Imagine Growing Your Food Using the Motherhouse Farm’s Regenerative Methods
By Angela Rakes, Education and Outreach Coordinator for Loretto Motherhouse
Do you envision farmers plowing the fields with large tractors turning over the soil to prepare for a new crop? Do you smell the soil as it is plowed? In your own garden, do you find joy in tilling the ground for new plants? I challenge you to see instead a field of green shining in the sun in the dead of winter when everything else is brown. Imagine tiny soil microbes converting decaying plant roots into soil-stored carbon, celebrating being undisturbed.
As the Loretto Motherhouse Farm continues to examine how we farm, we are continually encouraged by the positive outcomes we see with our strong commitment to regenerative agriculture and especially no-till agriculture. We enjoy green fields in the winter that feed those tiny microbes to help us improve our soil. For several years the farm has used no-till practices for the typical field corn and soybean crops. With the more recent produce offerings, like sweet corn and pumpkins, we have expanded no-till to those crops as well. These practices are a win for our production and for the environment.
With the rolling hills in Kentucky, no-till, coupled with the use of cover crops, prevents significant soil erosion in our fields. It helps increase the water-holding capacity of the soil. When growing pumpkins, specifically, no-till helps prevent soil-borne diseases from attacking the plants and pumpkins themselves.
Growing crops like soybeans and corn can be controversial. A significant amount of the corn and soybeans grown are used for live-stock feed, and in central Kentucky a significant amount of corn is sold for production of bourbon whiskey. On the Loretto Motherhouse Farm we pride ourselves on growing our crops differently. If we can show other farmers in our area, and beyond, how using regenerative practices can work in commercial agriculture, maybe we can make a change.
My husband, Cody Rakes, Loretto Motherhouse Farm Director, is currently working with a group from the parent company of Maker’s Mark on encouraging more conservation-minded practices on local farms. He also is involved in a Farmer-to-Farmer Mississippi River Basin Watershed Project and a Soil Health Partnership with the Corn Growers Association and The Nature Conservancy. All of these projects will come together this summer in a conservation field day hosted at the Motherhouse Farm in cooperation with the University of Kentucky. As we continue to examine and share how we farm, we invite you to think about the ways you can grow your food more sustainably or purchase from others who do so.