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Sunday 13 December 2009

Agro-ecological farmer in USA leads the way for food sovereignty in Africa

Helena proudly holds a non-genetically modified corn cob
Jim's daughter Helena holds up one of their open pollinated ears of Goliath Silo corn. This variety was developed over 100 years ago and is not a hybrid. It grew with half our normal rainfall in nothing but composted manure for fertilizer. Her father Jim Snyder says " I would like to see Monsanto try to top this with their Frankencorn!"

Another month to mature and some plants already 15 feet with half our normal rainfall. Jim's wife is nearly 6 feet tall with her hat on as a comparison for height. Planted around May 30 with my drill on 15 inch rows. This photo taken Aug. 16, 2009. Yes, there are a few weeds when one is totally organic!

Mixed crops of squash, corn and sunflowers

The pole beans will grow up the sunflowers
and corn eliminating the need for staking

Jim uses only composted goat, chicken and cattle manure which he composts in windrows, this reaches a high temperature 140 F which kills all weed seeds and pathogens. He interplants and rotates with legumes to provide nitrogen.

Jim believes that good breeding pays dividends

A result of 4 years of breeding. Buddy is a beautiful thick muscled yearling buck with a mother who can deliver a up to a gallon of milk a day. He is as friendly as can be.

Jim's first registered Belted Galloway cow.
"Connie of Geers Farm" has given 3 calves in 3 years. She is very friendly and is Jim's favorite cow. He selected her from a group of 40 calves.

A.J. and T-Bone

Jim wisely crosses his dairy cattle for hybrid vigour. Here Jim's 9 year old son A.J. contemplates whether T-Bone, a Jersey x Holstein steer will end up as his name implies or whether he will take on the Holstein physique and become a useful trek-ox.
The Holstein and the closely related Friesland strain of dairy cattle produce excellent trek- oxen for ploughing and transport.
A.J. is already a competent tractor operator and has on several occasions in the last cold spell pulled his dad out of the ice and snow with the John Deere 4010. "Boy-Power" is a blessing which Jim is very privileged to have on his eco-farm.

Jim says "We do not bring our cattle in at night. They have their favorite areas around the farm where they rest out of the wind in huge fencerows with plenty of cover and various large rock piles that store heat. Despite the cold, very few of the cattle farmers here bring their cattle into a barn at night.

By moving the bale feeders and water troughs around to spread the manure concentration around the grazing area. He uses a loader (scotch cart) to pick up any excess manure and then compost it out in a big windrow. It steams while breaking down any weed seeds and pathogens as the internal temperature exceeds 140 deg F. It is then transferred to garden areas the next season. The same cart transports forage.

Jim plants maize (corn) as fodder
but in the African climate Sorghum
may be preferable as like grass it can
be harvested several times a season.

Oats and clover (legumes to provide nitrogen)
are also planted as a forage crop.

Goats and cattle love this hay

Helena's Pet Frog

This photograph of Helena symbolises the importance of life on an agro-ecological farm.
Can you imagine bringing up your children on a clinically sterile industrial factory farm?
No thank you.
Jim's farm will still be sustainable when fossil fuels such as coal and petrol run out within the next fifteen years. He can run his tractors on biogas from biodigesters. He can train his oxen to plough.
Jim Snyders presently works as an agricultural expert with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). He runs the informative forum Farmers for a Sustainable Future which all farmers or those interested in farming are encouraged to join. He is a fountain of knowledge and expertise and always willing to advise.


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