ON THE FARM: From mowing field to hayfield

Glenn
Glenn Ells
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There is this field on our farm that has been known for years as “the mowing field.” The name was in use before I arrived and that was a while ago. On the mixed farm that my grandfather operated, the main crop was apples. The 16-acre field referred to above was an upland field used for cash crop potatoes and the production of hay and grain for the horses and cows that were sources of power and food for his family.

The mowing field was divided into four sections marked by shallow ditches to provide surface drainage. The classic grain-hay rotation was sort of followed with grain (always oats) underseeded with grass seed for several years, until my grandfather decided the time had come to “renew” it and then the rotation would kick in.

This week, I’ve been working in the mowing field helping to plant a crop that, hopefully, will last many years. I was telling my son that I had worked in that field for over 65 years and never had achieved the straight rows that we are coming up with. He explained that my 1951 tractor didn’t have GPS and the neighbour’s tractor used that system to mark out the rows for grape planting.

The other new experience for me is using a Gator to haul plants and starter mix along to supply the two guys planting. We have been at it four days and never started the regular tractors once. The amount of walking has been cut to a fraction of what we did last year as beginners in this most interesting new venture.

When one considers the number of dollars of farm income that it is possible to produce from the mowing field after it becomes a vineyard, it makes you think that change of land use will have a lot to do with the development of the local economy. Saving farmland for future generations doesn’t look very promising unless more intense use is made of it. Farmers will not make the investments necessary to make changes and add value unless demand for their products looks strong.

It looks to me that my grandfather’s mowing field has a better future as a vineyard than as a hayfield. We will let future generations decide.

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