Farmer and gardener health and wellness

A crew member string-weaving peas in our hoophouse in February. Photo Wren Vile

Raising food is good work, right livelihood, outdoor work in the rain, sunshine and fresh air. The physical tiredness at the end of the day can bring good sleep. Farmers contribute to production of healthy food, and get to enjoy extremely fresh food from very local farms.

And yet – some days this is not the whole story. Farming can be hard on the body, the brain and the emotions. It can be stressful trying to get a good outcome from a situation that went outside our control and took a turn for the worse. Some things we can control, others we cannot. Some things we will be able to do a better job of dealing with next time they come around. Our work is not punching out identical widgets. Seasons change, tasks change. Only for a short time each year do we need to know how to decide if a watermelon is ripe. Once in a hundred years we need to know how to deal with a one-hundred-year flood (hmm!). I have written about being prepared for and dealing with disasters in The Year-Round Hoophouse. Being prepared and having a plan of what to do when things go wrong is a very good way to manage mental and emotional stress.

Hauling sweet potatoes uphill the hard way. Sometimes we use the truck!
Photo Nina Gentle

Musculoskeletal health

First let’s talk about physical health of the musculoskeletal kind. Overdoing the hard work, making the wrong move, going beyond the limits of our bodies, and wow! Pain! Maybe even injury. After many repeats of the same action, inflammation and problems such as carpal tunnel syndrome, and over time, maybe arthritis too. Musculoskeletal pain affects bones, joints, ligaments, tendons or muscles. See the Cleveland Clinic information page.

Common symptoms include aching, stiffness, burning sensations in the muscles, fatigue, muscle twitches, pain that worsens with movement and sleep disturbances.

Home treatment can include hot and cold compresses, over-the-counter pain relievers (NSAIDs), strengthening and conditioning exercises, stretching exercises, and stress reduction techniques.

Professional treatments can include local injections with anesthetic or anti-inflammatory medications, physical or occupational therapy, acupuncture or acupressure and relaxation/ biofeedback techniques. Most people I’ve seen at physical therapy are there for sports injuries. Sports medicine offers many good exercises for people whose work has injured their bodies.

Prevention is definitely better than cure. I’m a firm believer in doing some stretches and strengthening exercises every morning. Yoga is great too. Going to the gym? Some farmers make time for this, others don’t. Here’s some more prevention tips: limit repetitive movements, or vary them, use good posture and practice correct lifting techniques. (I recommend the Alexander Technique). Alexander Technique teachers help you identify and change harmful habits of posture and body use, and learn to move more freely.

I have written some articles in Growing for Market magazine that are accessible for those with a Full Access subscription on the website. I wrote about stretching in April 2008. Julie Bradley Law wrote an article: A wintertime reset for our most important tool: our bodies. It is free to access, and recommends a few weeks of winter rest, yoga and attunement. Designed by a farmer.

AgrAbility Tool Box

For those with limited physical abilities, AgrAbility provides Assistive Technology, Resources, News, Training, Services in your State. The Toolbox: Agricultural Tools, Equipment, Machinery & Buildings for Farmers and Ranchers with Physical Disabilities is a resource that contains assistive technology solutions for farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural workers with disabilities.

Physical illness

Remember to get checkups. Be aware of ticks, mosquitoes, and rodents and the pest-borne illnesses they can cause. Read about Public health issues caused by pests. The EPA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) have collaborated to create a thorough List of Pests of Significant Public Health Importance

Pests and diseases and climate change: as the climate chaos intensifies pests will move into new geographical ranges. We need to learn about the Zika virus, (cases in Florida and Texas in 2016-17, but none in the continental US since then). Chikungunya is another mosquito-borne virus. In 2014 and 2015, a few local-transmission chikungunya virus disease cases were found in Florida, Texas, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Most of the cases in the US are travelers returning from countries where the disease is endemic.

Internal physical trouble

Let’s keep in mind the symptoms and treatment of heat stress. Heat stress happens when your body can’t cool itself enough. Physical activity during very hot, humid weather, and insufficient replacement of water and electrolytes cause heat stress. It can lead to heatstroke, which is a serious, life-threatening condition.

Home-made rehydration solution

Here is our recipe (“salty lemonade”):

  • 8 oz water
  • 8oz fruit juice (or mix concentrated lemon juice to usual lemonade strength)
  • A pinch (1/8 tsp) salt
  • 2 pinches (¼ tsp) baking soda

During watermelon season, a plate-sized slice of watermelon seems to do the trick!

Crimson Sweet Virginia Select watermelon.
Credit Southern Exposure Seed Exchange

At the other end of the risky weather is extreme cold, especially if it is wet and windy. Livestock farmers are more at risk of hypothermia, trying to save their animals under terrible conditions. Vegetable farmers don’t suffer the same degree of risk.

Our lungs are vulnerable to dusts, pollen, sprays, toxins, microbial pests like the Coronavirus, flu, prions (mad cow disease) and anthrax.. Good masks can guard against all these, as well as asthma and allergies. There are also some specific agricultural problems like farmers’ lung, an allergic disease usually caused by breathing in the dust from moldy hay, or other moldy crop.

