Dig Deeper


Plant Production Specialist Needed

Rodale Institute is currently seeking a Plant Production Specialist.  The individual who fills this position will oversee horticulture operations in all production areas including; greenhouse and field areas of all plants  for wholesale, commercial or research use.

ESSENTIAL DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES:

  • ♦  Create an annual management plan to be submitted in the fall of the preceding year which will include a projected budget; planting, maintenance, and harvest schedules; and log sheets and standard operating procedures (SOPs) for greenhouse and related field operations.
  • ♦  Work with SST members to prepare soil for all planting areas following strict organic procedures and processes
  • ♦  Physically plant all seeds, transplants bulbs and cuttings.
  • ♦  Responsible for the production of food, ornamentals, landscape, and cut flowers.
  • ♦  Establish plant growing conditions and set planting and care schedules in accordance with organic regulations as set by USDA
  • ♦  Track all production activities using RI approved forms needed for certification purposes.
  • ♦  Supervise volunteers, interns and other labor in the production process
  • ♦  Support SST and RI team members in educational activities for staff, interns, and outside clientele both on-site in-season and at external meetings
  • ♦  Provide information to customers on the care of plants and flowers.
  • ♦  Ability to participate in research projects; testing, gathering and compiling data.
  • ♦  Prepare and apply compost extracts and tea.
  • ♦  Determine types and quantities of plants to be grown, based on budget and projected sales.
  • ♦  Assist Marketing Specialist by monitoring and controlling resources by developing budgets, Profit and Loss statements, and projected sales.
  • ♦  Implement sales strategies to attain organization’s sales goals and profitability.
  • ♦  Assist in developing and controlling sales programs.
  • ♦  Assist in providing information for management by preparing short-term and long-term product sales forecasts and analyses.
  • ♦  Facilitate inventory turnover and product availability by reviewing and adjusting inventory levels and product schedules.
  • ♦  Expand current customer base to include retail.
  • ♦  Provide timely feedback to management regarding sales performance.
  • ♦  Help the Store create a sales floor display in coordination with the Store Manager.
  • ♦  Promote sales of greenhouse products through product development and customer relationships.
  • ♦  Determine market needs through industry research.
  • ♦  Perform other duties as assigned by management.

QUALIFICATIONS:

  • ♦  A degree in Greenhouse Management, Horticulture, Biology, or Plant Sciences.
  • ♦  Working knowledge of Soil Microbiology and Botany.
  • ♦  Excellent verbal and written communication skills.
  • ♦  Express an interest in learning/teaching organic production techniques
  • ♦  3 – 5 years’ experience in horticulture production or agriculture infor a retail sales environment.
  • ♦  Must be knowledgeable of the fast moving developments in the greenhouse sales industry.
  • ♦  Ability to work in all weather conditions.
  • ♦  Knowledge of environmental/ NOP/NOSB regulations.
  • ♦  Ability to work on all types of equipment.
  • ♦  Run, maintain, and repair equipment when needed.
  • ♦  Assist with any and all other Strategic Solutions Team requests.
  • ♦  Public speaking, presentations, workshops, including being a Keynote Speaker for the Institute.
  • ♦  Maintain excellent organic agriculture practices
  • ♦  Must be able to lift in excess of 50 pounds.

 TRAVEL: Travel to workshops and conferences for further education and network opportunities.

OTHER INSTITUTIONAL EXPECTATIONS:

To be trustful and respectful to all staff and visitors.

Interested applicants may submit a cover letter and resume to linda.carlson@rodaleinstitute.org

Food as Medicine

A Partnership between Rodale Institute and St. Luke’s University Health Network

Coach, Farmer Lynn Trizna and St. Luke's Anderson Campus President Ed Nawrocki

Coach, Farmer Lynn Trizna and St. Luke’s Anderson Campus President Ed Nawrocki

In 431 B.C. Hippocrates said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”

Over 2500 years later, we are inundated with advertisements boasting the latest, greatest cure-all super drug. From a young age, we learn that it doesn’t matter how or what we eat, there is a quick fix around the corner for whatever ails us – whether we’re obese, have high blood pressure, or bad cholesterol – just to name a few of the issues plaguing our society.

It now seems almost revolutionary to think that we can change our health by changing the food we eat.

But, one hospital in Pennsylvania thought just that.

In 2014, Rodale Institute, in partnership with St. Luke’s University Health Network, launched a true farm to hospital food program.

