Our goal is to manage and operate a sustainable farm. To us it is a way of life and a way to conduct business. In the broad sense, “sustainable” is about meeting today’s needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. We want to manage our farm to lead to the best possible outcomes for consumers, employees and the land. It is a moving target because at its heart, “sustainable” means we can always do better.
We do our best to be good stewards of the land. We reduce soil erosion and improve soil health through various conservation practices, such as no-till direct seeding systems, innovative cropping rotations and by installing erosion control structures and grassed waterways. We convert highly erodible cropland and drainages to permanent fields of grasses, shrubs, and trees. Our conservation practices and sustainable farm operation allows us to be certified with the Food Alliance www.foodalliance.org/ and to proudly produce wheat for Shepherd’s Grain. www.shepherdsgrain.com/ .
Over the past years, we recognized another land stewardship need- one involving the Palouse Prairie. With our natural land we recognized two challenges: the threat of invasive plants caused by man and moved by animals, and the lack of tools for restoration and expansion. We realized that restoration and conservation of Palouse Prairie, long-term, requires invasive weed monitoring and control, the availability of local native seeds and plants, and tools to plant native seeds. (For more information “Why plant natives?” and “Place”)
We embarked on several undertakings to attempt to meet these challenges. Working with university researchers and conservation organizations, we use ecologically sensitive methods to manage weeds on our Palouse Prairie remnant. Our mantra is “Early detection and rapid response”. It sounds like a medical term rather than a weed control method, but it works. We walk our natural lands looking for those single or small patches of invasive weeds. We do less damage to the land and it is easier to pull or spot spray weeds when they are few in number. Fortunately we are within 25 miles of two fine land-grant Universities – University of Idaho (Wayne’s Alma mater) and Washington State University (Jacie’s Alma mater) to help us solve weed issues. We are currently working with University of Idaho Weed and Soil scientists to find methods to control annual grasses, such as Downy brome (cheat grass) and Ventenata in a prairie. (For more information on identifying and controlling weeds -“What is a Weed?”)
When we realized that restoration and conservation of Palouse Prairie requires the availability of seeds from our native wildflowers, we decided to tackle that problem with Thorn Creek Native Seed Farm. The seed and plants we produce are used for our own prairie restoration and expansion efforts first. Another truism -“When you take a weed or plant out, you must replace it with seeds or plants of your choice, such as native wildflowers”. Weeds are opportunistic –they will fill any open space.
On our Palouse Prairie remnant our seed is planted by hand. We use native Idaho
fescue, Bluebunch wheat grass and Sandberg Bluegrass and several species of wildflowers,
then cover the seed with mulch made of our wildflower seed cleanings. Wayne
designed a no-till two-row seeder to plant wildflower seeds into existing grass
stands with the assistance of a farm neighbor. He is still perfecting it but
we are getting some positive results.
We knew if we could produce native seed on our farm land, we would be able to further diversify our no-till grain and legume farm operation, and we would have source-identified native seed for our own prairie restoration and farm conservation efforts. All of these efforts help us become more sustainable and better land stewards.
Sustainable – meeting today’s needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs
Sustainable agriculture – to produce safe, healthy, delicious, and affordable food to meet the world’s needs without degrading agricultural lands, quality of life in our communities, or the resiliency of the broader ecosystem
No-till farming - a way of growing crops from year to year without disturbing the soil through tillage.
Conservation tillage systems - methods of soil tillage which leave a minimum of 30% of crop residue on the soil surface. This slows down water movement, which reduces the amount of soil erosion.
Crop rotation - the planting of dissimilar types of crops, like peas, wheat and canola, in the same field in sequential years. A crop rotation for a field may be
year 1: winter grain,
year 2: peas,
year 3: spring grain, and
year 4: canola.
Benefits are to avoid the build up of pathogens and pests that often occur when one species is continuously cropped on the same field year after year. Crop rotation also seeks to reduce soil erosion and nutrient depletion.
“The nation that destroys the soil destroys itself” Letter to all State Governors on a Uniform Soil Conservation Law (February 26, 1937) Franklin Delano Roosevelt
1461 Thorn Creek Road, Genesee, Idaho 83832