No animals yet, but we’re working on it!
Sweet Bay Farm is a small, 24-acre farm located in gorgeous St. Mary’s County in southern Maryland. Once a parcel of a large farm, it was row-cropped in tobacco for centuries and in soybeans most recently. As the new owners, we are focused on rebuilding the depleted soil so it can support fertile grasses, healthy animals, and a vibrant grass-fed farm business. In the long-term, we’re aiming to produce juicy gourmet-quality steaks on grass alone.
What We Value: Taste and Health
We love to eat! When we started eating all fresh foods from nearby farms, we couldn’t believe what we’d been missing for so long! The food tasted so much better, and our health and vitality improved very quickly.
That’s where it’s at for us – taste and health. We believe the two are intertwined and rooted in the soil. Just like wine producers speak of “terroir,” the taste of the land, we know that healthy, mineral-rich, fertile soil creates tastiness and nutrition.
Problem: Very Crappy Soil.
Problem is, starved soil produces some pretty bitter terroir! How do we make it better?
Being so close to the Potomac and Chesapeake Bay, our farm’s soil was probably naturally very sandy. It couldn’t hold on to nutrients and moisture as easily as nice clay loamy soils, but it probably had decent organic matter to make up for sandy soil’s shortcomings. But after centuries of hard tobacco farming, in 2008, we were looking at totally starved, dusty, crusty soil.
Remedy: No-Till Cover Crops
The housing bust crushed us pretty hard, so we’re still working our full time jobs in DC. So instead of getting animals right away, we’re improving the soil via cover crops. We plant diverse mixes of cover crops using a rented no-till drill, grow the plants tall, then mow-kill them before they make seed. Then we immediately plant another no-till, diverse cover crop into the soil. Repeat, repeat. Our fields are chock-full of beautiful, green plants 12 months out of the year.
Results have been very good! Our soil’s organic matter has risen from low 1% in 2008 to 3% in 2013. Our soil also seems to be functioning much better. One indication is our sorghum sudangrass (an infamous nitrogen hog) cover crop. We don’t spread any nitrogen fertilizer, but it grows lush, huge and deep-green in color. This makes us happy.
Sooooo…. we’re hoping all the cover crops are priming our soil to grow fantastic, high energy pasture grass in the future. And hopefully our future pastures will produce some excellently tasty gourmet grass-fed steaks.
In the meantime, if you’re interested in seeing how soil repairs itself, this blog’s for you!