Grain Growing Project Update
In a previous post I described the meadow belonging to a neighbor where we are growing a variety of grains including durum wheat (for chapatis), Red Fife spring wheat, hull-less oats, rye and barley. Well we have experienced our first major farming disappointment: we lost most of our cash crop, the Red Fife. Here is what happened:
We decided to have a professional farmer with proper equipment prepare the soil. Rene told us that soil preparation is a major key to success. The farmer we chose is in his 80’s and we figured he not only knew what he was doing, but that he’d also probably made every possible mistake and that would save us from any serious mistakes. Well he did a great job plowing (after Billy had initially plowed using a borrowed tractor), harrowing and rototilling. Then he brought his grain drill, a gadget that evenly distributes the seeds and drills them into the ground. The drill had settings for various rates in lbs/acre. Rene had told us to plant the Red Fife at about 200lbs/acre, more than twice the rate of most grains. This is because the Red Fife is a smaller grain and to get an optimum yield you can plant it more thickly than other grains. According to Rene, the smaller the grain the greater the mineral and vitamin content. Red Fife has a reputation for being one of the tastiest grains and was formerly one of the most widely grown wheats in North America. I had been able to obtain some seeds from a large farmer in Eugene, Oregon who is experimenting with specialty grains.
Unfortunately our tractor operator somehow left his grain drill wide open and all of our seed was distributed in one pass with the tractor. That is way, way too dense a planting to get a reasonable yield. We did rake, scoop and shovel as much of the Red Fife as possible and try to broadcast it by hand, but the results were disappointing. The farmer in Oregon didn’t have any more seed and it is unavailable from any other source. Rene had told us that he’d buy any seed that we produced at a price that would have covered our expenses for this project. Of course our tractor operator was really, really sorry. In all of his years, he’d never made that particular mistake. And he did give us a good discount on the work he did, but we are still disappointed. On the positive side, for farming accidents, it wasn’t so bad: no one was hurt.