Steel Wheel Farm Cover Crop Tour Recap

Ryan Lichtennegger points out the fields he manages with cover crop.
Farmer Ryan Lichttenegger show attendees cover crop seed.
Farmer Ryan Lichttenegger show attendees cover crop seed.

Nestled in the Snoqualmie Valley, Steel Wheel Farm is a first-generation family farm that specializes in supplying fresh, local, and organic vegetable produce around King County. Through their farming practices, owners Ryan and Kim Lichttenegger work in harmony with the natural cycles and topography of the land, growing produce that reflects the quality of its upbringing.

In alignment with their dedication to sustainable agricultural practices, Steel Wheel Farm partnered with King Conservation District to host an educational cover crop tour for the local community. Led by owner Ryan, folks from all over Western Washington had the pleasure of touring the scenic fields of Steel Wheel Farm while gaining a firsthand education about cover crops.

KCD Senior Resource Specialist and Dairy Planner Megan Weldon and Farmer Ryan listen to questions for attendees.
KCD Senior Resource Specialist and Dairy Planner Megan Weldon and Farmer Ryan listen to questions for attendees.

Amidist the rows of blooming yellow mustard flowers and lengthy stalks of cereal rye, Ryan and KCD staff discussed cover crops, a crop grown to cover soil during the off season when produce is not actively being grown or harvested. Speaking from his own experience having grown four seasons worth of cover crops, Ryan described the various benefits of implementing this soil management technique.

Attendees listen to farmer Ryan explain how the flail mower works.
Attendees listen to farmer Ryan explain about how he terminates cover crops with his flail mower.

By examining the cover crops growing on the farm, and listening to how Ryan had used them to mitigate challenges he has faced with his land, participants learned how cover crops soil retain carbon, maintain overall quality during flooding seasons, mitigate weeds, and contribute critical nutrients such as nitrogen.

A special thanks to Ryan, the Steel Wheel Farm staff and all the enthusiastic participants who attended the cover crop tour. Looking to support local farmers? Check out Steel Wheel Farm and be sure to be on the lookout for the Steel Wheel Farm produce stand at your local farmer’s market.

Interested in learning more about how cover crops can help your farm or garden? Check out our Cover Crops for Community Gardens video and Cover Crop Seed Cost Share Program.

  • NRCS field staff explain how they can support both urban and rural agricultural practices.NRCS field staff explain how they can support both urban and rural agricultural practices.
  • A mature field of cover crops maintaining healthy soil, providing wildlife habitat and food resources for pollinators.A mature field of cover crops maintaining healthy soil, providing wildlife habitat and food resources for pollinators.
  • Attendees seeing first-hand the benefits of how cover crops prevents soil erosion and boosts soil health.Attendees see first-hand the benefits of how cover crops prevents soil erosion and boosts soil health.
  • Attendees hear from Ryan about how he turns the cover crop into green manure.Attendees hear from Ryan about how he turns the cover crop into green manure.
  • Side-by-side view of soil after the cover crop has been turned under and the rye/vetch combination that will be turned under before planting.Side-by-side view of soil after the cover crop has been turned under and the rye/vetch combination that will be turned under before planting.
  • Farmer Ryan discusses with attendees the types of seed he uses for cover crops, and how cover crops reduced his need for fertilizer.Farmer Ryan discusses with attendees the types of seed he uses for cover crops, and how cover crops reduced his need for fertilizer.
  • A freshly flail-mowed swath of cover crop which will eventually be tilled under before planting.A freshly flail-mowed swath of cover crop which will eventually be tilled under before planting.
  • Freshly mowed and tilled field with row cover sections being readied for planting with a technique called solarization.Freshly mowed and tilled field with row cover sections being readied for planting with a technique called solarization.
  • Farmer Ryan and KCD Resource Planner Matt Maria talk with attendees.Farmer Ryan and KCD Resource Planner Matt Maria talk with attendees.
  • KCD Senior Resource Planner Jay Mirro talk about the process of turning mature cover crop fields into ready-to-plant ones.KCD Senior Resource Planner Jay Mirro talk about some planning strategies for cover crops.
  • Farmer Ryan explains how to know when cover crop is ready to be mowed and tilled.Farmer Ryan explains how to know when cover crop is ready to be mowed and tilled.
  • KCD Senior Resource and Dairy Planner Megan Weldon explains how cover crops reduce field compaction and improve productivity.KCD Senior Resource and Dairy Planner Megan Weldon explains how cover crops reduce field compaction and improve productivity.
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