Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Making Hay and Distinguished Visitors

 For the last three days, a contract farmer took advantage of the facts that (1) most of our snow had melted and (2) spring rains hadn't yet made the soil too wet for equipment.  He and his crew came to our grasslands and cut and baled 150 acres of native grasses.  The grasses are of low quality, so they're not valuable for feeding livestock or for animal bedding.  Instead, the baled grass will be used to grow mushrooms in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, "Mushroom Capital of North America."  Sometime in the next few months, if you buy mushrooms and they've been grown in Kennett Square, you may (indirectly) be eating our grasses!
A wider view.  Watch out, visitors on foot; the farmer stops for no one!
On Tuesday, we had a visit from the natural land stewardship crew from the Mt. Cuba Center in Hockessin, Delaware (suburban northern Delaware just west of Wilmington).  Mt. Cuba was a DuPont estate that was turned into a horticultural showplace for displaying native Piedmont plants in designed landscapes.  Fifty acres of the 385-acre estate are formal gardens; our visitors are responsible for the other 335 acres of fields, woodlands, and wetlands.

Because the du Ponts are/were fabulously wealthy, I had assumed that Mt. Cuba was like heaven on earth - that Mrs. du Pont would dispatch armies of gardeners to rout every weed on her estate.  I was quickly disabused of that notion by our visitors, who assured me that they had the same same problems with invasive plants, superabundant deer, and stormwater flooding that I face in my preserve.    
My two stewardship staff members (left) pointing out a land management feature to our three guests from Mt. Cuba.
My staff and I are going to pay a reciprocal visit to Mt. Cuba - when the weather gets better in May.  It was really cold on Tuesday.


robin andrea said...

I love knowing that the native grasses will be used to grow mushrooms. That is so cool.

packrat said...

Low-quality grasses not fit for livestock, but perfectly fine for growing mushrooms for human consumption, huh? Well, I suppose that's no worse than the GMOs we're all consuming without knowing it.

Any link to that article on your preserve yet, Scott?

Scott said...

Robin Andrea: In some places, they burn the grasses as biofuel to generate electricity. I think growing mushrooms makes more sense.

Scott said...

Packrat: It's not that the grasses are not fit for livestock consumption. It's more a matter that there are many weeds (especially blackberry) among the hay, so the farmer can get a better price by selling to the mushroom growers than he can be selling low-quality "weedy" hay to someone with horses or cattle.

The article written by the reporter was really good; not a single factual error and ver complimentary. I couldn't find an easy link, but I'll keep looking. (I had to prepare for a conference - where I am now - and didn't have time to fool around with the article. I'm off on a field trip in an hour; watch for a post!)