The Anderson Campus at St. Luke’s has over 300 acres of farmland, much of which had historically been farmed conventionally with crops like corn and soy. The hospital administration recognized the impact that providing fresh, local organic produce could have on patient health and approached Rodale Institute to transition the land to organic and farm vegetables to be used in patient meals as well as in the cafeteria.

Lynn Trizna, or Farmer Lynn, as she’s known around St. Luke’s, provides food to all six hospitals within the Network. This year, she is growing five acres of vegetables with plans to expand to ten acres in coming years. She estimates about 44,000 lbs of produce from her farm will be served in the hospital, just this season. She is paid a salary through Rodale Institute and has employed three staff members, all aspiring farmers.

With a three-year plan in place, Rodale Institute and St. Luke’s see the potential for expansion. We envision growing the program to include fifteen to twenty farmers – supporting new farmers who don’t have access to land; greenhouses that allow for year round production of produce; and a small batch cannery, ensuring that we can enjoy the harvest, even in the coldest months of winter.

We have created this model with the belief that it can, and should, be replicated at every hospital throughout the United States.

So, the next time you’re feeling a bit under the weather, stop – think of us and Hippocrates’ words of wisdom. Maybe you’ll then look to the garden for a cure, instead of the medicine cabinet.

Click here to learn more about this project.

Ask the Farmer: Hay field recovery and cattle

Rodale Institute Farm Director Jeff Moyer talks about what is happening in our fields and yours.

Donna asks:

I searched the internet to find out about cattle and hay fields and your site popped up. We have inherited 27 acres and six head of cattle (two Long-horns and four Herefords). There are three hay fields on the land. I am unsure of the size of the fields, but I know 430 bales of hay were cut this summer. (more…)

Farm Photo Friday: October 24, 2014

Every Friday we share some snaps from our 333-acres in Kutztown, PA. Our photographers? The staff members who keep this farm chugging along. Enjoy a sneak peek at what’s going on here at Rodale Institute!  Every Friday we share some snaps from our 333-acres in Kutztown, PA. Our photographers? The staff members who keep this farm chugging along. Enjoy a sneak peek at what’s going on here at Rodale Institute!

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Michael Horvath is a regular volunteer here at Rodale Institute. Here he starts cleaning turnips for restaurant deliveries. We appreciate all that you do, Mike!

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Marie Shelli, ASC intern, is also cleaning some veggies grown especially for restaurants.

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While fellow ASC intern Kristen Yates does the final packing before they get loaded up for deliveries.

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The goats are making a guest appearance at the Rodale Institute Garden Store and are doing a wonderful job getting rid of some pesky poison ivy! We don’t want any of our spooky guests getting itchy at the Trick or Treat on the Farm!

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Store Manager, Heather Gurk, is getting some candy together for Trick or Treat at the Farm!

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Nina Griffis, Strategic Solutions Team member, picks some of the season’s last peppers.

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It sure was a great year for peppers, look at these beauties!

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This rooster is getting a little defensive. Perhaps he suspects this photographer wants to steal one of his girlfriends?

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 While the weather might be getting colder, the Rodale Institute’s front yard garden is still flourishing. We just picked some lettuce and have more in store.

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Employees gather up for a delicious lunch made by our very own Education and Outreach Director, Maria Pop.

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Out in the hoop house we’ve got some more lettuce varieties growing.

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And not too far away are some bean plants!

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Here is a cabbage patch that looks amazing!

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  Don’t you just want to try some?

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That’s a lot of garlic! Just in time to keep all the vampires away this Halloween!

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Ross Duffield, Farm Manager, getting the dump truck ready to deliver a shipment of organic oats.

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Wow! That’s an oat-rageous amount of organic oats!

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Ross and Jeff Moyer, Farm Director, set up the auger-elevator which moves the oats up the chute and into the bed of the truck.

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And with one last push…….

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and one last pull…..

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the oats begin to flow!

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Elsewhere on the farm, Chief Scientist, Dr. Kris Nichols, teaches a course on soil biology. Here, lonely Mr. Microscope eagerly awaits to make eye contact.

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Tammy and her 13 new piglets share a special moment as they bond.

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 Ross checks in on mama and her piglets. They look to be doing just great! Check in with us next Farm Photo Friday for more snaps of the piglets as they start to explore!

Don’t forget… Show your organic love!

