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Soil Health

What happens when ag technology intersects with a theology nerd? A chance to rethink a farm. 


For the first few years of living in Concordia, I farmed conventional corn and soy with my Grandfather, and the process failed to capture my attention. Until one day, when I was planting a freshly tilled field with a GPS driven tractor. It was easy work. I got bored. I started reading (yes, you read that right) a book called “Surprised by Hope” by NT Wright, my theologian of choice at the time, which is a book that asks us as human beings to fully participate in the healing, reconciliation, and regeneration of the world. 


While I was being chauffeured by my tractor back and forth across this field, I realized I was doing the opposite, which set me upon a journey to reconcile my beliefs with my practices. It took a while, but I finally convinced Charlie to plant a “cover crop” - cereal rye following corn. 


The results were often amazing (though not always - we are dealing with biology, which is notoriously prone to reminding us that we are not in charge). We changed our rotation to fit more diverse cover crops - corn then soy then wheat with big cover crops planted in between. Over the course of about 7 years of having a living root in the ground, we had sequestered significant amounts of carbon (soil organic matter increased from 2.5 to 4 percent), improved water infiltration rates, and increased soil respiration (a measure of biological activity). 


Most importantly, by thinking about soil health, we ended up able to make the transition to where we are now.