Mesothelioma

You may remember hearing about problems with vermiculite in some potting mixes. Some vermiculite naturally includes asbestos. Farmers are at risk of exposure to asbestos through contaminated soil, vermiculite and dust from these products on farm equipment. The Mesothelioma Center provides free information: books, packets and a Patient Advocacy program that works with people individually to help them find local treatment, legal help, and support groups. If you may have been exposed to asbestos they help you find free care and support. They will send you a free printed guide to mesothelioma. Sign up at their website.

Mesothelioma Info pack

The site has a special section for farmers: Farmers and Asbestos.

Mental health

New Mental Health Resources for Farmers in Stressful Times

by Matt Kneece, CFSA South Carolina Policy Coordinator Aug. 5, 2022

“However rewarding, the farming lifestyle often brings a compounding mental load that can be difficult to deal with. Fortunately, the stigmas around mental health and farm stress are breaking down, and farmers don’t have to deal with it alone. . . There are loads of resources to support producers’ physical health, but programs to support mental health are just as critical.”

South Carolina Farm Bureau is now offering access to a new program called AgriWellness including three online counseling sessions free of charge.

North Carolina Agromedicine Institute has compiled a list of resources here.

Another great resource is available through Rural Advancement Foundation International – USA, which offers a crisis hotline for farmers. When crises begin piling up, one of the most important things farmers can do is reach out for help as soon as possible. RAFI-USA’s hotline is designed to be a type of rapid-response available for farmers who need to talk to someone on short notice.

“Farming is a challenging job that can easily be impacted by factors beyond farmers’ control,” said Lisa Misch of RAFI-USA. “Anything from crop failure, natural disasters, market price changes, or family emergencies could lead to a farm crisis. If you are in crisis and need someone to talk to, please call toll-free at (866) 586-6746. The hotline is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.ET” They also provide in-depth assistance from a farmer advocate if you are in danger of losing your farm and/or home.

“In addition to the new therapeutic resources featured above, mental health experts have recommended several tips to farmers dealing with farm stress. Pursuing a healthy diet, staying active, cultivating social support, and getting enough sleep are all great steps toward protecting your mental health.”

I hope you will never need it, but if you get to that point, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or 1-800-799-4889 (deaf/hard of hearing) or text 741741 to the Crisis Text Line.

New 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. Dial just 988. Available 24 hours. English or Spanish. Learn more The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline is a United States-based suicide prevention network of over 160 crisis centers that provides 24/7 service via a toll-free hotline with the number 9-8-8. It is available to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress.

Veterans Crisis Line
https://www.veteranscrisisline.net/
1-800-273-TALK (8255), press ‘1’ Text 838255 Chat also available

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has info on warning signs, how to have a conversation with a loved one you are concerned about, suicide loss, and more.

SC Farm Stress Management Resource Guide

I’ll leave you with this Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service link to Farm Stress Management Resources. There are educational resources, worksheets, articles, podcasts, links to support organizations, and other stress management websites.

I also took part in an interview with Jordan Marr for a podcast with The Ruminant: Audio Candy for Farmers, Gardeners and Food Lovers. It’s about farmers’ struggles with mental health problems, trying to cope with the many and varied stresses, while the public wants farmers to appear competent and blissful with all that time in the Inspiring and Nurturing Outdoors.

The Farmers Aren’t All Right. Podcast from the Ruminant. Episode 92.

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/theruminant/posts/1369936529736669

Speaking Events September 2022-April 2023

 

Signing books at a winter conference.
Photo P J Kingfisher

I started to make in-person bookings again a year ago, then Omicron arrived and lots of conferences switched to being virtual. The only in-person event I attended this spring was the PASA conference, which I enjoyed a lot. I am still doing some virtual events, and planning some live ones too. Everything is subject to change!

As of right now I have two in-person events booked, and one new podcast interview. June and July are the months for speakers to apply to make winter and spring conference presentations, so I’ll be doing that! See my Events Tab for ideas I have of which events to apply to.

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Center for Arkansas Farms and Food logo

September 2022 Event

Center for Arkansas Farms and Food

https://farmandfoodsystem.uada.edu/

Sunday September 18, 2022, 1-4.30 pm

High Tunnel Season Extension (Cool Season)

View through the hoophouse doors in December.
Photo Kathleen Slattery

Contact 479-575-2798 or CAFF@uark.edu

CAFF Beginning Farmer/Apprenticeship Farm Tours and Workshops

Workshop: In-person. CAFF Farm, 1005 Meade Ave, Fayetteville

CAFF was developed to strengthen and expand our food and farming system, enhance local communities, and provide opportunities for farmers, food entrepreneurs and food system leaders.

Combining traditional and experiential learning opportunities, their Farm School and Apprenticeship programs teach the production and business skills to develop resilient and sustainable businesses.

CAFF is dedicated to increasing the number of thriving farms and farmers in Arkansas. To accomplish this, the center provides farm education, training, networking, and resources. Creating a supportive farm community network will bring more people into farming and help retain current farmers by increasing their success.

Join CAFF at the farm to learn about extending your growing season with high tunnels. Space for this class is limited.

