We are finally experiencing a sure sign of spring – south east winds. It might be welcome to many, but it can be a big problem for Central Sands vegetable growers. Wind can move small grains of sand from bare soil. In some places this may not cause problems but it cannot be tolerated in the Central Sands of Wisconsin where farmers spend lifetimes building the soil to the structure and health needed to grow quality vegetables. How can farmers prevent soil erosion?
Protecting soils from wind erosion takes a systems approach. After harvest farmers protect their fields by planting a cover crop. Usually we plant a type of grass or deep-rooted crop so that the field is not left bare and vulnerable to wind. Many times rye is planted because it will germinate in the fall and continue to grow the following spring, extending time to our coverage. In general, the Central Sands landscape is very vulnerable to soil erosion, because the land is flat. Even a small fraction of topsoil lost due to the wind can equate to tons of soil loss if fields are left unprotected. Cover crops serve to hold precious topsoil in place and limit soil loss, but they also do so much more! Cover crops also provide and enhance beneficial organisms in the topsoil by providing stable micro-habitats. They also limit nutrient and water losses on fields by capturing unused nutrients like nitrogen from previous crops, thereby reducing leaching potential. In addition, they build soil health by adding beneficial organic residue and sequestering carbon. Cover crops are not grown to generate a profit but to protect the precious soil resources on the farm. (more…)
Fall is here in Wisconsin’s Central Sands! Highlights of yellow and orange are popping up in the hardwoods that mingle with the cropland of this uniquely productive area that is so important to the nation’s supply of potatoes and vegetables. The harvested fields are taking on an emerald sheen as the rye cover crops become established to protect and nourish the soil for next season. It’s time to rest the land for a spell, to recharge the groundwater that drives the system, and recharge the spirits of this remarkable group of growers who will use this time to learn and digest what worked and what still needs more work.
We hope that you have enjoyed the “Thoughts for Food” series of articles. Over the past 6 months, we have introduced you to the Central Sands region and its unique growers by taking you through the potato growing season. We have looked at the challenges faced each year in growing the crops, introduced you to innovations made by the industry, and explained the business of agriculture in a realistic, yet simple manner. This important industry, which is one of the economic engines of central Wisconsin, works hard to preserve the natural resources of the area for future generations. For a full re-cap of the season, you can journey back in time and check out any of the topic areas at your leisure (search the archives for the “Thoughts for Food” series on the new family farm blog posts). (more…)
Now that harvest is well under way, it’s time to start looking toward our packaging facilities. At Wysocki Produce Farm, that means working side-by-side with our sister company and packaging facility, Paragon Potato Farms (Paragon). However, moving our focus to packaging doesn’t mean we don’t need to keep thinking about our impact on the environment. (more…)
We all need food to grow and prosper. Our doctors tell us that a balanced diet is one of the keys to a healthy life. So it should be no surprise that plants also need a nutritious diet! Natural plant systems like forests and prairies eat what Mother Nature provides by teaming up with a huge array of critters from bacteria to bugs to break down old detritus and soil into the essential components of their diet, like nitrate and carbon. Some have even evolved fantastic, mutually-beneficial arrangements with bacteria and fungi that allow them to pluck nitrogen from the air or move nutrients into the roots more efficiently! (more…)
Wisconsin leads the nation in both dairy and vegetable production; these industries are keys to Wisconsin’s economy. They are also vital components of a healthy diet! It’s not surprising that in the early days of farming in Wisconsin, vegetable production and dairy cows were frequent partners in the farm economy. Modern day challenges, however, have inevitably led to more specialization in agricultural systems. With the need to increase production efficiency to meet the food needs of an increasing human population, it’s not a surprise that specialization occurred, and it’s no wonder why these two important staples of early farms drifted apart. (more…)