5676 Faircrest ST SW, Canton, OH 44708   |    330-412-2544   |   info@zoefarms.com
Farm hours:  Friday and Saturday 9am - 6pm or by appointment

The Power of Native Switch Grass

October 21, 2015 at 11:05 AM

 There’s lot’s of things we do wrong in life – at least me anyway.  The old saying goes something like: “whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”.  I never really tried to live that way – but it’s safe to say that’s a fair assessment of most of my life.  What amazes me is that sometimes I discover things I had no intention of finding out.

    That’s exactly what I discovered with a stand of switch grass I planted back when I raised buffalo for a living.  I developed a series of warm season pastures around the property over 15yrs ago.  The buffalo roamed away from our place a while ago because my heart roamed into the world of big business for a decade or so.

    About 5 years ago, I thought it would be a good idea to plant about 1500 hybrid poplar trees as a means to grow my own firewood.  Let’s just say I made every mistake imaginable planting these trees.  I won’t re-live the mistakes here except to drive home the point that I had no idea what I was doing when I decided to plant 1500 trees on over two acres of land. Moral of this – I trashed the place!

    And that’s where grace found me.  Despite my scorched earth practices to plant my life-long, renewable supply of firewood, I have found that I actually did something smart a while back! The seed bank of native switch grass I planted many years ago took hold.  On the day I discovered this – we were in the middle of a seemingly eternal 4 week drought. Hey – we’re in Ohio, not Arizona... If it doesn’t rain here for a month, it’s a big deal!  The fields around me that were managed as 3 cutting/year hay were dry and hot – the surface of the soil was brittle.  When I walked into the stand of 7ft tall switch grass around the trees, I could instantly feel the temperature drop around my feet. I was amazed.

    What I screwed up with the poplar trees was being healed by the switch grass. It was dominating the area. It had sent its roots down deep. I bet a cross section would show this stand with at least 6ft root depth.  It was providing shade for all kinds of critters below and improving the water retention capacity of the soil.  One species providing for so much more biodiversity around it. I wanted only trees – switch grass gave so much more!

Happy discoveries!


Category: Building a Sustainable Farm


5676 Faircrest ST SW, Canton, OH 44708    |    330-412-2544    |    info@zoefarms.com
Farm hours:  Friday and Saturday 9am - 6pm or by appointment