The CAFF Jan. 11 to March 1 two-hour courses remain available for viewing through Oct. 31. To pay the $10 access fee, please visit the registration page and email Heather Friedrich, program manager, at heatherf@uark.edu to confirm receipt.


March 2023 Event

John C Campbell Folk School 

https://www.folkschool.org/index.php www.folkschool.org

March 26-April 1 2023

One Folk School Road, Brasstown, NC 28902

A week-long course:

Growing Vegetables Year Round

A harvest cart with cabbage, kale, squash and lettuce.
Photo by Wren Vile

Make the most of your space and time growing vegetables at home using planting schedules and techniques timed to the seasons, seed varieties, crop rotation, and use of protective structures such as coldframes and greenhouses. Learn labor saving and innovative planting and soil fertility techniques for growing and harvesting a full range of fresh, delicious, organic vegetables. Fill your salad bowl and dinner plate year round!

Folk School logo

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Accidental Gods Podcast

Exploring the liminal space between science and spirituality, philosophy and politics, art, creativity – working towards the conscious evolution of humanity.

Accidental Gods is two women, Manda Scott and Faith Tilleray, dreaming of a different future. Faith Tilleray designs the website and the Instagram feed. Manda Scott is a podcaster (also: novelist, smallholder, renegade economist etc. etc. ). Both are living in the UK.

Accidental Gods Blog

Recent posts include Imagination Activism, Bioregionalism, Sacred Earth Activism, managing the New Economy (based on SEEDS regenerative currency), and Making Use of Methane.

Conferences, Growing for Market articles and books

What with the pandemic, snowstorms, power and internet outages and related travel limitations, you might be forgiven for thinking I’d faded away or something! Except for my regular weekly blogposts, which I have kept up, come whatever!

This week’s blogpost is a reminder about other aspects of my work. Conferences, magazine articles, and my books. First the conferences. I do have an Events Page, in case you haven’t discovered that yet, and one with videos and podcasts I’m in. I’m also including a list of other Organic virtual conferences

Virginia Association for Biological Farming

2022 Virginia Biological Farming Conference,

January 22-24 (Saturday to Monday)

Hotel Roanoke and Conference Center

 Conference website

Saturday 1/22 will be half-day and full-day pre-conference sessions. The general conference is on Sunday and Monday.

Lodging and Travel

Workshops

The three-day Conference includes: Pre-Conference intensive workshops, 48 concurrent sessions of workshops, presentations, and panel discussions, 50 tradeshow exhibitors, locally sourced farm meals and book sales with author signings. The Conference highlights include a Youth Program, a Silent Auction and networking opportunities including regional meetings and fireside chats, morning yoga for farmers and the Taste of Virginia Expo & Social. 

Update:

I had planned to give a half-day pre-conference intensive on Year-Round Hoophouse Vegetables, and two 90 minute workshops on Growing Sweet Potatoes from Start to Finish and Lettuce Year-Round. But then it all looked too risky for me, and I had to cancel. Very sorry.

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February 10-12, 2022 (Wednesday to Saturday 2.30pm)

PASA

Lancaster Marriott Hotel and Conference Center, 25 S Queen St, Lancaster, PA

PASA is taking great care to make the in-person conference as covid-safe as possible. See the website. https://web.cvent.com/event/495529cf-5f11-41ed-9a1d-c9e55d151c6a/summary?RefId=home

I am giving three 60 min workshops:

Optimize Your Asian Greens Production Thursday 2/10 9-10 am

Beauty in a tatsoi plant.
Photo Wren Vile

This workshop covers production of Asian greens, outdoors and in the hoop house, for both market and home growers. Learn to grow many types of tasty, nutritious greens easily and quickly for fast returns. This workshop includes tips on selection of over 20 types of Asian greens, the timing of succession planting, crop rotation in the hoop house, pest and disease management, fertility, and weed management throughout the year.

Winter Vegetable Production Methods from the Field to the Hoophouse, Fri 2/11 9-10am

Harvested turnips ready for storage.
Photo Pam Dawling

Grow cold-hardy vegetables in the open and with protection varying from rowcovers to hoop houses (high tunnels). Learn about tables of cold-hardiness, details of crops to keep growing into winter, crops for all-winter harvests, overwintering crops for spring harvests, and winter hoop house crops. We’ll also discuss how to plan harvesting and planting dates, and how to maximize production with succession planting, follow-on cropping, and with stored vegetables.

Growing Sweet Potatoes from Start to Finish, Saturday 2/12 11am-12.00 noon

Sweet potatoes on a plate.
Photo Brittany Lewis

At this workshop you will learn how to grow your own sweet potato slips, plant them, grow healthy crops, harvest good yields, and select suitable roots for growing next year’s slips. You will also learn how to cure and store roots for top quality and minimal losses. This workshop will be useful to beginners and experienced growers alike.

Handouts

Booksigning Thursday 2/10 4.30-5.30 pm at the Book Nook

Book sales at the Book Nook

The is also a virtual conference in January and early February.

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MOFFA

Maryland Organic Food and Farm Association (MOFFA)

Virtual Conference February 26, 2022

https://www.marylandorganic.org

I am giving a 45 minute recorded workshop on Cold-Hardy Winter Vegetables.

