Living the Dream: Chris Butler

Chris Butler
Giving Tree Farms
Anderson Valley, CA

Precision soil sampling is one technique we employ at Giving Tree Farms to increase productivity. Through a series of soil samples taken and sent to a lab, we can decrease the amount of crop variability by identifying specific areas of the farm where the soil might have nutrient deficiencies.

Because the nutrient makeup of these sections will differ due to topography differences, soil properties, past integrated pest management programs, etc., we take multiple soil samples from different areas of the land. From within these sections, samples are taken strategically to ensure an accurate representation of each cell. This deliberate collection of soil samples gives us a better understanding of what our nutrient layout looks like in specific areas of the farm, allowing us to identify localized regions where nutrients are deficient or in excess. We can then apply fertilizers and amendments directly where they are needed, instead of to the entire cultivation space. This variable rate application (VRA) of soil amendments and nutrients equates to a decrease in capital output and environmental impact. The location-specific treatment also saves our team time, increasing our farm’s labor efficiency.

The results we receive from our lab paints a full picture of our soil’s usability. We learn the soil’s fertility level, pH, electrical conductivity, humus levels, cation exchange capacity (CEC), base saturation, lime requirement and percentage of soluble salts. If the pH of the soil is too high or too low, the plants will have difficulties drawing in nutrients. If the soil’s CEC is low, that can be an indication that our medium will have a hard time holding onto nutrients. Our humus level, or the organic particles that create our soil’s texture and make up the bulk of organic matter in the medium, can tell us how well our soil will retain water. With all of this valuable information, we can begin to apply the necessary amendments required to create the perfect medium for our plants to thrive.

As we move forward into the future of agriculture, efficiency and sustainability are key. Soil sampling is a great way to build a foundation for our farm that hits both of these necessary points and sets us up for successful harvests each year.

Christopher Butler is CEO of Giving Tree Farms and a founding member of Hive Mendocino Cooperative is a mixed-light cultivator based in Mendocino County, California. He has been a ganja warrior for more than 15 years and is committed to preserving the culture of the industry while embracing and influencing positive changes.


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