ASC Intern Journal: Early Summer, 2013


Rodale Institute’s ASC program is also an educational program for a select few each year who want to learn how to develop their own organic grower’s business through both hands-on and classroom training. This year we have a great group of five interns who have made an eight-month commitment to this program and to themselves and we hope that they will return to their communities to perhaps start their own ASC program. They are working hard both on and off the field and will be sharing their perspectives on farming, learning and eating right here in the ASC Intern Journal during the growing season.

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June 17, 2013
By Sam Moll

Four shaley acres are bursting with life at the Rodale Institute. Spring has sprung us into the harvest season.

Diverse and delicious greens are being harvested as fast as we can wield our knives. The other greens, the weeds, must be tamed like a wildfire before they burst into flower engulfing the field into an even greener carpet. With an arsenal of hoes, tractors, mulch and compost, the courageous interns vigilantly slay the unwanted guests. This gives our vegetables more root space and sunlight to photosynthesize creating healthy hearty food for the 145 families for whom we are growing.

Laborious loyalty to our mission of providing organic food to the local community is an honor. Through redundant, tiring tasks, we appreciate the simplicity and clarity of thought. The parts that are not enjoyable are negligible because the whole of our work is far greater than its parts.

The flora and the fauna are quite active right now. A killdeer has laid two eggs in with the lettuce. A fox family made its den in the adjacent woodlot. And the bird diversity is astounding. As this is my first farming experience, I am amazed at how much more in touch with the natural world I have become. Senses sharpened, hands callused and skin baking. I love my job!

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July 1, 2013
By Chris West

I have always been intrigued by walking out your door and foraging for the delicious food nature has to offer. This is my fourth year growing plants, mostly in pots since I’ve been living in an apartment and my space is limited to a porch. Its a rather large porch, fortunately, but still a porch. The first couple of years I grew in beautiful clay pots and soon found out these pots always stay thirsty for water since water drains so fast out of them. There are many different types of pots but the ones I’ve found most fruitful and cheap are self-watering containers.

A self-watering container is basically a pot inside of a pot. The bottom pot stores a surplus of water while the top one holds the soil and plant. The advantage of this arrangement is they don’t have to be watered as frequently. Also the plant receives water like it naturally would: from the bottom. This forces the plant to grow its’ roots deep.

One could purchase them in any home improvement store but they are rather expensive, especially when almost all the materials to build one are free or cheap. There are many instructions online to build these so I will give a simple overview.

Materials:

2 buckets, 3-6 gallons each (can be found at any grocery store for free or leftover after wine making)
1 pint container (found at any grocery store from their prepared food section)
4 Zip ties (I think a couple hundred could be purchased for a buck or two)
2-3-foot length of 1/2″ PVC pipe (also a couple of bucks)

Equipment:

A drill with a 1/4″ and 1/2″ drill bit
Pocket saw on a Swiss Army knife or a 6-8″ drill bit.

Directions:

1. On one of the buckets drill a 6-8″ hole in the bottom center of it with the bit or saw.

2. On the same bucket drill a 1/2″ hole next to the side for the PVC pipe.

3. On the same bucket drill about ten 1/4″ holes on what’s left of the bottom. This is for extra transpiration to the plant.

4. Drill 1/4″ holes in pint container all around. Make sure there are four holes around the rim to attach the pint container to the bucket with the large hole in the bottom.

5. Attach pint container to bucket with zip ties so when you put the bucket with all the holes into the one you haven’t touched it will sit between them at the bottom.

6. Set the bucket with the pint container attached to it inside the other bucket. Drill a 1/4″ hole for an overflow hole in the bottom bucket.This is a bit tricky. Sometimes holding the bucket up to the light will help you find where the bottom of the top bucket stops. That is where you want the overflow hole so if the bottom bucket doesn’t overfill.

7. Put PVC pipe through 1/2″ hole in top bucket so it’s sticking above the rim of the top bucket.

8. Fill with soil and plant.

9. Fill bottom with water.

Check for more detailed instructions online for building your own. There are many instructional videos dealing with the most basic to more sophisticated self-watering containers.

Here are photos of my porch in all it’s glory, mid-June.

  

You can plant almost anything in pots. On my porch I have tomatoes (of course), peppers, eggplant, cucumbers, summer squash, kale, lettuce, leeks, onions, dwarf lemon, gooseberry, Swiss chard, herbs, mustard, bok choy and hops. They are all in a slew of different pots, not all in self-watering containers, but that was only to mix up the aesthetics of my porch. Nothing beats the satisfaction of growing and harvesting your own food out your front door or on your balcony.

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July 8, 2013
By Erica Parker

This week brought another busy, but rewarding harvest. There were three new vegetables in this week’s share: peas, frisse, and squash. So, I thought I’d spend a little time sharing some information about the taxonomy and uses of one of these vegetables: peas.

The scientific name for peas is Pisum sativum. In your shares you may find a mix of snap peas and snow peas, which are two different varieties of Pisum sativum. Snow peas are normally harvested and eaten when flat and snap peas are eaten when rounded. Peas are in the Fabaceae family of plants along with peanuts, clover, kudzu (yes, the horribly invasive weed), alfalfa, and soybeans, just to name a few. These plants are known as legumes and most have the unique ability to add nitrogen to the soil in a process called nitrogen fixation, where atmospheric nitrogen (which, plants can’t use) is converted into ammonia (a bioavailable form of nitrogen). Legumes are able to do this by forming a symbiotic relationship with a certain group of bacteria called rhizobia. The bacteria provide the plant with ammonia and the plant provides the bacteria with carbohydrates. The plant releases this bioavailable nitrogen to the soil when it dies, increasing soil fertility. This is why leguminous plants, like alfalfa and clover, are used as cover crops in organic agriculture.

Besides eating fresh peas raw (including the pod), you can also steam, sauté, or grill them. To grill peas, first coat them in olive oil and salt to taste. Grill the peas a few minutes on each side until the peas are tender. You can now add balsamic vinegar and mint leaves if you like. You can scrape the peas out of the pod using your teeth or you can eat the whole peapod (you may want to string it first). Pass the peas please!

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