There will also be a pdf handout.

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Seven Springs Fair

Mother Earth News Fair at Seven Springs, Pennsylvania

September 16-18, 2022. Early Bird discounts are available already!

Hours

Friday Sept 16: 12:00 – 6:00 p.m.
Saturday Sept 17: 9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Sunday Sept 18: 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Location

Seven Springs Mountain Resort
777 Waterwheel Dr.
Seven Springs, Pa. 15622

http://maps.google.com/?q=Seven%20Springs%20Mountain%20Resort

The Fair at Seven Springs is unique, as speakers, staff and attendees co-mingle throughout the weekend at this beautiful four-season resort. Take advantage of complete lodging and ticket packages, which can be booked directly through the resort. Packages are available including rooms or condos. For more information and to make a reservation online click here, or please call 1-800-452-2223.

I am presenting two 60 minute workshops at outdoor stages:

Cool Season Hoophouse Crops

Hoophouse winter greens.
Photo Kathleen Slattery

How to fill your hoophouse with productive food crops in the cool seasons. Suitable crops; cold-hardiness; selecting crops; calculating how much to harvest, how much to plant; crop rotation; mapping; scheduling; seasonal transitions; succession planting and follow-on cropping.

Growing Sweet Potatoes from Start to Finish

Sweet potatoes in storage. An ideal crop for winter meals, as they store at room temperature for a long time, maybe seven or eight months.
Photo Pam Dawling

At this workshop you will learn how to grow your own sweet potato slips; plant them, grow healthy crops and harvest good yields, selecting suitable roots for growing next year’s slips. You will also learn how to cure and store roots for top quality and minimal losses. This workshop will be useful to beginners and experienced growers alike.

My books will be on sale in the Mother Earth Bookshop

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I have presented at several Mother Earth Fairs Online. 

Online: Food Independence Course Part Two

was released on 3/26/21.

Yukina Savoy
Photo Ethan Hirsh

It consists of eight video presentations, most of which come with pdf handouts. My contribution is Growing Asian Greens, and pairs nicely with Guide to Asian Vegetables by Wendy Kiang-Spray, author of The Chinese Kitchen Garden: Growing Techniques and Family Recipes from a Classic Cuisine. Other topics include Dandelion Wine, Homemade Teas, Food Conversations, Passive Solar Greenhouse Design, Productive Growing from Home, and Growing Your Own Spices.

Part One of the Food Independence Course includes seven videos, most with handouts, and there is a free preview of DIY Sourdough Basics with Jessica Moody. other topics include Your Edible Yard, the Chinese Greenhouse, Community Meat Buying Club and Mindful Meat Eating, Practical Yogurt and Emma’s Cool crops.

You can subscribe to the All-Access Bundle for $2.99/month (or $35 for a year).

  • Once you register for All-Access, you will receive access to all 47 current video workshops and prerecorded webinars plus anything new that is added.
  • All the workshop videos are pre-recorded and can be viewed whenever you like and however many times you like.
  • Because the videos can be viewed at your convenience, you can watch them on your own schedule!
  • At MOTHER EARTH NEWS, all of the content, including these workshops, are designed to empower you to become less dependent on systemic products or services. What does that mean? This is an opportunity learn how to save a lot of money on things such as groceries, expensive health products, energy, and more!
  • Unlike at the physical FAIRS, where workshops take place simultaneously, you don’t have to pick and choose which workshops to watch! Most folks can enjoy only 10 to 12 workshops maximum at a physical FAIR. Now you can see them all!
  • No additional travel expenses, such as hotel rooms, airfare, gas, pet care, dining out, etc.
  • All dogs are allowed!!!

I have also contributed an 8-part Garden Planning Course

Garden Planning Course

Before that, I did a workshop on

Winter Cover Crops for Gardeners

as part of the Winter Gardening Course.

Fall broccoli undersown with a mixed clover winter cover crop.
Photo Nina Gentle.

All these and many more videos and handouts are available as part of the All-Access Bundle

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Podcasts and Videos

Check out my page for Podcasts and Videos!

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More Virtual Organic Conferences in January and February

Here’s a useful list from eOrganic. I’ll be at PASA, but not the others.

eOrganic is the organic agriculture community of practice with eXtension. Theirr mission is to foster a research and outreach community, engage farmers and ag professionals through trainings and publications, and support research and outreach projects.


Growing for Market magazine

Growing for Market articles

January 2022 Growing for Market magazine cover

 

 

The January 2022 issue has my article on Greensprouting and planting potatoes. The November/December issue has my article on Planning  an asparagus patch.

 

 

 

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Heads up on Sustainable Market Farming price increase elsewhere but not through my website.

After nine years at a cover price of $34.95, it is going for another reprint, and will be $39.99 as of February 25, 2022. Fortunately I have plenty of copies on hand for direct sale.

August 2021 Sustainable Farming News Roundup

Fredericksburg Food Co-op, https://fredericksburgfood.coop/  320 Jefferson Davis Hwy, Fredericksburg VA 22401. Phone: (540) 940-6615 Tuesday August 24, Time: 6-7 pm

Fredericksburg Food Coop

Fall Vegetable Production

60 min Discussion and Q and A This is a conversation, not a powerpoint, and will be held outdoors on the dining patio. There will be handouts with lots of resources for more information.