My Experience: A first year farmer works with pasture raised hogs

A guest blog post by Caroline Hampton, a first year farmer based in North Carolina

By the middle of October, it’s really starting to feel like Fall. I am excited for cooler weather and the end of the season, and my body is too. No matter how many hours of sleep I get each night or what time I go to bed, I find my body unwilling to rise in the morning. Fall crops are in the ground and growing well, and our hogs are growing larger and fattening up, preparing to be slaughtered in November.

My previous experience in farming has been focused on vegetable production, though I have done some dairy work with cows, and have used grazing beef cattle in a field rotation. I have lived with backyard chickens several times, but nothing really prepared me for mPasture Raised Hogsy experience of raising pigs this season. At the F.I.G. Farm, we decided to raise pigs together. Initially, we wanted to raise one pig to be the main course for a fall farm dinner, and when the opportunity to buy feeder pigs came up, the three other farmers at the F.I.G. Farm decided that they would like to each have their own pig to raise for sale and personal use. Because it was my first season as a farmer, I felt that the commitment of raising a pig would be too much work for me to take on. I declined to get my own pig. However, within a month of the pigs coming to the farm, I found myself serving as the primary caretaker for a herd of four pigs.

The experience of raising four pigs as a new farmer, unexperienced with livestock, has been entertaining, emotionally trying, and incredibly enriching. Fortunately the incubator farm where I am renting space has an ideal set up for raising pigs, including all of the equipment needed, like the push posts and polywire needed for the construction of our electric fence, a generator for our electric fence, troughs for eating and a waterer, and even a training pen for the piglets to initially go into.

When we first got our young 20 pound pigs, or shoats, they were very frightened of humans and always ran away when approached. I in turn was similarly shy and hesitant around them, unsure of how to approach, wishing not to frighten them with my eagerness. Over time they came to understand that a person carrying a bucket into their pen meant food had arrived and would clamber around and into their trough to scarf down the choicest bits first. Being able to physically interact with and handle the pigs with confidence and ease is important for bringing food into the pen or entering the pen to move equipment, move the pigs from pen to pen, and ultimately will be important for having the pigs cooperate when we load them onto a truck to take to the slaughterhouse.

Being able to handle the pigs meant spending time in the pen with them when they were eating when they first came, because their desperate zeal for food was all that could coax them into my vicinity. Now our pigs are nearing 200 pounds and recognize the sound of my truck. When I am walking out to the field to feed them, they will begin a raucous chorus of grunts and from one pig, high pitched squeals. They will often sound off even when I am not coming to feed them to express their displeasure. I worried for a long time that we weren’t feeding the pigs enough because of the way they continually begged for food, but like children, they know the sounds and behaviors that motivate their caretakers to hand over some chow.

Over the season I have had mentorship from our local livestock agent from Agricultural Extension in Watauga County, as well as from other farmers in the community. I have consulted with other farmers in person and on the phone, attended workshops, and had others come out to our property for advice about our space. I have learned a lot about what to feed pigs, how much to feed pigs, and how to effectively rotate them through pastures.

Our pigs are being raised in a large pasture that we have divided into six separate segments and we let them root and graze an area quite heavily before moving them into the next segment. The smartest thing to do after moving the pigs is to sow seeds of various forage crops in the previously used segment so that as the pigs continue to rotate, they will have a feast waiting for them. This season we did not manage to follow our rotation by sowing forage crops, but I will include this in my management plan next year. I plan to raise four pigs with a friend on his property next year, and these pigs will be raised for sale at the farmer’s market.

We feed our pigs twice a day, a diet of food scraps from the kitchens of local restaurants and grocery stores, as well as spent grain from a local brewery. Often we cannot get the spent grain and to ensure that our pigs are getting enough protein, we feed them a pelleted pig feed produced by a North Carolina company and sold at our local feed store. Pigs need a high protein (usually around 16%) feed daily, and the amount of food provided should weigh 3 – 5% of the pig’s body weight. Making sure our pigs have had enough food has certainly been the biggest struggle over the course of the season, and forced us to become more creative about food sources than we originally anticipated.

Our pigs are smart and entertaining and I find joy interacting with them. They are curious and playful animals, and approach anything new to their pen with interest, though principally they want to know whether they can eat it or not. In November, we will be sending some of our pigs to the slaughterhouse so that the other farmers can sell the meat. We ultimately decided not to have a farm dinner this fall, so the pig that we raised to be our group pig became mine for the hard work that I have put in with our herd this year.

