Crosby Mint Farms has been a family-owned independent producer of mint and mint products since 1912. We currently farm 300 acres. About 95% of this mint grows on low land organic muck. Our major focus has been to grow, harvest and distill mint to produce high grade peppermint and spearmint oils. These oils have no chemical additives or re-processing to compromise the healing properties of the oil.
Crosby Mint Farms has developed a process over the past six years whereby our mint waste products are changed into high-nutrient mint compost. The compost is all natural, biodegradable and usable for organic farmers and gardeners. In 2003, James Crosby received the Tri- Country Waste Recycling Award and was honored as the State of Michigan Recycler of the Year.
In the past five years, we have suffered crop loss due to high winds and erosion. There was a natural wind break that has been damaged either by loss of trees or by nearby home development. A change in weather patterns has impacted the area. Heavy winds blow from the southwest into our valley and create a massive dust cloud traveling east and then northeast over 80 to 100 acres of our mint, taking much of our crop with it.
IDENTIFYING THE PROBLEM
Our low land muck soil is located in a small valley. In the spring, high winds have increased from the southwest. There has been a negative impact on our mint crops due to wind erosion. Two new crops of mint were lost to high wind and lack of moisture in the ground. The wind breaks in place were inefficient. The trees still standing were over seventy years old. There had been a loss of trees due to storms and nearby home development. There was also a considerable amount of field maintenance due to fallen limbs and branches in our mint crops.
1. Re-establish the wind break system
2. Plant new mint crop and be able to keep it
3. Reduce wind erosion
4. Add to the environment/wildlife habitat
5. Reduce labor and fuel costs by reducing wind break maintenance
6. Increase and promote good land stewardship
Michigan State University Agriculture Extension conducted a class for Agriculture Watershed Extension Teachers (maintenance and erosion specialists for the Department of Agriculture). This was a two-hour field class. The area of greatest need for the wind break was determined and we then worked our way into the valley to assess impact. We determined that Blue Spruce would be a good choice because of their growth pattern. They would be fast growing, adding one foot to their height and one foot to their width per year. They are sturdy enough to withstand the storms and high winds that had caused previous damage so that our maintenance of the trees and our fields would be reduced.
We cleared the necessary area with a 5-yard dump truck, skid header, and 5-yard loader. The large logs were stacked and additional limbs and brush were bundled and hauled to a processing location. The entire area was cleaned and leveled in preparation for new tree plantings. This phase took 4 days.
We began orange flagging the placement for the new trees 15 feet apart and staggered every 7 feet to ensure a thick line of trees. We were able to plant 10 trees per day. Each tree was watered as we planted by filling the plug hose with water and placing the tree and the plug in the hole dug for it. We went around each tree to close any gaps that might expose the root systems to air. We planted the trees in the fall while they were in a dormant state. The flagging and measuring took one day. The planting took four and a half days. The watering and packing took two days. Therefore, the total project took eleven and a half days to form a 600 foot wind break.
Information concerning the project was disseminated via a press release in cooperation with the Michigan State University Agriculture Extension to statewide media, newspapers, and environmental publications.
This project was larger than anticipated due to the size of trees and many years of accumulated brush.
We have determined that this project will continue for 3 to 4 years to increase the wind break, provide wildlife habitat and year-round green esthetics as well as protect our fields from wind erosion.