My books will be available for sale and signing. Bring your old dog-eared copies, I’m very happy to sign those too!


Seven Springs Fair

Mother Earth News Fair at Seven Springs, Pennsylvania 

(September 17-19, 2021)  The in-person fair is going to be cancelled.

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See the Events page for workshops in October, November, January and onwards.

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Harvest to Table has a list of August Vegetable Garden tasks, if you need that. I can always find some useful tips on this site.

Harvest to Table logo

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For gardeners in central Virginia, the Piedmont Master Gardeners monthly Garden Shed newsletter offers August in the Edible Garden by Ralph Morini, and The Nutritional Value of Leafy Green Vegetables by Penny Fenner-Crisp (including a good resource list), and several other topics. Each newsletter has a photo of a different garden shed. Here’s this month’s (with hammock!)

Piedmont Master Gardeners Shed newsletter. (Some sheds have a hammock!)

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Future Harvest Beginning Farmer Training Program

For the next scale up, beginning farmers in the Chesapeake region can apply to Future Harvest’s Beginner Farmer Training Program (BFTP)  I have the honor of being one of their Level 3 consultants.

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Organic Growers School logo

Organic Growers School, based in Asheville, North Carolina, is also open for applicants for their Journeyperson program and their year-long Farm Beginnings program

Journeyperson Program is for those who have been farming for 3 years and are looking to grow a farm business. Join Nicole DelCogliano, August 26th, at 7 pm for a Journeyperson Info Session. via Instagram Live! Nicole will answer your questions about our Year-Long Journeyperson program, (which starts in November 2021 and ends in October 2022), and discuss options to meet your farming needs. 

 

Organic Growers School Farm Beginnings Program

Farm Beginnings is a year-long training program, including Whole Farm & enterprise
planning,  Connection to a farmer network, Growing season learning plan, On-Farm Field days & workshops. This is for those who have already considered making a career of farming, and have taken some steps in that direction. Deadline for this year is September 18. Click the title link and watch the video.

There are also field days, skill sessions, work exchanges, internships and the Farm Dreams program for those at an earlier stage of the process. To help you choose, click Growing the Next Generation of Farmers, and check out this worksheet.

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SARE logo

Following on from my recent post about planning winter cover crops, here’s something else useful: SARE has a new video “Cover Crops and Soil Health” which illustrates how producers can use cover crops to improve productivity and sustainability. In just a few short minutes, “Cover Crops and Soil Health” outlines how cover crops can build soil structure, protect water quality, suppress pests and improve a farm’s bottom line.

Combining cover crops and reduced tillage can also help farmers:

  • Manage soil nutrients
  • Reduce erosion and compaction
  • Improve water holding capacity and infiltration
  • Reduce input costs
  • Increase yields

“Cover Crops and Soil Health” is now available for viewing and sharing at www.sare.org and on YouTube. Farmers, ranchers, educators and other agricultural professionals may download or embed the video without modification into websites or other noncommercial educational presentations. The entire “What is Sustainable Agriculture” series is also available on YouTube. This video series was produced through a collaboration of the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program and Pixeldust Studios.

Crimson clover cover crop starting to flower.
Photo Kathryn Simmons

Vegetable Garden Tips

 

Young Yukina Savoy plants.
Photo Ethan Hirsh

My virtual workshop on Asian Greens 

is available from Mother Earth News Fairs Online here.

The Food Independence Course Part Two  consists of eight video presentations, most of which come with pdf handouts. My contribution is Growing Asian Greens, and pairs nicely with the Guide to Asian Vegetables by Wendy Kiang-Spray, author of The Chinese Kitchen Garden: Growing Techniques and Family Recipes from a Classic Cuisine. Other topics include Dandelion Wine, Homemade Teas, Food Conversations, Passive Solar Greenhouse Design, Productive Growing from Home, and Growing Your Own Spices.

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Decoy Cabbage White Butterflies.
Photo Good Seed Co

Easy DIY Cabbage Butterfly Decoy!

The Good Seed Co blog posted this lovely idea for protecting brassicas from those white butterflies Pieris rapae. It’s based on the discovery that the butterfly is territorial. If it sees a slightly bigger competitor it flies away. I have not tested this system, but it sounds like an interesting and fun project that costs next to nothing.

http://goodseedco.net/blog/posts/cabbage-butterfly-decoy Posted 25th Jun, 2015 in On Our Mind by Robin Kelson

PageOfCabbageMoths_efile

Cut out paper decoy representations of the butterfly. Here’s a single page template you can download

We don’t have many cabbage butterflies  because we have both a predator – the paper wasp, and a parasite –  Cotesia glomerata, a parasitic wasp that lays its eggs in small (first instar) larvae of the Cabbage White Butterfly, or Imported Cabbage Worm (as we call it in the US). Cotesia larvae emerge from the caterpillars after 15-20 days and spin yellow or white cocoons on or near the host which dies when the wasps emerge. We often find clusters of these cocoons (about the size of cooked rice grains) on the underside of brassica leaves.