Because I plan to use the meat personally and not sell it, I do not have to send my pig to the slaughterhouse, and I am very seriously considering killing my pig myself. Many of my mentors have been able to offer insights into and aid with personal slaughter of a pig, and in my mind it is the most honest and reverent way to end a pig’s life that you have had a personal relationship with. The quality of the meat will also be at its best, because transport to and time spent at the slaughterhouse cause stress on the pig, and their bodily cortisol levels rise, compromising some amount the quality of the flavor. I am looking forward to sharing about my personal experience of slaughter, and anticipating some truly wonderful pasture raised pork!

Radishes

Radish recipes from our Agriculture Supported Communities program.

Braised Radish
From Rachael Ray and the Food Network

2 bunches radishes, about 1 pound, trimmed of tops and roots
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons butter, cut into bits
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper

Place radishes in a skillet with stock, butter bits, shallots, sugar, vinegar, salt and pepper. Cover
the pan and bring to a boil. Uncover the pan and reduce heat to medium. Cook radishes 10 to 12
minutes and if the stock has not cooked away, remove radishes and cook down to 1/2 cup,
about 2 minutes. Then toss syrupy liquid with radishes and serve.

 

Did you try out one of these recipes? Leave a comment below on how
you liked it and whether or not you made adjustments!

 

 

‘Walk for an Organic Planet’ Schedule Announced

Rodale Institute Director Begins  160 Mile Walk from PA to Washington, D.C. 

(Kutztown, PA  October 1, 2014) On October 1, 2014, Rodale Institute Executive Director, ‘Coach’ Mark Smallwood set out on a 160 mile walk from the Institute’s farm in Kutztown, PA, to Washington, D.C. Smallwood is set to arrive in Washington, D.C., on October 16th after walking an average of 10 miles per day for 16 days. On arrival in the capitol he will hand deliver a recent study from the Institute which identifies regenerative organic agriculture as a solution for reversing climate change.

“We were there at the People’s Climate March in New York City,” said Smallwood.  “But what’s happening now? The media has moved on to the next story. People are back to business as usual. I’m walking to keep up the pressure and sound the call for an organic planet. It’s the best option we have for reversing climate change.”

Addressing the United Nations on Tuesday, President Barack Obama acknowledged the march saying, “Our citizens keep marching. We cannot pretend we do not hear them. We have to answer the call.”

Rodale Institute’s study,”Regenerative Organic Agriculture & Climate Change: A Down-to-Earth Solution to Global Warming,” states that reversing climate change is possible through simple photosynthesis and healthy soil biology. If all agricultural land on Earth were transitioned to reflect regenerative organic principles, crop lands would capture 40% of annual emissions, and graze lands would capture 71%. Together, they would represent 111% of annual emissions, capturing all current greenhouse gases that we emit annually and beginning to draw down excess carbon from the atmosphere. Reversal of climate change has not been a topic of discussions between global leaders who have settled for goals to simply reduce the amount of carbon added to the atmosphere every year.

“It’s simple.  It’s fourth grade science, with no downside. The global transition to an organic planet is already underway, it’s happening now. The organic movement is stronger than ever with growth that far exceeds conventional agriculture,” said Smallwood.

Anyone interested in walking with Coach may visit Rodale Institute’s website, which will feature daily updates on the progress of the Walk for an Organic Planet and a schedule of all events scheduled for the Walk.

Those interested in following the Walk for an Organic Planet more closely are encouraged to sign up for email updates through the Institute’s website and follow the Walk on the Institute’s social media channels.

Since its founding in 1947 by J.I. Rodale, the Rodale Institute has been committed to groundbreaking research in organic agriculture, advocating for policies that support farmers, and educating people about how organic is the safest, healthiest option for people and the planet. The Institute is home to the Farming Systems Trial (FST), America’s longest-running side-by-side comparison of chemical and organic agriculture. Consistent results from the study have shown that organic yields match or surpass those of conventional farming. In years of drought, organic corn yields are about 30 percent higher. New areas of study at the Rodale Institute include rates of carbon sequestration in chemical versus organic plots, new techniques for weed suppression and organic livestock.

Important links:

www.crowdrise.com/organicplanet

www.rodaleinstitute.org/walk-for-an-organic-planet-3/

www.rodaleinstitute.org/regenerativeorganicagriculture

ABOUT RODALE INSTITUTE

Rodale Institute is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to pioneering organic farming through research and outreach. For more than sixty years, we’ve been researching the best practices of organic agriculture and sharing our findings with farmers and scientists throughout the world, advocating for policies that support farmers, and educating consumers about how going organic is the healthiest options for people and the planet.

