By nurturing his soil, a Minnesota farmer makes his business more climate-friendly
He's decreasing the need for synthetic fertilizers and helping store carbon in the ground.
(Photo credit: Rolf Dietrich Brecher / Flickr)
There are always roots in the soil at A-Frame Farm in Minnesota.
Instead of leaving his fields bare in winter, Luke Peterson grows cover crops. The roots of these plants can feed soil organisms and build soil carbon.
To promote soil health, Peterson also rotates which crops he grows on the same land.
“Right now we grow corn, soybeans, small grains, flax, buckwheat, oats, barley, alfalfa,” he says.
The approach keeps more nutrients in the soil, so Peterson can avoid using synthetic fertilizer that contributes to climate change.
And there are other benefits, too – like making his business more resilient to extreme weather.
“If one crop fails, we aren’t completely dependent on one crop,” he says.
But there are challenges. Peterson says some grains are important in his crop rotation. But it can be hard to find markets for them.
“Right now, we’re working with a bakery in Minneapolis, and they buy all of our small grains from us,” he says.
The bakery influences which varieties Peterson plants. And before investing in a new one, he often grows a small amount so the baker can test it out.
This collaborative approach involves more up-front work, but he says it pays off for the farm and the Earth.