I learned from Bryan O’Hara in  No-Till Intensive Vegetable Culture that our friends, the Cotesia glomerata wasps that parasitize brassica caterpillars, and overwinter as pupal cocoons on the undersides of brassica leaves, will hatch out in spring on the very day the overwintered brassicas start to flower. The 20-50 day lifecycle needs brassica flowers, so don’t be in a hurry to cut down all your bolting greens! The flowers provide nectar for the adult wasps. The leaves, as we know, provide food for the caterpillars, which provide the host for the wasps to lay eggs in. The wasp larvae feed on the caterpillar until it dies, then pupate.

There’s an incredible National Geographic video of this cycle, showing parasitic wasp larvae swimming around inside a caterpillar, bursting out through its skin. The weirdest bit is that it is the dying caterpillar that spins the protective cocoons around the pupating larvae. And us who plant the brassicas that feed the caterpillars! Who is the farmer and who is farmed?

This video shows a paper wasp tackling a caterpillar.

This one shows Cotesia glomerata emerging

This one shows more about the parasitic Cotesia glomerata 


Savoy cabbage with frost. Savoys can take much colder temperatures than this!
Photo Lori Katz

Average First and Last Frost Dates

Harvest to Table has this helpful article:

Average First and Last Frost Dates for Cities, States, and Countries

Average frost dates – the last one in spring and the first one in the fall – are useful to know when planning your crops. Once you’ve calculated your planting out date for various crops, you can work back to set sowing dates for the crops you’ll transplant, and bed prep dates for every crop. You can also make a co-ordinated plan that paces the work and doesn’t have too much in any one week, or any while you plan to be on vacation. You can calculate your first sensible planting date for each crop, your last one and perhaps some in-between ones to keep up supplies throughout the season.

You can use your average first fall frost date to make sure you don’t plant frost-tender crops too late in the season when you have no hope of them maturing in time for a harvest. You can extrapolate beyond the frost date to figure out when to harvest the more hardy crops. See my Winter-Kill Temperatures chart for useful tips.

By looking at the number of frost-free days in your area you can see whether to grow long-season tender crops like watermelons, or whether it’s only worthwhile if you choose fast-maturing varieties.

The Harvest to Table website is a trove of clearly explained information.

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Soil thermometer with easy-to-spot backing in a bed of beets.
Photo Bridget Aleshire

Soil Temperatures

Average frosts are only averages. Actual frosts can sometimes happen two weeks either side of those dates. Frosts are only one particular temperature, and may not matter to the crop you’re planning for. Soil temperatures for germination and for planting are another important part of planning.

K-State Extension has a brief article on the importance of measuring your soil temperature.

The Empress of Dirt has a helpful list of Best Soil Temperatures for Sowing Vegetable Seeds, in alphabetical order by crop.

Harvest to Table also has a list, ranked by temperature, so you can see what you can plant this week.

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Scottish Climate Friendly Farming Video

Farmer Patrick Barbour, from Highland Perthshire, has won the search for Scotland’s climate friendly farming champion. Patrick’s innovative three-minute video entry, filmed at Mains of Fincastle, near Pitlochry stunningly illustrates the benefits of tree planting, species rich grassland, rotational grazing for cattle and sheep and stitching nitrogen fixing crops into pastures.  It is available to watch at: Next Generation Climate Change Competition

Patrick, Robert and Catherine Barbour of Mains of Fincastle, near Pitlochry
Photo The Scottish Farmer

New Page of Videos and Podcasts Added

 

This is a bonus blog post!

Like almost everyone else, I’m at home, under the Virginia Governor’s Stay-At-Home order. Our farm is closed to anybody coming in, except for pre-arranged deliveries.

More people with more time at home might need more sources of information, I thought. Of course, growing food never stops, and gardening and farming are so satisfying. Fresh air is good for our health.

I made up a new page (see menu tabs at the top of each page) with things that I have done for you to watch and listen to. Here’s the newest out:

Podcasts

Oliver Goshey, Abundant Edge, March 2020

How to produce fresh food year-round, even in cold climates! With Pam Dawling, author of “The Year-Round Hoop House”

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And news from ATTRA:  

Spring Update: You can now download any of our technical materials for FREE!

ATTRA Sustainable Agriculture Program

“ATTRA is a program developed and managed by the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT). The majority of funding for ATTRA is through a cooperative agreement with the United States Department of Agriculture’s Rural Business-Cooperative Service. We are also partially funded through sales and subscriptions of a portion of ATTRA materials and through contributions from friends and supporters. We are committed to providing high value information and technical assistance to farmers, ranchers, Extension agents, educators, and others involved in sustainable agriculture in the United States.

NCAT strives to make our information available to everyone who needs it. If you are a limited-access or low-income farmer and find that one of our publications is just not in your budget, please call 800-346-9140.”

The information from ATTRA is reliable, thorough and farmable! Way back before the internet, they operated by phone and mailed out publications free of charge. Technology has changed, but ATTRA’s commitment to getting information and technical help in the hands of people producing our food has not wavered.