 

How the NOSB Gets Technical

By guest blogger Lindsay Fernandez-Salvador, OMRI Technical DirectorOMRI

Twice a year, organic certifiers, materials enthusiasts, and various farmer, processor and consumer representatives meet with government agents and a volunteer advisory board to participate in the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) meeting. The meeting location rotates, roughly appearing on the east side of the country every fall and the west side every spring, in order to engage stakeholders from around the country. The upcoming meeting October 28-30 in Louisville, KY[i] promises to be exciting, with a comprehensive agenda and new decision making procedures[ii]. But how does this volunteer board even begin to tackle the large and sometimes controversial issues that they face when attempting to define “organic”? The answer is that the group relies heavily on both stakeholder involvement and third-party technical reports for individual substances to guide their decision making.

The board consists of subcommittees and working groups that meet throughout the year to prepare various proposals for vote by the full board. Proposals focus on a wide range of issues, including policy recommendations, procedural changes, and proposals for new standards such as aquaculture and pet food that are not currently addressed by the USDA organic regulations. Final proposals are then forwarded to the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) for consideration and potential rulemaking or guidance. Another major part of NOSB work consists of maintaining and reevaluating the list of materials allowed in organic production, including farming, livestock care, and processing materials. This “National List of Allowed and Prohibited Materials” (National List[iii]) details all of the exceptions to the organic grower’s basic rule of thumb: ‘yes’ to nonsynthetic or natural substances, and ‘no’ to synthetics.

The basic rule is great, and it holds for most situations, but here at OMRI we know all too well how this distinction can get sticky. Do we really want arsenic in organic farms? It is natural, but also dangerously toxic. Most feel it belongs on the prohibited list, where it has lived since the National Organic Standards were implemented in 2002. How about newspaper? It does contain synthetic binders and inks, but it is free, is in abundant supply, and composts readily. Many would agree that when it comes to weed control, newspaper can be a farmer’s best friend. For these reasons, newspaper was thoroughly evaluated[iv] in 2006 and subsequently added to the National List as an allowed synthetic. NOSB debate and discussion about these exceptions can be long and arduous, but in the end there is stakeholder input, open deliberation, and transparent decision making – all elements that contribute to a clear and balanced organic standard.

In order to ensure that decisions are well thought out and current research is considered, the NOP contracts technical advisors and researchers to author “Technical Reports,” each a complete overview of a given substance with regard to how it meets the following criteria from the Organic Foods Production Act:

♦  Potential of the substance for detrimental chemical interactions with other materials used in organic farming systems;
♦  Toxicity and mode of action of the substance and of its breakdown products or any contaminants, and the persistence and areas of concentration in the environment;
♦  Probability of environmental contamination during manufacture, use, misuse or disposal of such substance;
♦  Effect of the substance on human health;
♦  Effects of the substance on biological and chemical interactions in the agroecosystem, including the physiological effects of the substance on soil organisms (including the salt index and solubility of the soil), crops and livestock;
♦  Alternatives to using the substance in terms of practices or other available materials; and
♦  Compatibility with a system of sustainable agriculture.

In 2011, the National Organic Program held a competitive bid process that resulted in the selection of  three organizations, including OMRI, that may be commissioned to produce Technical Reports. Since then, a number of reports have been requested and produced, including several reports recently released to inform discussion and voting on fruit waxes (Carnauba Wax[v], Orange Shellac[vi] and Wood Rosin[vii]), microorganisms[viii] and yeast[ix]. The latter two reports focus quite a bit on how cultures are produced, the media used, and any ancillary substances that may be included as part of the packaging and delivery method.

Technical Reports are public documents, and they are frequently used well beyond the NOSB process to inform certifier decision making, NOP policy, and input review. Recently, the NOP has been engaged in a consolidated effort to proactively produce updated reports for many future discussions on the docket. If you are interested in or knowledgeable about an upcoming topic on the NOSB agenda, you might consider reviewing the corresponding technical report[x] before you submit comments. Although the reports are comprehensive, they are not intended as a substitute for know-how. Experienced farmers and food processors, as well as input suppliers, are encouraged to also take part in the discussion. Check the information web page for each individual meeting[xi] to find updates and information about how to submit written or oral comments. Meeting pages are updated on an ongoing basis, and instructions for submitting comments are generally posted within 45 days of the meeting.

