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Though the first farmers market in Des Moines of the year was this past weekend, some preparations for farmers’ markets actually started late last year, as a cover crop.

Andy Dunham farms organic produce on the Grinnell Heritage Farm, which has been in his family since 1857. Dunham seeded the majority of his 80 acres with a mix of rye, along with a plant called hairy vetch.

He says, ”It’s one of the best nitrogen fixers of the legumes, and some people say it’ll fix anywhere from 120 to even up to 200 pounds of nitrogen to the acre per year, if you allow it to get to that more mature stage.”

Once it’s incorporated into the soil, Dunham says the vetch will provide all of the nitrogen needs for the crop of rutabagas he’ll plant here later.