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The hemp is high

Sunn hemp cover crop

Sunn hemp cover crop

Summertime
And the livin’ is easy
Fish are jumpin’
And the hemp is high
(apologies to George Gershwin)

Hold on, bucko! Before you go jump in the van to load up — it’s sunn hemp — the non-smoking variety. No, CSA members will not have to eat it, either (Farmer Margie does love to grow lots of greens for us to eat, but this one is not for us.) Sunn hemp (crotolaria juncea) is grown as a cover crop on Bee Heaven Farm during the summer off season. It’s actually a legume that fixes nitrogen in the soil, suppresses nematodes and weeds, and provides organic matter for soil building.

Sunn hemp grows thick and straight and tall. When the wind blows, the hemp rustles and sighs and sounds like rain. Margie and I stepped into the moving green maze of swaying hemp plants, and headed across to the other side of the patch. The plants were almost above my head, and I lost sight of Margie within a short distance. The soil was thick and spongy with organic matter below my feet. When I emerged on the other side, I felt like I swam the full length of the field underwater.

Margie will mow the sunn hemp later this week. Then it will get disked and tilled under to add organic matter to the soil. The hemp will break down and feed the crops that will get planted next month. There’s a lot of prep work involved when you’re farming organically. Having good soil is the most important part. If you feed the soil, the soil will feed you.

Margie swimming in the sea of sunn hemp

Farmer Margie swimming in the sea of sunn hemp

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