The impacts of the coronavirus on our physical and financial futures is still washing ashore in our country. While some see sunshine coming from behind the clouds, we will perhaps be ushering in a new era in America, where natural disasters like this periodically disrupt our social and economic equilibrium.
Part of the silver lining, if indeed there is one, could be a massive reset in the way we grow and distribute agricultural products to customers. Some suggest that cover crops – including the grandads of them all: annual ryegrass and cereal rye – will continue to play a major role.
Whether the size of farms continues to grow as a whole, there’s a movement in the country to diversify the growing of our food. An interesting book I read some years ago, about the impact of the collapse of the USSR, suggests that having local food sources helps a lot when the “big” players shrink or disappear. Big government is on the run, and there are consequences of that strategy. Likewise, there are cracks appearing in the “big” industry model too, and the bailouts coming from the Congress and Administration are examples of what we may be headed for. The book: Reinventing Collapse, is written by Dimity Orlov, who holds citizenship in both the US and Russia.
But, back to agriculture. Some younger guys, both farmers and crop advisors, say that this is a good time to think about diversifying what has been a monocrop system. Cover crops are useful in that transition, just as they have been in transitioning from conventional tillage to no-till.
As mentioned in the last post, Cameron Mills (Indiana farmer) has been a pioneer in cover cropping his thousands of acreage. He’s now advocating diversifying crops, and he’s introduced to his operation a small livestock side business that he’s taken over while giving the corn and soybean side of the business increasingly to his adult sons.
Interestingly, much of the innovation is coming from farms themselves. The “big” system of universities has in some cases gotten too hide-bound and ponderous to lead the way to the next generation of farming. The innovation is coming from the farms themselves, and the younger guys and gals are leading the way.