The Bishops of PrairiErth Farm near Atlanta, Illinois have been selected as the 2017 Organic Farmers of the Year, a national honor presented at the annual MOSES Organic Farming Conference in La Crosse, Wisconsin.
This prestigious award recognizes organic farmers in the U.S. who practice outstanding land stewardship, innovation and outreach. Recipients are chosen by the board of the Midwest Organic & Sustainable Education Service (MOSES).
Dave Bishop, his son Hans, and Hans’ wife Katie run PrairiErth Farm, a 300-acre farm with diverse crops and livestock. The farm has been certified organic since 2004. The Bishops grow organic corn, soybeans, oats, wheat, livestock forages, vegetables, fruit, and flowers. The farm also produces organic beef, pork, eggs, and honey.
This diverse mix of crops and livestock is the foundation of the healthy soil on the farm, Dave explained. The Bishops rely on cover crops and manure, spread by their livestock or applied to fields as stabilized compost, rather than chemical fertilizers to yield bountiful, nutrient-dense crops.
“Cover crops keep the engine in the soil running, building fertility and organic matter, sequestering nutrients that might otherwise end up as runoff, and manufacturing nitrogen,” Dave explained. “Chemicals secreted by certain cover crops suppress the germination of weeds and reduce various diseases and pathogens. Adding a ‘crop’ of livestock will keep the land productive late fall through winter,” he added, explaining how the Bishops will graze their cattle in the field of recently harvested wheat in late summer, and move them to the corn and rye fields for winter.
PrairiErth Farm has been participating in research with the University of Illinois for many years. Current research is studying the impact of various cover crop mixtures on weed suppression, soil microbial activity, and productivity.