Monthly Archives: April 2014

This sedge is driving me nuts!

As the weather heats up and nature swings back into high gear, so does the work on the small farm unit. We arrived on the farm Monday to find that our steers were not in their designated pasture and began a brief, but frantic search. They turned up on the far side of our lower fields, standing in the shade, eating dew soaked grass. Image

 

Marisa and I flanked them from either side and corralled them toward the pasture, while Phillip rode ahead on the gator in case they made a run for it. 

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We moved them back across the fields and into their pasture without incident, then worked on our electric fence for a bit to make sure it would be more persuasive, should they try to escape again. 

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Although it is early in the season, we have also been doing a lot of harvesting in our high tunnels. This week alone we produced enough lettuce and spinach to fill the bed of our farm truck (In sanitary boxes of course).

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Our produce is primarily donated to a local soup kitchen with a wonderful chef, who finds creative ways to use whatever we have in season. We also donate to the nearby neurological center and various non profits in Goldsboro. 

In the past couple of weeks the weather has finally begun allowing us to move our transplants out of the cold frames and into the fields.  

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This brings me to the theme of this weeks post, nutsedge. Nutsedge is a perennial weed that resembles grass and persists in frequently disturbed soils by storing starches in its roots. It is considered a noxious weed by the USDA and it is the bane of my existence. We spent in the neighborhood of 5 hours this week exclusively on our hands and knees digging nutsedge our of our rows and if we look away for a minute, it seems as if it grows right back. 

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The above picture shows the vegetative portion of the plant, as well as the starch filled root.

My favorite part of this week was learning how to do a field calculation to estimate the amount of nitrogen per acre that your cover crop provides. After a lesson on variable nitrogen content and decomposition of organic matter Evan Taylor, our resident research specialist, brought us out to show us first hand.

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We randomly selected two points in the field to place a small PVC square and cut all of the vegetation within its boundary. 

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We then weighed the cover crop and used previously collected data to estimate the amount of nitrogen per pound and therefore estimate how much was in our field.

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Finally, this week I began my community work with Ms. Gladys McClary at the WA Foster center. We will be using an existing garden to plant vegetables and fruit with the help of our enthusiastic junior gardeners and the surrounding community. 

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If you would like to catch up with our former apprentice Carolina Hampton and read about her latest farming venture at the Octopus Garden in Valle Crucis, NC, you can do so here: http://rodaleinstitute.org/jumping-in-heart-first/.

THE SAGA CONTINUES: Getting into the Swing of Spring

After getting settled into our new digs and acclimating to early mornings out on the farm, we started our training on transplanting seedlings from the greenhouse to the fields.

Soon, these little guys will be grown and ready for harvest.

Soon, these little guys will be grown and ready for harvest.

First on the list was learning how to operate a tractor.

Angela takes her first ride on a tractor with instruction from research specialist Evan Taylor.

Angela takes her first ride on a tractor with instruction from research specialist Evan Taylor.

We used the tractor to create rows in the two Upper Fields, and in our Home Garden.

Newly created Home Garden.

Newly created Home Garden complete with pea trellises, you can see our solar powered greenhouse in the background.

Having gotten some experience on the Small Farm here in Goldsboro, we traveled to NC A&T to tour their Small Farm Unit. While in Greensboro, we attended a lecture by Robin Emmons, who operates Sow Much Good in Charlotte. The following day we attended a seminar presented by Chatham County Co-operative Extension centered around the techniques and challenges of high tunnel production.

Each of us has the opportunity to work on one of the CEFS Animal Units. Myeasha and I have been visiting the Pasture Raised Beef and Alternative Swine Units to get a feel for the work and research being conducted. In the evening between two of our morning swine shifts, the sows had given birth to piglets, and before we cleaned out their pens, I was able to snap a few shots.

It's not easy being Mom...

It’s not easy being Mom…

with all those mouths to feed...

with all those mouths to feed…

but the special moments make it all worthwhile.

but the special moments make it all worthwhile.

