Dorn CoxLee, NH

NACDSoilHealthChampionLogo Profile_Picture_Dorn_CoxLee, New Hampshire
Strafford County Conservation District

I am a founding member of the Farm Hack community, the executive director for GreenStart, and a farmer working a 250-acre a multigenerational family farm with my wife, Sarah, and two boys. My participatory research focuses on collaborative open source research and development for regenerative agricultural systems.

I am a co-founder of the FarmOS software platform and have developed and shared systems for small-scale grain and oil seeds processing, biofuel production, and no-till and low-till equipment and cover crop systems to increase carbon capture and soil health.

I am also a founding member of the New England Farmers Union, the Great Bay Grain Cooperative, and the Oyster River Biofuel Initiative. I am an active member of Soil Renaissance as a member of the Measurement Committee. I serve as a county supervisor and vice-chair of the Strafford County Conservation District. Currently, I am vice president of the New Hampshire Association of Conservation Districts. I have a Bachelor of Science degree from Cornell University and a PhD from the University of New Hampshire in Natural Resources and Earth Systems Science.  

Soil Health Practices

We have been rotating diverse crops and animal systems for 30 years, but began intense cover cropping and no-and low till techniques about 10 years ago. We use organic no-till methods such as roller crimping standing winter annuals such as winter rye and winter pea before planting into corn or sunflowers. We also use this technique in conjunction with intensive cover crop rotations and inter-seeding. We employ reduced tillage methods such as skim cultivating, aerway soil aeration, sub soiling using a yeomans plow, and using under-mulch cultivators. We use these in conjunction with cover crops, inter-seeding cover crops into standing crops, and no-tilling warm season forages into cool season grasses. We are also harvesting our own cover crop seeds and sharing them with other farms. We regularly test our soils using the Cornell Soil Health test, and participated in a Conservation Innovation Grant to develop a Soil Health Management template to improve our soil health management decision-making over time. We have an active compost operation and have reduced off farm inputs to primarily wood ash for improving pH and K.

Challenges

Often, the low till and cover crop practices require new tools or access to new varieties of seeds which are unfamiliar to local farmers. Experimentation is often required with some trial and error, rather than taking a prescription. In our area, the conservation district and my organization, GreenStart, have taken an active role in reducing the burden on farmers by linking them to others with experience. Those with more experience provide access to appropriate conservation equipment, including no-till drills, aerways, wood ash spreaders, and yeomans plows. We also provide access to cover crop seed and cover crop seeding trials in conjunction with the University of New Hampshire.

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