seeding Field Day in the Village of Los Ranchos

posted in: Champions, Field Days, Seed saving | 0
Multi-species cover crop seeds. Photo credit Ron Nichols USDA/NRCS

Join us on Saturday May 14, 2022 –the weekend celebrating San Isidro, guardian saint of agrarians– to start our first cover crop seed production trials. We’ll be hand broadcasting a multi-species cover crop mix in the hoop house at Los Poblanos Historic Farm and see Rio Grande Community Farm’s no-till drill in action at a neighboring 1.5 acre field that was generously dedicated to this unique purpose. We’ll set up single and mixed species plantings in order to assess ease of seed harvest versus soil benefits. Local Soil Health Champions and members of the AgriFutures Regenerative Agriculture team will be on hand to talk about seed saving and the use of cover crops to improve soil health. Participants may take some seeds to try at home: sunflowers, daikon, rutabaga, beans, field peas, clover, buckwheat, and oats. After this hands-on and educational portion of the day, there will be socializing over a delicious lunch at the Agri-Nature Center, prepared by Cleo’s Blue Corn Kitchen and sponsored by the Seeding Regenerative Agriculture project.

When: Saturday May 14, 2022 8:30am – 2pm MT
8:30am – 10:00am Hand broadcasting cover crops in the hoop house at Los Poblanos Historic Farm.
–Walk together to the second location at a neighboring farm (10 minute walk)–
10:00am – noon No-till drill demo and hand broadcasting cover crops on a larger scale.
–Walk together back to the Agri-Nature Center (10 minute walk)–
Noon – 2pm Lunch at the Agri-Nature Center.

Where: Village of Los Ranchos de Albuquerque
Meet at 8:30am in front of the hoop house at Los Poblanos Historic Farm, across the street from the Agri-Nature Center.
Parking at the Larry P. Abraham Agri-Nature Center, 4920 Rio Grande Blvd. N.W., Los Ranchos de Albuquerque.

What: Cover Crop Seeding Field Day
Bring water and sun protection. Wear work clothes and sturdy shoes.

This event is hosted in partnership among the AgriFutures project at the Agri-Nature Center, NM Healthy Soil Working Group, and the Seeding Regenerative Agriculture Project.

Parking at the Agri-Nature Center!

From there, cross Rio Grande Boulevard to meet at the hoop house at Los Poblanos Historic Farm.

Deeply mulched garlic beds in winter

We’ll start the day at the historic farm of Los Poblanos, where Director of Horticulture Wes Brittenham, Farm Manager Maxfield Bervig and Assistant Farm Manager Judy Hartland have been using cover crops for years in conjunction with their other soil building practices. You can see all five soil health principles at work on this beautiful and productive farm that raises much of the produce used in Los Poblanos’ kitchen:

Keep soil covered: You won’t find bare ground on this farm! Crop rotations keep living plants in the soil for much of the year. In the winter, cover crops or a thick layer of organic mulch protect the soil from the elements. Pathways are covered with cardboard or wood chips throughout the farm.

Minimize soil disturbance and external inputs: The growing area has been managed without use of chemicals for decades and with no or minimal tillage for several years. The benefits are evident: where the fields used to be clay, permanent beds now contain a carbon rich and well aggregated soil. Lacewings, ladybugs, and praying mantis as well as beneficial nematodes are abundant and keep pests in check naturally.

Maximize biodiversity: The dense landscape at Los Poblanos is home to a myriad of species above and below ground as every plant is associated with specific organisms in the soil. The farm team practices intercropping (or companion planting), intermingling crops for greater benefit. Pollinator plantings and hedgerows help deter pests and attract beneficial insects. The wide array of plants, in bloom throughout the season, encourage pollinators of all sorts and provide nectar and pollen for thriving hives of honeybees.

Maintain living roots: Los Poblanos is famous for its lavender, with a typical life cycle of several years. Perennial plants, shrubs and trees have living roots in the soil year-round, encouraging microorganisms, beneficial fungi and mycorrhizae to establish healthy living soil. There are also perennial borders, or hedgerows, surrounding and dividing the annual fields to stabilize soil and provide windbreaks as well as habitat for wildlife on the property.

Integrate animals: Lamas, Churro sheep, Guinea hens and chickens play an important role on the farm, providing light grazing, fertilizer, and pest control. Their manure and bedding is vital for creating rich and abundant compost. The underground herd includes countless soil micro-organisms, fungi and earthworms. Birds, mammals, reptiles and even rodents aerate the soil while feeding snakes, hawks and owls. Los Poblanos hosts a large variety of bird species both year-round and migratory. Rabbits, squirrels, coyotes, raccoons, skunks and more roam the property and are part of an ecosystem management strategy that recognizes the importance of wildlife.

Know your context: Water conservation is a top priority in the Middle Rio Grande Valley. Building soil health makes the most of our precious water resource, allowing water to infiltrate in the ground for plants to take up –instead of running off, causing erosion. The covered ground sharply reduces evaporation and favorable micro-climates might even restore the local water cycle.

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