[i] http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/ams.fetchTemplateData.do?template=TemplateJ&navID=FindMeetingInformationNOSBHome&rightNav1=FindMeetingInformationNOSBHome&topNav=&leftNav=NationalOrganicProgram&page=NOSBMeetings&resultType=&acct=nosb

[ii] http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/getfile?dDocName=STELPRDC5105096

[iii] http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/ams.fetchTemplateData.do?template=TemplateJ&leftNav=NationalOrganicProgram&page=NOPNationalList&description=National%20List%20of%20Allowed%20and%20Prohibited%20Substances&acct=nopgeninfo

[iv] http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/getfile?dDocName=STELPRDC5088918

[v] http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/getfile?dDocName=STELPRDC5107943

[vi] http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/getfile?dDocName=STELPRDC5107942

[vii] http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/getfile?dDocName=STELPRDC5107941

[viii] http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/getfile?dDocName=STELPRDC5108711

[ix] http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/getfile?dDocName=STELPRDC5107940

[x] http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/ams.fetchTemplateData.do?template=TemplateJ&navID=PetitionDatabaseNOSBHome&rightNav1=PetitionDatabaseNOSBHome&topNav=&leftNav=&page=NOPNationalList&resultType=&acct=nopgeninfo

[xi] http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/ams.fetchTemplateData.do?template=TemplateJ&navID=FindMeetingInformationNOSBHome&rightNav1=FindMeetingInformationNOSBHome&topNav=&leftNav=NationalOrganicProgram&page=NOSBMeetings&resultType=&acct=nosb

The war against pests, diseases, and weeds

By guest blogger Caroline Hampton

For a farmer, the summer months mean war. Every vegetable that is grown, every bite that a consumer takes, has been fought for by a farmer. In July and August, I’ve had to battle against pests, diseases, and weeds. The warmer weather means that pest insects and animals are reproducing, and often insects will have several generations of offspring before cold weather hits and knocks back the population. Here in the High Country, our sWeed management toolsummers are often very wet, and the ample rain has provided the perfect opportunity for weeds to thrive and disease to take hold.

Since this is my first year farming independently, creating a pest and disease management plan is new to me. In the past, as a farmworker, I have been mostly unaware of the spray regimen that the farmers I worked for followed, or if they had a spray regimen. There are many sprays that are approved for organic growing that I use on my farm. These sprays are derived from natural rather than synthetic ingredients and break down readily in the environment, so they don’t become a persistent problem for non-target insects and don’t leave residues that harm the consumer.

Though using sprays to control pests and diseases is normal and often necessary, like many farmers that I respect, I began farming with the idea that I would not spray anything, ever, and optimistically believed I could manage field conditions enough to keep my plants healthy and mostly disease and pest free. The realization that I, and many other farmers, had to come to is that the choice to spray is often a matter of having a crop or not, and for many of us, not having a crop means not making money, and is not an option. It’s also hard to stomach crop failure, and when you’ve grown a plant from a seed, and taken care of it for weeks, intervention in its demise seems like the obvious choice.

My farm has been affected by many of the usual pests- flea beetles, squash bugs, potato beetles, cucumber beetles, and cabbage worms. Use of sprays like Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), a soil bacterium, and neem oil, have been helpful respectively as a means of population control, and as a pest deterrent. Many of our pest populations seem to have been reduced this year, or had a late start due to our cold winter. The harlequin beetle has been particularly bothersome, targeting crops in the broccoli family, and though most of my spring cold crops were harvested before the onslaught, I have kept kale growing through the summer, and have spent time knocking the red beetles off the plants, then squishing them between my fingers. I admit that at the beginning of the season, I felt squeamish about squishing insects, and then once I got used to squishing soft insects, I still was unnerved by the crunch of a hard beetle shell. But out of necessity, I have learned to speed down a row, squishing efficiently, though I may cringe a little bit.

Sometimes cultural practices can make all the difference with pest control. The land that we grow on has quite a large japanese beetle population, something that is hard to remedy because the larvae live through the winter in the soil, and come out again the next year. Japanese beetles especially like fruits and flowers, so they attacked our grape trellises, our flowers, like my zinnias, and also my basil. Interestingly, I found that after the beetles had been damaging my basil for weeks, when areas around the basil were weed whacked so there were no high stands of weeds near the basil, they left the basil alone. All in all, my experiences with pest insects have led me to educate myself on pests and pest prevention and determent, and despite pest pressure, most crops have remained productive.

