News | Action Alerts
2011 MOSES ORGANIC FARMER OF THE YEAR
The MOSES Board of Directors are pleased to announce the farmers of the Grain Place, the Dave and Don Vetter families, as the 2011 MOSES Organic Farmer of the Year.
Driving on highway 14 east of Grand Island, Nebraska, you might think that field corn and soybeans were the only crops that could grow in the large fields unbroken to the horizon. That is, until you approach the Vetter family farm, known as The Grain Place. A windbreak of mixed conifer trees surround the farm, offering protection from wind and pesticides as well as providing an oasis of habitat for a wide variety of wildlife. This 280 acre farm, with its small fields and diverse rotations, is ever evolving and changing as the Vetter family is continually improving their systems.
The Grain Place History
The Second Generation
A Diverse Farming System
Over the years the Vetters have grown a wide range of crops not typically seen in the region, such as edible soybeans, edible dry beans, blue and white corn, popcorn, heirloom barley, flax, amaranth, lupines, sunflowers, and pasture. Though the acreage has not changed the Vetters have expanded from 6 fields to 18 fields on the farm, all separated by buffer areas. Fruit and nut trees are being planted in the buffer zones to increase biodiversity and add additional income. Pastures are rotated around the farm to support a cow/ calf herd of direct marketed grass finished beef. The pasture breaks annual weed cycles for the subsequent row crops. Returning the land to row crop after a few years of pasture as part of a nine-year rotation breaks the pasture's perennial weed cycle. Crop pests and diseases are managed effectively by the ecological services that the biodiversity and smaller fields provide.
These visitors can see how the soil soaks up water and is resilient through all kinds of climatic extremes. While neighbors have heavy clods and significant runoff after rain, the Vetters' soil is resilient and absorptive. To work the soil they use a buffalo cultivator, spring tine harrow, and rotary hoe, and also do some ridge tillage, depending on the situation. They strive to manage their weed seed bank, but also see the benefits of having some weeds for nutrient recycling and biomass production. They have found that the benefits gained from having some weeds, and the accompanying biodiversity they bring, does more good than harm to their yields and overall profitability.
The Vetters continue to experiment with different irrigation methods. While center pivots are now the norm in their area, the Vetters have been able to use less water with surge irrigation. However, as soil texture and structure has improved they have questioned the effectiveness of the surge system to reduce water use and provide uniform water application. This has led them to experiment with about 60 acres of subsurface drip irrigation. The underground distribution system for irrigation is also used to deliver fresh water for the rotational grazing program. They are dedicated to doing more research to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of their irrigation methods.
Value Added Products
Family Values on the Farm