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Fostering Sustainable Agriculture through Research, Education and Policy since 1984

Moving forward at Michael Fields Agricultural Institute

It’s early February as I write this blog, and we have just seen an unusually warm, rainy January that took away our snow cover and the frost in the ground. Farmers in the area are worried about the effect of this weather on their alfalfa and wheat fields and what harm standing water may do to these crops. The one thing in agriculture that you can always be sure of is this growing season will be different from last year or any other before it. The same can be said about MFAI – this year will be different than any of our previous 32 years.

What can you look forward to at MFAI in the next year? Have you visited our website lately? In late November/early December, we completed a revision of our website. If you have not had the opportunity to visit www.michaelfields.org recently, I encourage you to check it out and explore all that we do at the Institute.

During the summer and fall, watch for updates and field days from our research programs especially cover crop and corn breeding trials. In the fall of 2016 we purchased 200+ acres of farmland from The Nature Conservancy and started the transition to organic production. We are excited about installing improved conservation practices on this property and the prospect of doing valuable transition research in cover crops/no-till. The results will be reported to you over the next three years.

We believe our policy work in Washington, D.C. and here in Wisconsin will be more important than ever as we go through the transition process with the new Republican Administration and Congress. Our policy staff will continue the valuable work they have begun to draw new attention to the nutrient run-off problems from the upper Midwest that flow down the Mississippi into the Gulf of Mexico dead-zone. We will also be looking for new ways to promote local food systems.

I believe that sustainable organic agricultural methods are successful ways to bring more beginning farmers on the land and start the process of re-building some of our rural communities. Six weeks into my new role, I have spent a great deal of my time reaching out to people in the industry, learning the ebb and flow of all that we do at this Institute and how we fit into the sustainable/organic community. I’ve attended the EcoFarm Conference in California and the Grassworks Grazing Conference in the Dells where it was great to see old friends and make many new ones. Twice, I have had the enjoyment and honor of spending time with our sole remaining founder, Christopher Mann, and I look forward to more discussions with him. I am grateful for his lifelong passion for Organic/Biodynamic systems that promote soil health, increased organic matter, and naturally formed nutrients that remain in the soil profile to build sustainable agriculture farming practices.

If you are planning to attend the MOSES Organic Farming Conference in La Crosse at the end of February, please stop by our booth in the Exhibit Hall. The MFAI staff and I look forward seeing you and discussing organic agriculture and/or answering any questions you may have. We appreciate your continued interest and support of Michael Fields Agricultural Institute and our mission to grow sustainable organic communities.

Perry Brown, Executive Director
Michael Fields Agricultural Institute