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  • Writer's pictureAnneliese Abbott

How Would Bromfield Farm in 2015? A Modern Malabar Farm Tour


Hayfield at Malabar Farm
Windrows of hay at Malabar Farm, July 2015

Korre Boyer, the park manager at Malabar when I visited in 2015, reminded me a lot of my fellow agronomy students at Ohio State. He was an OSU alumnus, with a major in Agricultural Education and a minor in Production, and his home farm was just a few miles from the park. Korre’s goal was to make Malabar a showplace of modern production agriculture, which he felt was following in the spirit of Louis Bromfield.

 

“A couple hundred thousand people come to Malabar each year,” Korre told me as we sat in the library/conference room in the park visitor center. “For 80 to 85 percent, this is the only agricultural experience we are going to get. We are portraying what modern agriculture is, what a farm is, what it should look like. We also look at the farm operation from the standpoint, ‘If Louis Bromfield were alive today, how would he be farming?’ In 1950 he was seen as an innovator, so do you think he would still be farming the same way in 2015?

 

In true Malabar tradition, Korre graciously took an entire afternoon out of his busy schedule to give us a tour of the farm. We all climbed aboard a park-owned John Deere Gator—the modern version of Bromfield’s Jeep—and sped off along the road.

 

It was early July, and the contoured hay fields were full of thick windrows of hay waiting to be baled. Korre stopped the Gator near one of the windrows, and Tom hopped off to get a photo of the picturesque scene, maybe for his next sketch of Malabar to sell in the gift shop. Like every other field on the farm, this field moved with the contour of the land, flowing around the hills in gentle curves instead of cutting them into artificial squares.

 

“The fields are still in the original contours that Louis Bromfield laid out,” Korre told me as we sat in the Gator, looking at the windrows of hay curving gently around the hillside.  Although some of the steeper fields that Bromfield farmed have since been returned to forest, the general layout of the farm still looks almost exactly the same as it did in Bromfield’s day. 

 

Interspersed with the hayfields were strips of corn and soybeans. As soon as I’d arrived at the park, I had noticed the wilted and drooping weeds between the bright green corn plants—a tell-tale sign that the field had recently been sprayed with Roundup. Sure enough, Korre confirmed that he was using typical no-till methods.

 

“If somebody wants to go organic, I don’t have a thing in the world against that,” Korre told me. Like most of my professors and fellow students at OSU, he saw organic as a nice niche, for people with disposable income to spend extra money on. But feeding the world? Only chemicals could do that.

 

Louis Bromfield was a big fan of conservation tillage, but he was also opposed to using pesticides on his fields, so it’s hard to say what he would have thought about a no-till system based on genetically engineered crops and herbicides.

 

I still wasn’t convinced that chemicals were necessary to feed the world. But I didn’t have all the answers yet. So I thoughtfully listened to Korre, tried to understand his point of view, and enjoyed my behind-the-scenes tour of Malabar Farm.

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