Disease has been a big disappointment and wake up call for me this season. When moving up here, I was told that the wet summers often make for tomato crop failure, but coming from the Piedmont, I’ve had a love for the many varieties, and an obsession with eating fresh summer tomatoes. I decided I would at least plant enough tomatoes for myself to enjoy, and that turned into planting about 200 plants. I was warned that the plants need quite a bit of room between them for airflow, so I thinned my planting so that it was about 100 plants, spaced two to three feet apart. Up here, because of the moisture, it is advised to spray tomatoes for blight starting soon after planting, on rougly a weekly basis, rotating the spray used between several different products. July was a very wet month, with rain almost daily, and low nighttime temperatures mean that even when there is not rain, the leaves of the tomatoes will be wet with dew. This is the ideal condition for blight, a fungus that travels by spores in the air, and my tomatoes were infected near the end of July, before any fruit had turned red. The disease infected and killed all of the plants within about a week. I spent a lot of money on infrastructure for my tomato trellising this year, buying t posts between which I strung the tomatoes. To have a total crop failure means no return on that investment, at least for this year.

With the constant moisture, my cucumbers also ended up with downy mildew, another fungal disease. They continue to produce, but their yields are diminished, something that is sad to see after the vines were so thick with yellow blossoms that promised a bounty of fruit. Solutions for this include using sprays to control and prevent downy mildew next year, possibly trellising cucumbers in the future instead of letting them vine on the ground, and staggering multiple plantings. I also have to decide whether it is worth it to me to plant tomatoes or cucumbers, two crops that are common at our farmer’s market. I believe it may be worth it to leave the tomatoes to larger farmers, who most importantly can grow tomatoes in hoop houses, covered and protected from rain. Finding funding for a hoop house for the Farmer Incubator and Grower (F.I.G.) property where I farm would be very beneficial for all of our producers. Plants could be set out earlier in spring, and crops would be protected from the elements, rain being the most damaging to crops in our area.

I assure myself as Fall officially approaches, that the season is downhill from here. I have planted a large crop of fall brassicas and seeded spinach, carrots, lettuces, arugula that are all sprouting. I hope to seed a few more crops that will hopefully be successful this fall and won’t be hit with an early freeze. Spending my days out in my fields, I am always reminded that this work is a gamble, and a struggle.Agricultural work is a reminder that to build something takes a long time. Hard work and experience will aid in my success, but conditions change every season, every month, every day in farming. For now, I am hooked to the pleasure and willing to endure the pain.

Turnips

 Turnip recipes from our Agriculture Supported Communities program.

Mashed Root Vegetables with Horseradish
Adapted from Gourmet Today by Ruth Reichl

1 pound turnips, peeled and cut into ½-inch pieces
Salt
1 ½ pounds potatoes
¼ cup heavy cream
4 tablespoons butter
2-3 tablespoons finely grated peeled fresh horseradish or drained bottled horseradish
Pepper

Cook turnips in a 4-quart pot of boiling salted water for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, peel potatoes and cut into 1/2 –inch pieces.

Add potatoes to pot and boil until all vegetables are tender, 10-12 minutes more.

Meanwhile, heat cream, butter, and horseradish (to taste) in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring occasionally, until butter is melted and mixture is hot. Remove from heat and cover to keep warm.

Drain vegetables, return to pot, and heat over high heat, shaking pot, until any excessliquid has evaporated, about 30 seconds. Remove from heat and our cream mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into vegetables; press hard on solids for more horseradish flavor if desired. Add ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper and mash vegetables with a potato masher until smooth, with some small pieces remaining. Season with additional salt and pepper if needed.

Serves 4

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To Braise and Glaze Turnips
Adapted from Gourmet Today by Ruth Reichl

Peel the turnips and cut into 8 wedges each. (If using smaller turnips, cut them into quarters.) Melt 2 tablespoons unsalted butter in a heavy saucepan, add the turnips, 1 cup chicken broth or water, 1 teaspoon sugar, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon black pepper, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until the turnips are tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer the turnips to a bowl with a slotted spoon and boil the cooking liquid until reduced to a glaze, about 3 to 4 tablespoons. Return the turnips to the pan and simmer until just heated through. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with fresh parsley, then serve.