Why We Plant Cover Crop (aka Soil Armor)
We've all seen the difference between dirt and soil with our own eyes. Dirt is what covers desolate old playgrounds that have been sprayed to kill weeds (and any other kind of plant life). Its hard, dusty, and simply dead. Soil on the other hand, is what your granny planted her garden in. Its rich, airy, teeming with life, and the perfect medium to cultivate life.
When we started farming our newest property, it was definitely leaning more on the "dirt" side of the scale. We're doing everything in our power to regrow topsoil and generally improve the quality of the land. How do we even begin with such a huge undertaking? Well, everything on a regenerative farm begins with Cover Crop.
Cover crop (aka soil armor) is a blend of many different types of plants, grasses, and legumes. Our mentors help us design a blend of cover crops specifically to improve the soil that we have on our farm (for example, kale, alfalfa, clover and buckwheat), each plant with an individualized purpose in adding specific nutrients to the soil. Problem with nitrogen in the soil? Plant legumes! Soil too compacted? How about turnips!
Our ultimate goal is to never have bare "dirt" on the farm, but rather have the entire property covered in....wait for it... cover crop! It adds nutrients to the soil, helps our land absorb water and prevents rainwater runoff, enables our soil to capture and hold carbon, prevents unbalanced weed growth, and most importantly in my view, forms the basis of our livestock's diet (including the hens laying eggs for our "Super Dozens").
That's right, our hens are eating a diverse salad bar daily, healthier than most humans!
We never feed grains, corn, soy, molasses or any of the other crazy things that are often fed to livestock (even other "pasture-raised" hens), and we never give them antibiotics or hormones. When they're eating freshly sprouted grasses, and cover crops daily, their general health is top-notch and all of these other medical interventions simply aren't necessary.
Think of it as feeding a toddler. If you only fed them processed corn flakes for every single meal, you can imagine how that would negatively impact their health. Offer them a varied diet full of fresh nutrients daily and you'll see a completely different animal, so to speak.
Not only does this affect the health of our pasture-raised hens, but it ultimately affects our own health as well. After all, as they say, "you are what your food eats."