Clean farming – the practice of removing vegetation down to bare dirt by mowing, disking, or spraying, is one of the most common agricultural practices today. While bare edges around fields are a common sight, there is a movement in many communities to bring these edges back to life. The notion of bare edges is a popular one because the edges of the field are most prone to accumulate weeds. Clean farming actions create voids in the landscape in an attempt to combat those weeds. The Anderson Family of Hedgerow Farms has a different view point – clean farming should mean ‘weed-free, not vegetation free.’
The idea of planting hedgerows (trees, shrubs, grasses, and other plants bordering fields) isn’t a new one; in fact they date back 1000’s of years. Farmers who grow hedgerows spend less time and money mowing, scraping, disking, and spraying each year. Using native grasses and self-sustaining perennials not only out-compete and suppress weeds, they also stabilize soils, decrease annual maintenance, improve water quality by filtering surface runoff, and save on labor and chemical costs. Hedgerows also act as a buffer zone between crops and fields offering protection from wind. This extra vegetation provides homes for wildlife, drawing in beneficial birds and insects important to many farming operations.
So you might ask yourself why aren’t more farmers planting hedgerows? Time, education, and money. The benefits of hedgerows are astounding and they have the possibility to provide a higher quality of life for people and animals. It will just take time to change general farming practices, in the meantime you can use the same hedgerow farming principles in your own home garden.
By Megan Richards