The miracle of Finland: What a tiny northern Minnesota town can teach America | City Pages
Abazs ran pigs through the brush to clear the shrubs and fertilize the dirt, a technique most farmers would think of as something their great-grandpa did. He planted cover crops, like oats, to shoot their roots into the ground, die, and replenish the earth. The soil grew richer, and began to tolerate more demanding crops, but it took five years to foster reliable soil. Still, Abazs faced another challenge: His farm sits two feet above bedrock.
“Imagine farming above a parking lot,” he says. “When I go to southern Minnesota I drool. It’s incredible. I’ll tell people I’ve got 22 inches and they say, ‘That’s pretty good topsoil,’ and I say no, that’s soil to bedrock.”
However, what Abazs lacks in soil volume he more than makes up for in fertility. His organic remedy of cover crops, compost, and crop rotation has cultivated soil bursting with life. Good soil has 5 percent organic matter. Abazs’s soil has up to 18 percent.
Says Abazs: “Conventional farmers treat the soil like a medium. You put the chemicals in, you put the nutrients in and let the plants suck it up. The soil is dead. It’s not biologically alive.”