Monthly Archives: May 2013

Beetle Juice. Beetle Juice. Beetle Juice.

No, not the Tim Burton movie. (Although, I love that film. What a classic.)

I’m talking about the stuff you encounter when practicing organic pest control and squishing buggies off your plants. Like this guy. The Colorado Potato Beetle.

ImageThis bad boy is a serious pest for potatoes. So every couple of days we go through our potato plants and try to get rid of the eggs and adolescents before they get too much of a head start. They are soft bodied until they reach adulthood, so squishing is the tactic to use! Hence…beetle juice. You really have to get over any bug phobias when you decide to be an organic farmer.

Here is what the eggs look like.

ImageAnd they develop in to this.

ImageAnd then this, before they become adults.

ImageThe Colorado Potato Beetle is particularly difficult to control with insecticides even, because they have developed a resistance to most kinds. With small scale potato production, however, managing them the way we do works just fine.

Other than squishing bugs, all of us on the farm are preparing for the arrival of the interns! We will have 14 of them coming THIS weekend. They are from all over the country and come from a wide range of backgrounds. It will be fun to have new energy around here.

The summer is heating up! Quite literally… But its going to be jam packed full of activities…and opportunities!

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Today…I castrated a pig

That’s right. Today, I castrated a piglet all by myself. Not like a bucket list type of achievement but I think it’s a pretty big deal! I’ve come quite a long ways from pushing paper at a desk in the big city.

The new mama gilts had their piglets over at the swine unit late last week and over the weekend. We’ve been back and forth trying to catch them during the process. The babies are just adorable! Here’s some proof in case you had any doubt.

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I mean, look at them! This litter just conked out as soon as their bellies got full. Some with the teat still in their mouths!

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What an amazing experience. There certainly are ups and downs when it comes to working with livestock, but being around the animals and giving them the best life possible is what it’s all about.

It was a great day actually. This morning, we also attended a workshop about enhancing your land to provide habitats for wildlife and insects. It was fascinating. I even caught myself considering going back to school for entomology! Guess that’s a sign of a good workshop.

Here is Dr. Orr from NCSU showing us the early successional habitat we have at the organic research area on Cherry Research Farm.

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And to top it all off, I made dinner with turnips and beets from the farm. Sautéed turnip and beet greens and roasted turnip and beet roots. (Plus sweet potatoes from the farmers market here in Goldsboro.) Just ignore the beer battered frozen fish. I do what I can… 🙂

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-Kellyn

This week’s happenings

Kellyn again. It’s been an out of the ordinary week at the small farm so I’ve been knocked off my game a little, as far as blogging goes.

Monday I was fortunate enough to tag along with the livestock apprentices and visit one of the dairys that Rachel mentioned in her post below. It was really neat to get a little insight into what it means to run your own dairy.

ImageTuesday was mostly routine but we did start talking more seriously about our CSA (community supported agriculture) project this summer. Mary Claire and I are very interested in learning the business of running a small farm, and CSA’s are a crucial part of that. I think I’ll save the details for another post though. We still have quite a few details to hammer out, anyway.

Wednesday, we spent a good part of the day sprucing up the sign in front of the farm! It was fun to do a little landscaping and I think it turned out purdy nice. We chose perennials with the hope that it will stay purdy for many years to come.

Before-

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After-

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Wednesday, I also attended the Neuse Regional Beekeepers monthly meeting. I was thoroughly impressed by how well attended the meeting was! There are quite a lot of people that are keeping bees in this area. I learned a lot just from listening to people’s questions and the discussion they prompted. Stay tuned for more information about an event we will be having for National Honeybee Day in August…

Today, we planted a half acre of stevia! Thankfully there were many hands involved, as well as some machinery to automate the process. It was a nice opportunity to see how a transplanter works.

Stevia is pretty cool too. It is a natural sweetener and has some properties that make it ideal for diabetics as well as those on low carb diets. It is 300 times sweeter than sugar so it packs quite a punch. We planted this demo and research plot here at Cherry because it has potential to be a viable cash crop for many former tobacco farmers in this area. Next time you are in the sugar aisle at the grocery, check it out!

