A video on vegetable farmers and their innovative cover crop techniques
Cover crops are an integral part of sustainable agriculture because of their role in soil stewardship, pest management and crop rotation. Many vegetable farmers in the Northeast use cover crops, but their use is typically limited to small grains for preventing winter soil erosion. There is a need for agency personnel to conduct more education about a wider range of cover crop species and strategies, their management, and the potential benefits they offer.
This project will produce a high quality, one-hour video that features ten experienced vegetable farmers from 5 states explaining their innovative uses of cover crops. An advisory group helped select farmers to be included in video. The farmers describe how and why they use cover crops, and demonstrate specific aspects of their cover crop management technique in the field. A professional video company will film, edit and duplicate the video onto VHS and DVD. Using list-serves, E-mail and web site promotion, the video will be distributed free-of-charge to 400 agency personnel and agricultural educators in spring of 2004.
Of the 400 agency personnel that receive the cover crop video, 200 will use it in educational programs that reach at least 2,000 farmers.
In the spring of 2003, farmers were identified, selected, and prepared to participate in the video. Communications with farmers explained the overall goal of the project and the specific cover crop techniques to be filmed at their farms, as well as instructions regarding filming procedures. A contract was developed and signed between UVM and the collaborating video production company, Workhorse Creative Media.
In summer and fall of 2003, a half-day of filming was scheduled on each of the ten participating farms. The weather required rescheduling only twice. Approximately one hour of raw footage was recorded at each farm. The audio portion was transcribed into text. The text has been edited to develop the first draft of the video.
The farmers, locations, and topics filmed were:
Hank Bissell, Lewis Creek Farm, Starksboro VT: Hairy vetch plus rye or oats as winter cover crops; interseeding of winter cover crops into late season vegetable crops.
Will Stevens, Golden Russett Farm, Shoreham VT: Winter wheat as a winter cover crop, sometimes undersown with red clover. Interseeding of hairy vetch into summer vegetable crops.
Lou Lego, Elderberry Pond, Auburn NY: A ‘hybrid mulch’ system using winter rye and clover maintained for several years between plastic-mulched cash crops.
Lou Johns and Robin Ostfeld, Blue Heron Farm, Lodi NY: rotation of cover crops, such as winter rye plus vetch and oats plus field peas, within a permanent bed system where the wheel tracks are never tilled.
Cliff Hatch, Upingill, Gill MA: cover crop rotations to prepare ground for strawberries and to produce rye mulch for use in delayed strawberry planting.
Eero Ruuttila, Nesenkeag Farm, Litchfield NH: ‘Mow and blow’ system using winter rye and hairy vetch strips intercropped with row crops to provide a protected growing environment and to produce mulch for the crops; field pea spring cover crop and sale of tendrils for early season cash flow. Use of a spader to incorporate cover crops.
Pooh Sprague, Edgewater Farm, Plainfield NH: white clover alleyways between row crops; buckwheat a summer smother crop.
Bob Muth, Muth Farm,Williamstown NJ: use of municipal leaves and crop rotation with hay, sorghum-Sudangrass, and hairy vetch plus rye cover crops to enhance soil fertility.
Steve Groff, Cedar Meadow Farm, Lancaster County, PA: Equipment and cover crops for no-till vegetable production.
Eileen Droescher, Ol’ Turtle Farm, Easthampton MA: permanent bed, strip-crop system for systematic rotation of cover crops and cash crops; pastured poultry on cover crops.
Next steps in the project: identifying appropriate cover shots to accompany the selected audio and editing both audio and video into a series of drafts and then a final version. Cover art and text will be designed, an introduction recorded, and then the video will be duplicated as VHS and DVD.
The target date for promotion and free distribution to agricultural service providers is March 15, 2004.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
To facilitate evaluation of impacts, I am considering some form of ‘agreement’ that will advise recipients of free videos that by accepting the product they agree to report on how it is used and with whom.
Litchfield , NH