The small farm has been transitioned to fall production and so far everything is growing well. Despite the persistence of grasshoppers, aphids, whiteflies, and a variety of worms, our fall brassicas are hanging on tough. To recap my experience for the past month I attended a cut flower production workshop through the Cooperative Extension of Chatham County where I learned all there is to know about growing cut flowers for profit. The workshop spanned two days and was led by Debbie Roos, one of the best extension agents who maintains an excellent website, growingsmallfarms.ces.ncsu.edu with a list of resources for Chatham County and the state of North Carolina on workshops offered, pest and disease management, direct marketing, forestry, and anything else a beginning farmer could be interested in. She has great photos too, here is one from the workshop.
The workshop was also led by Wild Hare Farm grower Leah Cook. Both Leah and Cathy shared a wealth of knowledge they have gained through many years of experience growing and marketing cut flowers. We covered species/cultivar identification, harvest and postharvest techniques, irrigation, deer fencing and more.
Back on the farm, we have had a successful summer of peppers, tomatoes, and okra as our top producers.
After such a hot August, we are all relieved to start feeling the weather change and rainfall has been better than before. This helps with our fall production because our irrigation is set divided into two fields on the lower part of the farm, which are then divided into quadrants for water pressure reasons. This allows us to control the water pressure to each block better than if we had not divided the irrigation system up in this way. The only other hurdle with irrigation this fall has been cleaning the sand out of the filter upon every change of watering. This is a common scenario when you are growing in sandy soils.
Taking ownership of the fall production has been gratifying for all of us, because now that we are in the last leg of the apprenticeship program, it is a welcome opportunity to put our technical and management skills in action. We are all pretty grateful for Marisa’s teaching style of allowing us to take on more responsibility for what happens with the fall crops.
I have been enjoying my work at Dillard Academy, the summer program revolved around food traditions in a global society, so the students were able to learn about different regions of the world and how/what food is grown. The garden consisted of primarily crops grown from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, which is a company that seeks to preserve heirloom seeds from all over the world, so this was a good intersection with the summer program’s focus on global food. I had some assistance from interns Chris, Alison, and Julianna in maintaining the gardens over the summer, and we also all had the opportunity to come into the classroom and talk with upcoming sixth graders about the dynamics of small farms in comparison to large scale farms and how the consolidation of the food system affects us all.
The four steers are doing pretty well, we are getting them ready to move down to the lower fields this week where we will supplement their diet with some grain so we can hold them in this pasture for a little bit longer.
We had a good haul out of our home garden, despite all the initial damage from the deer. I grew ali baba watermelon and it was received by the crew as the best tasting variety we had. We filled up the white truck with Boston marrow squash, an old favorite that has a subtle flavor similar to butternut squash. Justin is pictured here with some peanuts he grew. Great job Justin!
I spent a morning with Mark and Jamie at the pastured beef unit, where we assessed the pastures and helped Mark corral a herd together to be sprayed for flies. Staying on top of how flies are affecting your herd is important for animal welfare and for production efficiency, and Mark has taught us a lot over the course of this program about the element of reciprocity regarding treating animals humanely. Quality animal treatment means you are putting a quality product on the market, stewarding and rebuilding soil with rotational pastures, and gaining returns on the investment and commitment you make to provide for animals.
Lastly, we have been keeping up with the bees. We just gave them some sugar water to supplement their diet because this time of the year can be hard for bees to find enough to eat. I am still interested in pursuing basic beekeeping skills, but I have become a little shy after being stung repeatedly that maybe the venom has gone to my head. It will be different when I buy a fancy bee suit like Justin 🙂
Thank you for reading, and I’ll leave you with this misty morning fog rolling through the high tunnels.