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Harnessing the VT Ripsower in the Process of Healing Land: A Demonstration at Does' Leap

On July 19th, the Franklin County Natural Resources Conservation District co-hosted a demonstration and learning event with the Land Care Cooperative, Vermont Grass Farmers Association, and UVM Extension at Does' Leap farm in Bakersfield, VT. Thirty-six farmers, technical service providers, agency staff, and organizational partners attended the event to learn about the VT Ripsower - a combined seed drill, biostimulant applicator, and subsoiler, developed on Vermont dairy and beef grazing farms as part of a whole-system program for healing land, increasing productivity, and practicing total infiltration farming. This implement is designed to simultaneously decompact soils, reconnect subsoil and topsoil, plant a high diversity of deep-rooted forbs into the rips, and spray seeds as they are sown with custom-made liquid biostimulants and biofertilizers.

The Ripsower should not be confused with the simplistic use of subsoilers to temporarily, mechanically alleviate compaction. Much like the use of a bone saw is only one part of brain surgery, the full potential of the VT Ripsower is realized within a knowledge-intensive and skilled farming strategy called Keyline soil formation, which includes synthesis of:

  • sowing of deep-rooted broadleaf plants in loosened soil

  • tillage relative to topographic contours

  • application of custom microbial, plant, animal, and mineral ferments

  • strategic fertility additions

  • forage harvesting via planned grazing and haying

VT Ripsower parked at Does' Leap

The event began with a round of introductions, a description of the Ripsower components, and then a detailed presentation by Abe Collins of the Land Care Cooperative explaining the theory and principles of Keyline soil formation, evolution of the Ripsower, and an overview of the Cooperative. This was followed by a field demonstration of using a laser lever to mark out a ripsowing contour guideline using Keyline design principles, adjusting settings on the Ripsower for effective implementation, and then using the Ripsower on one of Does Leap's hayfields. The event ended with reflection on lessons learned and new questions to ask and explore! Check out the videos and images from the event below, as well as resources shared by the Land Care Cooperative following the event!

Thanks to all who contributed to making this event a success, including Missisquoi River Basin Association and Upper Missisquoi and Trout Rivers Wild & Scenic Committee, and Healthy Roots Collaborative! And thanks to all who attended to learn, ask questions, and participate in land healing!

Keyline resources:

A few resources on fermented inoculants (as used in the liquid system):

5 Steps for Making Inoculant A very simple through of the steps to make lacto serum, SPICE compost inoculant, and hydrolysates Bioferments, Biostimulants & Biofertilizers: Making them on the farm Basic recipes for making bioferments, biostimulants, and biofertilizers Static Pile Inoculated Compost Extension (SPICE) Background on SPICE composting and instructions on making, managing, and using your compost

Diagram of the Biofertilizer tank, pump & filters, seed box and meter, coulter, spray nozzle, Baker boot opener seeder, rolling basket furrow closer, and subsoiler shank and point
Diagram of the Ripsower

VT Ripsower in action - tractor driven by George Van Vlaanderen of Does Leap.

Trailing behind the VT Ripsower with workshop attendees walking behind implement. Three rips being created along keyline path designed using laser lever.

Abe Collins of Land Care Cooperative leaning on VT Ripsower during workshop introductions.

Workshop participants listening to Abe Collins' presentation

VT Ripsower parked at Does' Leap overlooking mountains and hayfields.

Laser level at front of photo with workshop participants watching keyline path being laid out.

Abe Collins sharing information about VT Ripsower to workshop attendees following test run

Results of demonstration of VT Ripsower showing multiple rips in hayfield after passes by equipment.

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FCNRCD is hiring an Agricultural Programs Specialist

Job Title: Agricultural Programs Specialist               Supervisor: District Manager Job Classification: Non-exempt                              Salary: $22-25/hour Effective Date: 1/19/2024     


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