Their sustainable agriculture information is organized under these topic areas:

Growing and Saving Seeds: my Seed Garden Slideshow and a Cuban Bean Seed Bank

 

At the Organic Growers School Spring Conference I gave my presentation The Seed Garden, about combining growing some seed crops alongside lots of vegetable crops – a way for vegetable growers to diversify and grow seed of a few special crops either for themselves or to sell for some extra income and to keep a chosen variety available. I included information on selecting desirable characteristics and making an improved strain of that variety.

You can watch the slideshow here, by clicking on the diagonal arrow to increase the screen size and then the right pointing triangular arrow:

I also took the opportunity to add a few more of my slideshows to my collection on SlideShare.

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Meanwhile I’ve been sorting out more photos from my Cuba trip, and I want to tell you about a bean seed bank at Finca Hoyo Bonito I visited during our day traveling from Havana, west for three hours to the Viñales Valley in the province of Pinar del Rio.

The seed farm has a bank containing 250 varieties of bean seed. It’s a hobby for the retired woman growing and saving the beans. Her goal is to get a hundred pounds of each variety. She gives bean seed to any farmer who asks, with no requirement to return the investment. (this is different from some seed banks, which require growers to repay the “loan”)

Finca Hoyo Bonito bean seed bank, Pinar del Rio, Cuba
250 bean seed varieties are kept in this tiny seed bank.
The Seed Conservator, or Banker at Finca Hoyo Bonito. Note the reuse of ubiquitous plastic water bottles to store some of the seeds. Tourists need to drink only bottled water.
Bean seed has a limited shelf life, and so must be grown out frequently.
Here is a display of just some of the bean varieties.
Finca Hoyo Bonito Bean Seed Bank, Pinar del Rio, Cuba

Here is a short video about Finca Hoyo Bonito. It’s in Spanish, naturally!

Hoophouse Musings, Bugs, Okra, Edible Landscaping Workshops in Maryland

Hoophouse beds in December. This is why we have a hoophouse!
Photo Wren Vile

Winter hoophouse posts in Mother Earth News newsletter

Sowing and Transplanting Winter Crops in a Hoophouse

Grow Great Lettuce in Winter

Winter hoophouse lettuce
Photo Kathryn Simmons

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A photo of a Tiny House from Wikipedia

Would you live in a hoophouse?

A reader wrote in:

“I have actually been thinking of building a tiny house and putting it inside a big hoophouse, creating a living area that would include a yard, trees, and gardens – allowing me to snowbird in place in northern New England – but I’m concerned about outgassing, since I’d be there almost 24-7 most days (I work out of my home). Have you done any research on outgassing of hoophouses?”

A Tiny House is generally a residential structure under 400 sq. ft

First off, No I haven’t done any research about hoophouse off-gassing, but I wouldn’t worry about out-gassing from the polyethylene of the hoophouse. Other products  are much closer to your nose: All the materials used to construct, preserve and decorate the house and all the products within the house, such as furniture,  fabrics, soaps, appliances etc.

There are some other things I’d wonder about:

1.      Temperature. When the sun shines, the interior of the hoophouse warms up. When the sun doesn’t shine, it doesn’t. Would you heat the tiny house? You’d have to avoid heating systems that could damage the plants.

2.      Snowfall. When it snows, you need to remove the snow from the roof of the hoophouse. Some snow can be carefully pulled down from the outside. Usually we also walk around inside the hoophouse bouncing a broom on the inside of the plastic to move the snow off. You can’t do that if you have a house in the way.

3.      Humidity. In the winter we grow cold-tolerant hoophouse crops. We are aiming for 65 F (18C). We need fresh air for the plants and to deter fungal diseases. It doesn’t work to keep the hoophouse sealed up and “cozy”!

4.      Strong winds. In hurricanes and gales, hoophouses sometimes collapse or get destroyed. You don’t want to be inside when that happens.

5.      Height. Our hoophouse is less than 14 ft (4 m) at the apex.

In conclusion I’d say it’s better to have a small patio seating area within your hoophouse for suitable sunny days, rather than plan to live inside all the time.
Brassicas in a nematode-fighting hoophouse crop rotation in Hawaii.
Credit Gerry Ross, Kupa’a Farms

Do you value crop rotation in your hoophouse?

A reader in the Pacific Northwest wrote: “This winter I have been re-thinking my crop rotation plan after having some issues (with flea beetle larvae in the soil outsmarting my diligent insect netting of my brassica salad crops). These days I see intensive market gardeners seeming to not worry so much about rotation (i.e. Neversink farm, etc), and yet I’ve always been taught that it is such an important principle to follow. I reviewed your slideshows on crop rotation and also cool crop planning in the greenhouse (which briefly addresses salad brassica rotation with other crops). With how much space I have and the high demand I have for brassicas, for salad mix (mustards) and also the more mainstay cole crops, I had settled on a 2.5 yr between brassica crop rotation (but planting two successions of mustards in the same bed within one year, in the year the bed was in mustards, with a lettuce or other crop breaking up the successions, with the idea that they were very short day and also light feeder crops). Wondering if you think this just doesn’t sound cautious enough, or if this sounds like a reasonable compromise with not having more space to work with (and wanting to satisfy the market demand for brassicas).”

