Nebraska Organic Farmer Recognized as 'Farmer of the Year'

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By Angie Tunink

Each year, OCIA (Organic Crop Im_provement Association) Research and Education names a “Farmer of the Year” to recognize talented producers who certify to the OCIA’s level of excellence. The 2014 Farmer of the Year award went to Bernard and Sharon Kavan.

OCIA is an international charitable organization created in 2003 by certified organic members of OCIA International, a global leader in organic certification. OCIA Research and Education’s mission is to support organic research; facilitate connections between farmers, researchers, consumers, and decision-makers; and educate producers and communities regarding organic farming and foods.

Located near Linwood, Nebraska, Bernard and Sharon Kavan have been OCIA certified since 1987, and their organic farming practices go back to the 1970s, when the University of Nebraska-Lincoln would host tours on their farm showing methods to enhance the nutrition of crops through the use of beneficial minerals and biologicals.

Bernard’s crop rotation consists of oats underseeded with alfalfa the first year, followed by a year of haying to extend the growing time of the legume and reduce tillage. The third year is corn to make use of the nitrogen supplied by the alfalfa. Soybeans are grown in the fourth year and corn in the fifth, and then the rotation repeats. Bernard feels this rotation does well to build soil and reduce tillage by haying the small grains and alfalfa. He has also ventured into producing soybeans for the tofu market and blue corn for chips and popcorn.

The Kavans have a nice herd of mixed-breed cattle to strengthen this rotation by making use of the oats and alfalfa “hayledge,” as Bernard calls his oats and alfalfa mix. They are rotated through the upland pastures in the summer and the stock and stubble fields on the river valley in the fall. Manure is applied from the winter quarters and spread on the fields following raw manure standards to take advantage of the manure’s micronutrient advantage and not overused to replace the nitrogen requirement of the crop.

Bernard is proud to be farming the family homestead that’s been in his family since 1873. His farm holds a wide range of wildlife and their habitat. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln has conducted bird studies on his farm, recording the number of species on organic land as opposed to chemical farms.

For more information, visit www.ociaresearchandeducation.org. Excerpts are included from Mike Ostry’s Farmer of the Year application.

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