Organic vegetable farmers know that when it comes to production, quality, and sustainability, nothing matters more than soil health. At Goranson Farm, Rob Johanson and Jan Goranson have kept up with the research on sustainable methods in the thirty years they've been farming together, studying organic weed and pest management, developing techniques for reduced tillage, and finessing crop rotation. Since coming home to the farm, their grown sons Carl and Goran are following their lead. They have reincorporated animals into the farm's system, and more recently have been experimenting with new mixes and methods of cover cropping.
Carl Johanson calculates the amount and ratio of seed he will need to plant a field.
Then he loads the seed into the grain drill and adjusts its gears to control the rate.
He seeds the field with Abby and Leah, a mother-daughter draft horse team.
In a month or two the field might look like this mix, with buckwheat in full bloom
Or this one of rye and vetch,
Or this sunflower mix. Different species serve different purposes in fixing and amending the balance of chemical, physical, and biological properties of the soil.
Many of the mixes are winter-kill, meaning they will die after exposure to frost. If the timing is right, they will die before they produce mature seeds, preventing a new crop of weeds next year.
Others must be mowed before the plants reach full maturity.
Goran discs in a rye mixture--the first step in making new beds. They'll keep this field in production for two years before it returns to cover crop for another two years to regenerate.
Kelsey Kobik lived and worked on Goranson Farm, in Dresden, Maine for four summers. She now uses her photography to support Maine farms, farmers, and the businesses that work with them, based in Portland, Maine.