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So that basically catches us up for the week. We’ve been busy as usual, as you can see! Things will just be getting busier as the summer gets going. We have 14 interns on the way, a Junior Master Gardener program, our CSA project, and endless workshops and festivals planned.

I sure haven’t been disappointed in all the wonderful activities and opportunities to engage and learn in Goldsboro and the region!

Thanks for reading!
-Kellyn

 

 

Piedmont Dairy Tours

Throughout the spring, our livestock apprentices, Rachael & Erik, have visited a number of pasture-based dairy farms all across the state of North Carolina.

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This is a photo of Randy Fisher’s farm in Cabarrus County–Randy has been breeding Norwegian Red and Swedish Red cattle and making cheese on his farm. These breeds perform well on pasture and have a short enough gestation length to be included in a seasonal-breeding herd. We will soon introduce these breeds into our crossbreeding program at the CEFS dairy unit here in Goldsboro, NC to get some interesting hybrid effects between the Swedish Red / Jersey / Holstein crosses. The 3-way crosses will certainly make the data analysis a challenge, though!

DSC01636Randy has been experimenting with a number of different forage strategies to acquire unique flavors in his cheese. A lot of the plants that tend to lead to “off” flavors in a cow’s milk (such as wild garlic) are actually desirable when making cheese because they contribute to the flavor profile that develops through the aging process. His products fill a valuable niche market in NC and diverse forages are particularly important in his system. To reduce his reliance on feeding supplemental grain (which is growing to be more and more expensive with rising fuel and fertilizer costs), he has experimented with planting different crops within the pasture for the cows to harvest and increase the caloric value of their forage. One in particular that has been successful is planting turnips in the pasture–the cows will actually uproot the turnips themselves and eat the calorie-dense root of the plant. When he first turned his cows out into the pasture once the turnips were ready, Randy said “I couldn’t figure out what was wrong at first. All of the cows had their heads up instead of down, like they should be when they’re browsing… then I looked closer and saw all of them chewing away at the turnip roots!” I can imagine the cows feel the same joy that we do when we harvest those treasures beneath the soil surface.

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We made a pit-stop at a country store to browse some local homemade food products before heading to Ryan Sloop’s Brown Swiss Dairy Farm in Rowan County… I picked up some delicious local hoop cheese and pickled okra as a snack for the road 🙂

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Ryan Sloop’s dairy is just about as close to organic as you can get without the “official” certification. Dairy farmers vary in their motivation for choosing to go organic, and the Sloop Family’s motivation is mainly to reduce costs and avoid the liability associated with antibiotics and dewormers showing up in their milk. The Sloop Dairy is one of the few debt-free dairy farms and hopefully they can stay that way and still bring in a profit! I hope that we can find more ways to encourage dairy farmers to embrace organic, pasture-based systems, and the only way that we are going to do that is by showing them how it saves money.DSC01650I fell in love with the Brown Swiss breed instantly! Unfortunately we will not be incorporating this breed into our crossbreeding program since their gestation length is a bit too long for the timing of the seasonal calving to work out just right. I will certainly add a few Brown Swiss to my list of animals to keep at home, though…

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Last weekend we visited Charlie Payne’s organic dairy farm in Harmony, NC as part of the Organic Valley’s CROPP Cooperative pasture walk. Charlie’s dairy is completely pasture based and has been certified organic for a few years. While on the pasture walk, we talked about some of the challenges of building soil nutrition and how different grazing strategies, such as using green manure to build the soil, can affect the long-term success of a totally grass-based dairy farm. “Green manure” is the grazier’s terminology for stamping down the grass so that it decomposes into the soil–cows do this naturally to some extent by tramping down some of the forage as they move through a pasture. Whatever the cows won’t eat either stays there and keeps growing or gets trampled into the soil and feeds the soil microbes. Farmers can also use discs to work the forage deeper into the soil. Different crops can be used to adjust different aspects of the nutrient profile–for example, legumes such as clover and alfalfa are great for sequestering nitrogen since these plants naturally possess root nodules that harbor bacteria that are essential to the nitrogen cycle.DSC01702

Cow naps are an important part of the natural green manure process, although it can be frustrating when they choose to lie down on a beautiful patch of weed-free forage rather than eating it! Sigh… can somebody teach her to take a nap on the weeds instead?!

