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Noble Organic Grains Hosts Tour

by Caitlin Yoder

Published: Friday, August 9, 2019

Joel Macklenburg of Noble Organic Grains is always up for a challenge. He loves being different in the ways that he farms. Discovering innovative ways to grow his crops is what he strives to do, even if that means finding many techniques that don't work in the meantime.

"I like challenges," Macklenburg said. "That's one of the reasons I chose to go organic, is for the challenge."

His most recent challenge is growing industrial hemp for research purposes. Noble Organics in Wawaka opened up their farm to host a field day last Wednesday for farmers to learn about transitioning to an organic operation.

Macklenburg said one of the biggest things he has learned from growing hemp is that it seems to be extremely sensitive to chemical drift. He said it also seems to prefer sandy soil without much water. He planted his plot on dark soil, but the spots with dryer soil produced a healthier plant.

He warns those planning to produce industrial hemp to watch their fertility and avoid over fertilizing. Macklenburg said if you can protect the crop from chemical drift, they may find more success as well.

Hemp is supposed to grow faster than weeds, but Macklenburg has found that it seems to be a weed inducer. He said he is still trying to figure out how to best grow the crop, so that is still to be determined.

One of the main topics of the day was transitioning to organic farming. Macklenburg suggests only purchasing top quality ground. He said farmers will run into too many problems if they purchase every small piece of land. They will be more successful with the best, square field.

There are three reasons Macklenburg chose to go organic. The first reason he made the decision to change is for the challenge.

"Every year with organic you get a new challenge," he said.

The second reason, he loves spending as much time in the tractor as possible.

"I want to be in a tractor more than I want to be in a fishing boat," he said. "Organics is perfect for me because there is never a shortage of work in a tractor."

His third reason was largely influenced by the FFA Creed, which says "I believe in the future of agriculture with a faith born not of words but of deed." He doesn't believe that GMOs are the future of agriculture, but that organics are the future.

Macklenburg said the challenge is finding out how organic farmers can produce the same amount of yields. He said farmers should strive to protect the Earth and better the land that they work.

The crucial part of organic farming is giving something back to the Earth, according to Macklenburg. He plants clover to protect his bare fields and replenish the soil. He said the crop also protects pollinators and provides an oasis for them.

Noble Organic Grains uses a rotation of corn, wheat, double crop soybeans and clover. The clover is planted in between the rows of beans. It took a lot of trial and error, but Macklenburg said he thinks he finally found the technique that works best.

Transitioning to organic takes time, Macklenburg said. Although his first instinct was to go all in, especially with the excitement of the industrial hemp, but he was glad he didn't. There are many things that come up throughout the process. Like Macklenburg said, farmers will find more techniques that don't work before they finally find that what works for both them and their crop.

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