Soil Improvement and Root Crop Expansion
Grant Award: $6,000
Rachel has purchased a specialty tillage implement called an articulating spader that promotes higher root crop yields. Spaders prepare garden beds for planting in a gentle manner, preserving the integrity of soil structure, preventing compaction and improving drainage.
The equipment incorporates organic matter, such as cover crop residue and compost, deeper in the soil than a typical tiller. The organic matter, expected to increase 5 percent in three years, improves the soil and results in higher produce yields, estimated at a 10 to 15 percent jump in one year alone.
“By increasing organic matter and raising the fertility with the use of the spader, I will see less pest pressure and diseases in my crops,” Rachel said. “I will instead see improved soil life and soil microbes,” which are key to a healthy soil ecosystem. With less compaction, the farm is also less susceptible to product loss in times of flooding.
“Soil health is one of the most important things on a farm,” Rachel said. “Whether you are raising livestock or growing crops, the health of your soil will greatly affect your end result.”
Rachel leases two acres of bottom land bordering the Ivy River on Bend of Ivy Lodge property, a retreat center in Marshall. She sells organically grown vegetables, fruit and flowers to the retreat center as well as to 25 Community Support Agriculture members, at the Brevard Farmers Market, and to six restaurants in Asheville and Brevard.
Rachel has worked on various vegetable farms since 2008, beginning at Montana State University’s college farm. She is a member of the Organic Grower’s School CRAFT program (Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training). All of Rachel’s income is from farming.