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This Jersey cow has an udder full of fresh organic milk! Notice there are only a few flies around her face–this farm, in spite of being an organic operation, is doing a very good job with their fly control without using harsh chemicals.

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Meanwhile, back at the CEFS Cherry Dairy in Goldsboro, NC, our cows are grazing our alfalfa plots for the second time. We measured stand density and counted alfalfa weevils prior to the first round of grazing and found that our alfalfa was doing quite well. There were only a few weevils present and although there were not enough for them to be a big concern for reducing our yield, we went ahead and did a round of “early grazing” to make sure that the weevil larvae got eaten by the cows before they could reproduce. DSC01694-001Now that the alfalfa is growing back after the first grazing, it’s looking better than ever! And the cows love it. We are scouting the pastures about every two weeks to make sure that the weevil counts are still low and to check for the presence of other insects that may be beneficial for preying on the weevil larvae, such as lady beetles and parasitic wasps.

That’s all for now!

Rachael

The abundance of harvest time

Yesterday we had a big harvest! We took about 275 lbs of food to the soup kitchen, crisis center and a developmental disability center. We have turnips, beets, and heads of lettuce coming out our ears!

We started first thing in the morning as usual.

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It was fun to pull out those root veggies and find the treasure underneath the soil!

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Evan was quite proud of the turnips. 🙂

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Our beets are a bit small still but we hope people will use the greens as well. I know I will!

We also wanted to thin them a bit so hopefully we will have bigger roots next harvest.

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And the lettuce could not have been more beautiful!

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We did not have any pest issues on the field lettuce (aphid is a bad word around us after washing all those lettuces from the high tunnel…) and the heads were just sooooo much healthier than the ones in the high tunnels. There are several reasons for this, the biggest being that we fertilized the field and not the high tunnel. The high tunnel lettuces were part of a research project and weren’t supposed to be fertilized. It was a good opportunity to see the impact of soil nutrition!

’twas a successful morning!

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In the afternoon, we spent some much needed time in the office planning our CSA! Boy it’s gonna be good! I’ll tell you guys more about it later…

Now time to visit the Raleigh farmers market finally! Happy Saturday!
-Kellyn

Save the bees!

Happy Thursday, everyone! It was a gorgeous day on the farm today. It gave us a little preview of the summer heat to come, although we were assured several times that we haven’t seen anything yet. Well, I’ve lived in Austin and San Antonio for the last three years, so hopefully I’m hardened off to stand the heat. (Like my greenhouse lingo?)
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This morning I got to take part in splitting a few of the bee hives in an effort to increase the number of hives in our bee yard. Bees are such an integral part of growing food, so I have jumped on the opportunity to learn how to keep them. I recently read that they pollinate something like 80% of all flowering crops, which makes up a lot of what we eat! Having a healthy hive around can really make a difference in fruit/vegetable size and yield.

So, I knew how important they are but I didn’t know how fascinating they are to watch!
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I’m pretty much just observing at this point but I’ve gotten to see the inter workings of the hives. It’s so amazing to spot the queen bee, see the honey, nectar, and brood in each cell of the comb, and even watch a bee “hatching” from one of the cells!

Just another reason I love doing this work.
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Hopefully as I learn more about beekeeping, I can share again in a little more detail.

The rest of the day was split between measuring trees at the farming systems research unit (more on that another time) and planting tomatoes and peppers at an after school program garden. It’s good to get off the farm every now and again!

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Thanks for reading!
-Kellyn