Feed the Soil! Says 2008 MOSES Farmer of the Year
The MOSES Board of Directors is pleased to announce that Nicholas, Gary, and Rosie Zimmer of Otter Creek Organic Dairy in Avoca, WI, have been named MOSES 2008 Organic Farmer of the Year. Congratulations to the Zimmer Family!
The Zimmers manage 1200 acres of organic crops, including alfalfa, grass forages, corn, soybeans, canning peas, oats, barley, and rye. They also milk 200 cows, have 50 dry cows, 300 heifers, 100 beef cattle, and 100 pasture-raised feeder pigs. You can’t get a more diversified operation than this one!
This farm is an integrated system of agronomy and animal husbandry. Key elements include tightly managed crop rotations; use of diverse forage blends featuring various legume and grass varieties; and multiple weed control methods (rotary hoe, cultivator, flame cultivator, cover crops, and interseeded crops). Soil fertility is addressed through composting techniques to recycle livestock manure; green manure crops used as plow downs; subsoiling; and the use of purchased nutrients (especially calcium, sulfur and trace elements) to maintain maximum fertility and nutritional value of crops. Soil and water resources are managed tightly as well, since erosion is a major risk on this farm with rolling hills. When their farm received over 20 inches of rain during August 2007, no erosion occurred!
Prevention is the key to managing health problems in their animals. Animals are housed in clean, comfortable free stall buildings. Calves are weaned late. Livestock are outside in fresh air and rotationally grazed. The Zimmers grow their own excellent quality feed, and utilize mineral supplementation.
The Zimmers’ marketing strategies are also diversified, with local sales of cheese and meats direct to consumers at their nearby “Local Choice Farm Market” operated by Rosie. Peas are sold to two processors for freezing. Milk was previously shipped to Organic Valley but is now made into a variety of cheeses and sold at the Farm Market and other venues.
It can easily be said that everyone in the organic community has been helped by Gary Zimmer. He has been a long time educator of all farmers. He founded Midwestern Bio-Ag in 1984, providing soil consulting services across the Midwest. Gary has written numerous books including The Biological Farmer, and given hundreds of presentations, including internationally. Gary challenges the thinking of organic farmers to understand their soils and what it takes to build healthy soils on their farms. As Gary has said many times, “A biologically balanced healthy soil makes for healthy plants, animals and humans.”