Each year, Jed Franklin seeds around 800 acres of organic grains including wheat varieties, flax, barley, hemp, lentils, peas, emmer, spelt, and oats.
He initially chose crops based on market prices and demand but now chooses varieties for weed competition and climate adaptations. Franklin says, “I really believe in working with nature, not against it.” Farmers, like the Franklins, continuously adapt to what nature is telling them each season. Franklin says, “The things that work for you one year, when the climate changes, may not work for you the next.” He continues, “It’s a matter of learning and adapting every year for the rest of your life. It’s a school you’ll never graduate from.”
Half of SR Organic Farms’ land is in production with the remainder left as a beautiful mix of old-growth forest and habitat area for wildlife species, including waterways such as streams and rivers. Everything Franklin does on the farm is with the environment in mind, including planting a diverse crop and cover crop rotation. Franklin says he takes a blend of sweet and red clover to underseed his crops every couple of years. “I’ve had crops of sweet clover 10 feet tall that I am discing in. That’s a tremendous carbon sink, it’s a lot of material,” he says. Underseeding is the process of harvesting the main crop to reveal pre-seeded crop underneath that is then ploughed or disced midsummer the following year.
We try to plant enough so that the animals have some and we still have a harvest. – Jed Franklin
These cover crops pull carbon from the atmosphere as they grow on the fields alongside the grains and go back into the earth to feed the soil when the next crop is ready to be seeded. Franklin says, “It’s good for soil fertility and nutrition for the next year. It gives the microbes something to feed on, it’s composting in place.” Not only does this technique improve soil health but it can also be financially beneficial. Franklin stresses, “It’s a lot less expensive to put four lbs of seed on a field and some fuel in a tractor than haul compost in from somewhere else. I try to build fertility in place, at least when I can.” Franklin explains that his favourite way to introduce a cover crop is to underseed it. He continues, “After you harvest the oats off the top you just chop the straw and spread it out and you get a weed suppression off of that. I let the clover cover crop mix grow until mid-summer when it’s a really big crop and then I’ll cultivate that in. That’ll give me half a year of fallow to work that soil back down and then I might start fall rye or winter wheat on that.” Another option that Franklin uses on the farm is a dedicated cover crop. During the spring following a harvest he creates a diverse mix of subterranean clover, tillage radish, turnips, and hairy vetch that will remain on the field until it is ready to plough into the soil.
The Franklin’s also reduce their environmental impact by adapting their equipment. Their largest tractor is powered on recycled vegetable oil. They converted this piece of equipment with additional heaters in line and extra filtering. Franklin collects oil from the local landfill before it is burned. He filters it twice and mixes additives into the “good oil” before it is used on the farm Franklin notes, “I think it’s been successful. Not all of my experiments are successful but this one has worked well and we have burned, probably, 10-15 tons of vegetable oil over the last several years.”
Cover cropping, utilizing reusable fuels, and fostering the growth of biological diversity on the farm help the Franklin’s reduce their climate impact while providing food for both their community and local wildlife. Franklin says, “We try to plant enough so that the animals have some and we still have a harvest.” At SR Organic Farms, they are dedicated to feeding people good, healthy, nutritious food with the environment in mind. Franklin says, “If you believe something, you really need to live it.”