Ag 101 Week 26

Six Steps to Planning a Dinner Party - Cont'd


Setting the Table

Miss Kitty and The Kitchen Table 

Miss Kitty and The Kitchen Table 

That’s a picture of our kitchen table. It’s put together from three different sets and painted so it would all match. Nothing fancy but gets the job done.

Sometimes we do everything but eat at it.

We hold family meetings, do art projects and science experiments, re-pot plants, pit cherries, write blog posts, decorate cookies, and even cry there. I’ve taught both our kids’ reading, writing, and math at it.

When we all have time to have a meal together, we pray over burnt offerings otherwise known as dinner at it.

It’s old, well used, and now and then we have to tighten the legs. It should be repainted but has not been a priority. That doesn’t affect how well it works; only its’ looks.

Generally, we use paper plates - do not judge. I know the environmental implications and take steps to balance it out in other areas to offset them. Is it a perfect system?  No. However, I know my schedule and what it takes to make our empire spin, and there are tradeoffs. I bet there are some in your home, or on your farm, as well. We all have to make management decisions based on our situation. For us sometimes it’s paper. If not paper and much to my moms’ dismay, I use all my depression glass and china from my grandparents. My philosophy is, if I have it, I’m going to use it and enjoy it until someone breaks it.

I’m using our kitchen table and our dishes, as an illustration, to talk about the next two steps in the Six Steps to Planning a Dinner Party that I started last week

If you recall, the first two are

1.    Pick a Venue – Your Farm

2.    Make a Guest List – Crops and Insects


This week we’re going to talk about steps three and four

What Types of Tables – Soil

Choosing the place setting – Management and inputs


3.    Choosing the Tables – Soil

When you’re planning a dinner party, you get to pick the type of tables you want, and the seating arrangement can be based on the types of tables at your venue.

The tables can be extended, short, round, tall, or any combination of all.

Maybe the venue comes with tables, and they are already chosen for you by default, similar to buying a farm or land.

Maybe like our kitchen table, it is a miss-matched set put together for function over style.

Whether you are looking to purchase or have been farming the same ground for years, you need to invest time getting to know the type of soil you are working with or reacquainting yourself with it. My best suggestions are

-Go to the Soil Survey Website. I wrote about it back in Week 3.

This is the direct link


Just as making the seating arrangement at your dinner party can be based on the types of tables. Your crop rotations, amendment/fertilizer choices, and types of management such as tillage options are based on the amounts of sand, silt, and clay present in the soil.

Like we work with our old rickety table, some farmers I work with have marginal land but have overcome it with a sound fertility plan taking into consideration the soil type and test results. 

Using a free resource like the Soil Survey Web can give you insights as to where to start in making those decisions.

-Get a complete soil test

I wrote about this in Week 24 – Six Things Every Soil Test Should Include

I say completely because far too often it’s not that farmers aren’t getting them done, its that they don’t get all the information they need to make complete decisions. Keep in mind when choosing a lab, read what each test package includes and fill the form out accordingly. In doubt and before submitting the sample call the lab if necessary.

-Get out and walk your fields

It goes beyond planting, spraying, and harvesting. Take some time and walk your fields with your soil survey and soil test results. Take notes of the physical characteristics of the soil in each field and compare it to the map and results. In some cases, you could be surprised at what the soil will tell you as opposed to the maps and tests. I've looked at soil tests at my desk and gone out to the field to either have my thoughts proven or disproven. But without physically looking with my own eyes, it was a mere educated guess. Soil and plants will tell you things you just have to be willing to look for it. 


4.    Chose the Place Setting – Management/Inputs

Just has my choice to use paper plates or depression glass for our table setting, how you manage your farm can be based on several factors. They can range from soil type, crop choice, financial limitation, regulatory requirements, or philosophical and moral views. A few farms I work with had to create management zones due to the types of crops they grow and to make it easier for employees to understand. 

Whatever the case may be for your situation having good management plans in place and practicing them will go a long way to ensuring a successful season. I wrote a post titled - You Can’t Out Fertilize Poor Management, Week 13

My husband read it and said I had been harsh. As much as I don’t like saying it, it’s true. Think of it as one of the legs of our kitchen table I spoke about earlier. Sometimes I need to tighten it to stay functional. Sometimes you need to manage the resources you have to be profitable.

Inputs need to be viewed much the same. Basing them off of the soil type, test results, and crops will ensure the right choice to produce a quality high yielding product. Managing them using principles suggested in the 4 R’s covered in weeks 6 and ten will provide financial and environmental benefits.