Location: Greenbranch Farms, Salisbury, Maryland
Featuring: Ted Wolf-Wycall
Some soils are naturally unbalanced. Some soil minerals wash away with rains or are blown away by wind erosion. Some soil fertility is lost when absorbed by plants that are later harvested. All of these circumstances require adding to the soil in order to energize the life forms that depend on it.
Farming removes minerals and nutrients from the soil. Amending soil balances its chemistry and improves its physical properties of water retention, drainage, permeability, water infiltration, aeration, and structure, ultimately so plants and animals can derive the greatest nutritional benefits.
When Ted Wycall took back his family’s farm after it had been subjected to 25 years of industrial corn and soybean production, he discovered that the soil was inert. One of the main challenges to operating a successful organic farm is to fix soils that are heavily depleted by conventional farmers who have mined their topsoil of vital nutrients. Soil amendments used at Greenbranch includes Aragonite (a calcium source from sea shells), Lime, compost, gypsum, Boron, Rock Powered, humates, Kelp, and Sulfate. Ted says it is nothing short of amazing to watch the soil come back to life and see crops thrive in healthy balanced soils. Soil fertility is the foundation of any successful farm.
“Farming is one of those things that has recently gained the attention and interest of a large part of the population; everyone thinks, after reading a few books or seeing a few documentaries, that they understand what it is like to farm. I will be the first to tell you that no one will ever understand what this business can inflict on a naive and well-meaning human being until he has actually spent more than a few years going this work. It is work that will test your strength in every single aspect of one’s humanity. People need to realize that Mother Nature will punish you severely and unfairly many, many times, even though you have done nothing wrong and are only trying to make things better for people and nature. She will kick you when you are down, spit in your face, and the only thing you can do is pray that she doesn’t kill you.
“On the positive side, there are many rewards to be had from this work, though they will probably not be financial in nature. I am sticking with farming, but I will not be one to paint a picture of farming that is rosier than reality. All farmers will get burned badly from time to time and they had better be prepared for that. I was not ready to learn that lesson when I began, but I have learned it now and it gives me great humility and enormous respect for all my colleagues, organic or conventional, that takes the lickin’ and keep on tickin’.”