Michigan is blessed to have a diverse base of agriculture and unique history

Ned Birkey

Now that spring is officially here the day light hours are more than half of the day and we can spend more time outdoors. All the ag weather updates are generally calling for March to go out like a lamb. The three-month spring forecast is for normal to above normal temperatures and normal precipitation. As a reminder, the average spring freeze (28º Fahrenheit) date is April 13 and average 32º Fahrenheit frost date is April 25 for Monroe County.There are more than seven billion people in the world, all of whom need to eat every day. Small, family-owned farms account for 90% of all U.S. farms. Even most large and corporate farms are still family owned, which is recognized as an efficient method of organization and way to transition the business from one generation to the next.Farming and related industries employ about 21.6 million people, about 11% of the U.S. workforce. Some of the related jobs include banking, teaching and education, agribusiness, research, food science, processing and retailing, packaging, shipping and exports, government, and other fields. Monroe County and southeast Michigan is blessed to have a diverse base of agriculture and unique history including Henry Ford, tractors and soybeans, Better Made Potato Chips, Barbara Ann potatoes, Chelsea Milling Company and Jiffy Mix, Nabisco, Eden Foods, Zingerman’s, Calder’s, Four Star Greenhouse, Hirtzel’s, Ruhlig’s, Horkey Brothers, Sanders and Morley Chocolates, Kar’s Nuts, Tony Packo’s, Vernors, Faygo, Vlasik Pickles if you count the thumb, and many more.Modern agriculture supplies food, feed, fuel and fiber products that people use on a daily basis. Newer uses include industrial hemp, an old crop, has a bright future for the fiber which could be used in automobiles, furniture, clothing and other ways to replace petroleum plastics or synthetic fibers. Soybeans are now used in automobile tires and the foam of car seats, replacing petroleum ingredients.The deadline to return the USDA Census of Agriculture form has been extended to Monday, April 3, 2023. Everyone who received a Census form is required by law to respond. If the person receiving the form is not farming or ranching, call 888-424-7828 to help update USDA records.Now may be a time to frost seed some red clover into winter wheat. MSU has looked at seeding mammoth and red clover into winter wheat just prior to green up to get a nitrogen boost, reduce weed pressure, increase soil organic matter, improve soil health and increase water holding capacity. Seeding rates range from six to 18 pounds per acre, with 12 pounds showing the most consistent stand.Some fast growing vegetables for planting in cool spring weather includes spinach, peas, beets, lettuce, parsley, radishes, onions, kale, arugula, Asian greens, potatoes and turnips. Be sure the soil is dry enough to work, scoop up a handful of soil and squeeze gently. If the soil remains in a clump in your hand, it is too wet to work up for planting. Now is also time to start warm loving vegetables indoors such as tomatoes and peppers.