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Burr operates a farm devoted to conservation practices and habitat preservation and she intends to grow new crops for alternative markets.

A New Farmer on Her Old Family Farm

Burr Shares Her Wisdom.

The time requirements and physical demands of starting to farm are enormous and difficult to anticipate. There is scant room for being an ideologue. Put your life in order to meet the challenge of this all-consuming work. The demands of starting something new are tremendous, as are the satisfactions. It will be the thing that consumes you. Expect it to significantly alter your relationships, your family, and your leisure time. Keep people in your life who help you step back and gain perspective about what you are trying to accomplish. Never forget to exercise belly laughter!

Maryann Burr of Burr Farms, Inc. in central Ohio believes she and her farm will grow cooperatively. Maryann recognizes that she is new to farming and that her learning curve is steep. She also knows herself well; Maryann never gives up something she starts until the planned success has been experienced. She came back to Ohio to take over a large and treasured family farm, and Maryann is here to stay. She loves being on this land and working with the dynamics of soil.

Maryann is determined to transition her farmland from conventional corn and bean production to organic small grain production, a plan supported by her labor, which during the summer of 2008 was 12-15 hours a day, seven days a week. She directly farms 75 acres which will be certified organic in 2009. Maryann has added provisions in all land leases to progressively improve soil and introduce more ecologically production management practices.

To increase the sustainability of her farm, Maryann made many changes that result from her participation in Wisdom in the Land.

Resources. Maryann is meeting and learning with and from many other farmers committed to sustainable agriculture, including other supportive participants in a beginning and transitioning farmers program and the mentor she met through that program, and also other members an Ohio chapter of the international Organic Crop Improvement Association (OCIA) which provides organic certification services to thousands of organic farmers, processors and handlers from over 20 countries in North, Central and South America, Europe, Africa and Asia. Such interactions have introduced new ideas worth considering, strengthened both her conviction to grow organically and her confidence that she can successfully grow new crops for alternative markets. Contact with other farmers who are experiencing the economic benefits of organic production engenders Maryann’s self-confidence. In 2008 she began learning more about how cover crops can help build soil, a strategy Maryann can readily practice on the 75 acres she farms, but she is also resolved to implement the use of cover crops on land she leases to others. Maryann surmises she is gaining the respect of other farmers in a community that is both conventional and curious.

Production. Tillage and mowing are essential for weed control. Maryann is learning that field tillage requires the fine art of properly setting the machine and careful operation of it. She knows that mowing is equally essential in the maintenance of the riparian buffer conservation areas. Maryann had planted nearly 7,000 hardwood and evergreen trees as a participant in a government-sponsored conservation program. Maryann finds that she is equally plagued and fascinated with weeds and tenaciously studies the conditions that give them rise. She can, however, become overwhelmed with the plethora of weeds. Recalling a spring day in a large garden area when she reached for a chemical and fortuitously saw a Praying Mantis, she restrained herself. Maryann estimates that in August 2008, she devoted three to five hours each day to weed management. During a recent preliminary inspection by an organic certifier, Maryann learned that her practices are similar to those required in Europe where 10% of a farm must be devoted to conservation practices and habitat preservation. Maryann uses no animal manures or products, inputs highly scrutinized to meet Europe’s organic standards.

Business. Maryann participates in The Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) a joint Federal-State land retirement conservation program that targets significant environmental effects related to agriculture. It is a voluntary program that uses financial incentives to encourage conservation practices such as grass filter strips, tree plantings, wetland restoration and wildlife practices. Maryann is intimately involved in what happens on land she leases to conventional farmers and takes control of what happens on that land through lease provisions. She finds that most of her tenants are very open to her preferred production practices. Others are enticed by rising commodity prices and call to discuss growing corn on corn, an opportunity she declines.

Contact Information:

Maryann Burr

Burr Farms, Inc.
4585 Roberts Mill Road
London, OH 43140

Madison County

Maryann returned home to care for her dying father and in 2003 began to manage 1500+ acres of the family farm that he built and sustained for 50 years. She had been living on the east coast where she operated a professional landscape design business.