In addition to animal husbandry and agricultural production, we also focus on community engagement and the business of farming. In order to better understand how to run a successful farm operation from the business perspective, we began attending monthly classes with Charles Gaylor from Wayne Community College.

Charles giving an introduction on how to create a business plan.

Charles giving an introduction on how to create a business plan.

And this week also saw the first visit from a group of elementary school students from the Discover Ag program.

The Discover Ag group (mostly) listens to community outreach coordinator Shorlette Ammons talk about sustainable agriculture.

A group from the Discover Ag program (mostly) listens to community outreach coordinator Shorlette Ammons talk about sustainable ag.

We still have a lot to learn through the Spring and Summer, like who or what is laying the eggs in our backyard, but we’re off to a great start and looking forward to the rest of the year!

I think it's the foxes, but Jordan, who studied biology and ecology, thinks otherwise.

I think it’s the foxes, but Jordan, who studied biology and ecology, thinks otherwise.

Until next time, so long from Goldsboro!

The CEFS Newbies: 4 City Slickers on 30 Acres in Goldsboro, North Cowalina

First steps in Goldsboro

Myeasha’s First steps in Goldsboro

Who would ever guess that I’d end in rural Goldsboro NC from D.C.? A City girl in a country world is what I often say.

This’ll be my first time living further away from my hometown in D.C. As a matter of fact, it has only been three weeks and I’ve had so many first times. So here’s a breakdown.

First Week:

On my first day of work in Goldsboro, I worked on the CEFS dairy unit. I was a bit hesitant to go because of all the precautions given before about cows stepping or going on your feet, but it turned out to be a really great experience. I went to the pastures to get the dairy cows, fed them, helped identify the cows that were ready to be bred, and participated in the whole systematic process of milking. By the second week, I was comfortable enough putting the milking devices on their utters. Though I was still a little nervous about becoming a toilet or kicking target for a cow that wasn’t quite ready to be milked, I think I got through two weeks in the dairy unit quite successfully. Now, I’m always asking myself, “Will these will be your last days of eating beef?” This is the closest I’ve ever been to my food before it becomes “food”. I still eat burgers every now and then. So maybe not quite yet.

Myeasha after a day's work at the CEFS dairy unit

Myeasha after a day’s work at the CEFS dairy unit.

First Harvest:

Aside from leaving D.C. to expand my experience in organic farming, I was came down to the south for some good ol’ mid 60s weather. Let’s just say, North Carolina didn’t quite greet me that way. I think most of us apprentices weren’t expecting such windy and cold weather. However, we prevailed. We harvested 10 lbs of fresh salad mix for the Salvation Army’s daily food pantry. Don’t be fooled by the hint of sunlight peeking into the high tunnel. It was such a cold day!

(Left to right) apprentices Philip, Jordan, Angela and farm manager Marisa.

(Left to right) apprentices Phillip, Jordan, Angela and farm manager Marisa.

First Lessons:

Jordan ecstatically handling our pest problem.

Jordan ecstatically handling our pest problem.

After going over our apprenticeship SMART goals for that we each individually created, we went out to the farm.Jordan got to use the pesticide backpack sprayer for the first time. Fortunately, we use soapy water solutions and other organic pest control techniques instead of using toxic chemicals that harm our soil, plants, or farmers. As you can tell, he’s pretty excited about wiping out those aphids that are trying to suck all the nutrients from our plants. I think it was a pretty exciting day for Angela too but, Philip looks rather scared.

(Left to right) Philip and Angela take a ride for the first time in the Gator.

(Left to right) Phillip and Angela take a ride for the first time in the Gator.

During my first beekeeping class with Neuse Regional Beekeeping Club, I got close to bees on purpose. I learned so much about (bee)havior. For instance, inside this small frame are a few worker bees and the selected queen bee. The worker bees are responsible for feeding and protecting her queen bee before establishing the new colony, sometimes they even compete for the title.

New queen bee( with green dot) and worker bees

New queen bee( with green dot) and worker bees.

I must say Goldsboro has been quite the place so far. I’m really loving my day to day and week to week. We have a journey ahead of us for the next 8 months. Join us as we navigate it!