Monthly Archives: July 2014

Lettuce Show You Our Farm

The primary purpose of the Small Farm Unit here at CEFS is to provide a demonstration of organic practices to small farmers in North Carolina. With this being our goal, rather than production for market, we are able to risk using untested growing methods in order to find out if they can benefit farmers in our area.

One of the relatively untested methods that we recently implemented is organic no-till agriculture. Conventional no-till agriculture utilizes herbicides to manage weeds and knock down cover crops. Since organic herbicides are very expensive and often less effective than their conventional counterpart, we decided to omit them from our demonstration. So far we have found the no-till field to be considerably more labor intensive than our tilled organic fields, as it requires us to mow and weed whack between the plants about once a week.


Organic no-till tomato rows


Using the lawn mower between no-till rows

As previously mentioned our main purpose is to demonstrate the farm to people in our area. This week we presented the farm to a group of over 100 minority landowners brought together by the USDA to discuss ways to maximize the value of their property. Many of the men and women on the tour were already farming their land and had been for years, so they contributed valuable information during the tour, but also gained exposure to some of our less common practices.


Loading up the trailers for the tour


The tour was broken up into three parts that we felt encapsulated the most important aspects of the farm:

1. Our high tunnel demonstration, which allows farmers to extend their growing season and have a competitive edge in local markets.


2. Our greenhouse, which is essential for propagating transplants in the early and late months.


3. Our production fields, which are an excellent example of a 6-year crop rotation with animal integration.


After the tour, we headed over to the equipment shed outside of the service building, which had been converted into a dining hall for a delicious catered lunch.  Our superintendent Andy Meier gave a brief history of the station and reminded the visitors that their tax dollars pay for the work that we do and therefore we work for them. This message is fundamental, because if the people of North Carolina are not benefiting from our research, then all of the work that we do is in vain.


Superintendent Andy Meier addresses the tour group

I will leave you with an image of the Passion Flower, a North Carolina native that I found growing in the woods that surround our farm.




Mid-Summer Adventures

It’s the height of the summer and we’re staying busy with the interns on the farm, as well as with occasional trips outside of Goldsboro.  We’ve been visiting various farms with the Sandhill Farm School over the course of the apprenticeship and a couple weeks ago we visited Vollner Farm to learn about Good Agricultural Practices (GAPS) certification and food safety on a small farm.  We also got to visit a couple peach orchards and a peach nursery in Bunn, NC.

I’ve been working the youth group, Students Working for a Revolutionary Agricultural Movement (SWARM) during my time here are the Small Farm Unit, helping to build upon their farming and gardening knowledge and skills, which are applied here on the farm and at various community garden sites in Goldsboro.   They also help lead Discover Ag, our on-farm school field trip program.  Lately, they’ve been doing quite a bit of pest scouting.


SWARMers busy with integrated pest management


Jordan and the SWARMers identifying pests on the farm

Insects are not the only pests on the farm.  Our summer fields and home garden are routinely visited by deer.  Below, Jordan strikes a pose as one of the wild pigs which have taken to tearing up our habitat garden.

jordan pig

The Small Farm Unit has a 19-year-old blueberry variety trial, which demonstrates which varieties do best in Eastern North Carolina.  The blueberries are in the height of production and we are all enjoying as many blueberries as we can possibly eat.

blueberries close up 2

Endless blueberries

blueberry bushes

The Small Farm Unit blueberry variety trial

Cover crops play a huge role in the  management of our agricultural production on the farm, both in the fields and in the research high tunnels.  It’s interesting to see the landscape constantly changing, keeping an eye towards long-term sustainability.

high tunnel cover crop

Summer cover crops in the research high tunnel

buckwheat cover

A quick buckwheat cover crop

sudan grass

What was just grazing pasture is now planted in sorghum-Sudan grass summer cover crop.

The interns have been engaged in various work projects on the farm for the past few weeks.  Aside from doing day-to-day tasks on the farm, we apprentices have been working with them on developing plans for a large herb garden, on developing and managing habitat gardens, a vermicomposting system, and a flower variety trial.

interns  high tunnel

Marisa, the SFU farm manager, leads the interns on Monday morning farm tour, planning our week’s work

Between the deer the weeds, it’s been a challenge to keep our experimental no-till summer crops alive.  It does look like we’ll have okra, squash, zucchini and tomatoes, but we lost our melons and peppers.

interns in summer field

Interns and apprentices assessing crops in the experimental no-till summer field

tomatoes in field 2

Tomatoes growing in the no-till field

This weekend we are headed West to visit the Central Carolina Community College’s farm, an agricultural research station and small farm in the mountains.  Stay tuned!