Back from Asheville, potatoes planted, UN urges small-scale organics

MENFairLogoI got home from the Mother Earth News Fair in Asheville, NC yesterday, happy with a successful and enjoyable weekend. My workshops The Hoophouse in Spring and Summer, and The Hoophouse in Fall and Winter are viewable if you click on SlideShare.net. The fall and winter one has bonus material, because I couldn’t show all the slides in the time available! 200-250 people attended each workshop, all my handouts disappeared. The Spring and Summer one on Saturday morning had some technical hitches. It was windy and the handouts and raffle tickets (for a copy of my book) blew around despite my weighting them down with the biggest rocks I could find in the parking lot. The microphone didn’t work well, and not everyone could get a good view of the screen. And some people were stuck in traffic and couldn’t get to my workshop (the first of the event) in time. But the Fall and Winter one on Sunday had no traffic, microphone or weather challenges, and all went well. The weather was beautiful. Attendance at the Fair was up from last year’s 16,000 figure to 20,000!

Photo Barnes and Noble

Photo Barnes and Noble

I enjoyed attending two workshops by Craig LeHoullier about tomato growing and which to choose for best flavor. I reviewed his lovely book Epic Tomatoes earlier. Craig is now working on another book, this one about straw-bale gardening. Another workshop I enjoyed was Joel Dufour from BCS Earth Tools. Entitled “Garden Tools 202: The stuff you won’t learn at a big box store,” it included information on tool ergonomics and materials, including steel hardness. I loved this advice on how to tell a good hoe from a bad one: if you finish hoeing and the hoe has specks of white dust on it, you have a good hoe that is harder than the rocks you nicked. If instead your hoe has dings where the rocks nicked it, your hoe is very inferior. Earth Tools sells good hand tools as well as good engine-powered tools. Two things Joel didn’t tell us in his workshop –  their customer service is among the best around, and their business is very ecological: they really walk their talk. See their website for more.


While I was at the Fair this weekend, our Garden Crew was busy planting potatoes – at last – we have been held back by cold weather and wet soil. A full month late, so we’re looking at lower yields unless we can harvest later. Not straightforward, as we usually clear the potatoes and transplant our fall broccoli and cabbage on that plot. And we can’t delay that, or we won’t get a decent harvest before the weather cools down too much. . .

Flats of broccoli seedlings in our cold frame. Photo Kathryn Simmons

Flats of broccoli seedlings in our cold frame.
Photo Kathryn Simmons

We’ve also got the beds prepared for transplanting the spring broccoli and cabbage. We’re 10 days late on that, but the plants were slow-growing earlier, and they’re in nice deep flats, so they might not be set back at all.

The weather changed over the weekend (frost on Saturday night) to warm and sunny. Our over-wintered Vates kale is now all bolting, and a couple of members are enthusiastically making kale chips. There’s a simple recipe here. Kale chips are especially good sprinkled with nutritional yeast. Quite addictive. Also because the kale shrinks, you can move a lot of kale by making chips, and it no longer seems sad that it’s all bolting!


The Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group posted this  news (encouraging sustainable farmers on a distressing topic):

UN Report Urges Return to Small-Scale Organic Farming

A UN farming report, Wake Up Before It’s Too Late, is publicly  recognizing and acknowledging that it’s time to return to a more sustainable and organic food system. Increasing species diversity and reducing the use of chemical fertilizers, are two of the changes desperately needed, according to the UN report. The report also covers topics such as land use, climate change and global food security.The conclusion of the report is, “This implies a rapid and significant shift from conventional, monoculture-based and high-external-input-dependent industrial production toward mosaics of sustainable, regenerative production systems that also considerably improve the productivity of small-scale farmers.”
Read more on the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy blog.

UNCTAD Report Wake Up Before It Is Too Late

UNCTAD Report, Wake Up Before It Is Too Late

5 thoughts on “Back from Asheville, potatoes planted, UN urges small-scale organics

  1. i hate getting behind schedule with my garden. It has a domino effect. Got my white potatoes in mid February and they are 2 feet tall already . Got my blues and yellows in mid March and they are a foot high. Should have a nice staggered harvest. Good luck with your taters!

    • I wonder where you live. Our potatoes are just starting to peak through the soil 4/27. Very late indeed, but we did our best. We’ll plant more in mid-June. I agree with what you say about the domino effect of getting behind schedule. We make up a “Can’t Do It All” chart if we get seriously set back, and then discard plantings if it’s clear we can’t do everything.

  2. Pam, I attended your workshops this past weekend in Asheville. As a seasoned grower originating from New Hampshire, I struggled last year (my first season here) to wrap my head around planting dates. I mentioned more than once to a local growing friend that I just couldn’t get it right and considered that maybe I needed a mentor again. I longed for an Eliot Coleman or Michael Kilpatrick of the south to bring some charts that apply in this crazy zone. You are her! Thank you for your time and information this weekend. Maybe I don’t need to go back to apprentice after all 😉

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