I replied: “Yes, I do think crop rotation is important. I do know some farms seem to have given it up. I think what you are seeing shows one reason why rotation is important. In our hoophouse, we do as you do, allocating brassicas to a space for that winter season and perhaps doing more than one round of brassica crops. Then moving away from brassicas for the next two winters. If doing that doesn’t get rid of the flea beetle problem, and you are being thorough about netting with small-enough mesh netting (sounds like you are, but maybe check the mesh size), then my next step would be spinosad when the flea beetles appear. You can spray the inside of the netting too, and close it quickly. It’s that or a longer rotation, which it sounds like is not financially viable. You could also try farmscaping and/or importing predatory insects (not sure if there are any), Are there beneficial nematodes that attack flea beetle larvae? These are things I don’t know about, but might be worth looking into.”

 

Late sweet corn and sweet potatoes
Credit Ezra Freeman

Sweet Potato fends off bugs

Modern Farmer has this fascinating article about sweet potato plants alerting their neighbors to pest attacks.

Researchers from the Max Planck Institute and the National Taiwan University found that when sweet potato plants are attacked by insects, they emit a bouquet of odors and start production of a protein called sporamin that makes them unappetizing. Neighboring sweet potatoes sense the odors and start their own production of sporamin.


 

A new Tokyo bekana transplant attacked by vegetable weevil larvae October 10
Photo Pam Dawling

Insect damage cause stress-response production of anti-oxidants

In a related piece of news, Agrilife Today from Texas A&M AgriLife Research has found some evidence that wounded plants produce anti-oxidants as a stress response, which may make them healthier for human consumption. Read the report here.

Edible Landscaping with a Permaculture Twist Spring Series

Michael Judd in cooperation with Common Market CO+OP is presenting a combination of hands-on workshops at Long Creek Homestead and evening talks at the Common Market, Frederick Maryland.

Click here for info on Spring Workshops/Talks/Tours

·        Inoculating Mushrooms

·        Fruit Tree Grafting

·        Herb Spirals

·        Creating Growing Beds- Swales and Hugelkultur

·        Edible Landscaping & Straw Bale Home Tour

·  For the Love of PawPaws


 

Fire Ants have reached Toronto

A reader wrote in that the European Fire Ant is now found in Toronto.


“There were two nests of these in my allotment garden 2018.
They actually moved the nest in order to be closer to the zucchini
plants.  Hand on heart: I never had  any cucumber beetles develop past
the instar stage.  The ants did not eat the eggs but they ate the larvae
as soon as they hatched.  Same for potato beetle.  My neighbours had
the best cucumber harvest in history. 
What I’ve read is these Fire Ants kill colonies of native ants.  Summer 2019 I had a Pavement Ant war that went on for days.  Clearly the Fire Ants did not wipe them out.  There are black ants and other smaller red ants
in my garden.  The Fire Ants appear to have moved on for some reason known
only to themselves.   Perhaps they too have enemies.”
“There’s a guy with a Youtube channel who keeps ant colonies.   AntsCanada although he is in the Philippines.  What happened was the feral Pharaoh Ants invaded his colony of Fire ants and killed them.  Pharaoh Ants are much smaller but perhaps that’s what gave them the advantage.   We have Pharaoh ants in Toronto also.   I spend a lot of my time looking at the little critters in my garden.  Like red velvet mites:  there were many in 2016.  Have not seen a single one in two years now. “

Video of Okra Taste Testing

Chris Smith, author of The Whole Okra

Chris Smith, author of  The Whole Okra: Chris has a video of
the taste testing on  Youtube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sAy0pouxlME

Videos, podcasts, weevils, rainwater harvesting, UK Farming net zero by 2020, carbon footprint calculators, climate change books

Funny Farm Videos,

located by Modern Farmer

Lil Fred, Farm It Maybe.

Derek Klingenburg, Serenading the cattle with my trombone (Lorde – Royals)

Pasture Road, Peterson Farm Brothers,

Goat Busters, Dana McGregor


Origami Weevils by Charley Eiseman

I saved this post on Origami Weevils to share. It transitions us from the ridiculous (funny animal videos) to the sublime.

Charley Eiseman describes himself this way: “I am a freelance naturalist, endlessly fascinated by the interconnections of all the living and nonliving things around me. I am the lead author of Tracks & Sign of Insects and Other Invertebrates (Stackpole Books, 2010), and continue to collect photographs and information on this subject. These days I am especially drawn to galls, leaf mines, and other plant-insect interactions.” He is an exceptional photographer, an exceptional entomologist, and one of those people who pays exquisite attention to what he does. These factors make his blog a special treat.

I always get excited when I encounter the work of leaf-rolling weevils (Attelabidae), even though they are by no means uncommon. I just find it fascinating that these insects have learned to fold leaves into neat little cylindrical packets for their larvae to live inside, without the use of silk or any other adhesive. The […] Read more of this post

 

 

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Ten Great Farming Podcasts to Listen to Now

Modern Farmer did the research and found the best. Read More

———————————————————–Essential Rainwater Harvesting Spreadsheet Toolkit

 

Now we might be ready to move off the holiday couch, at least enough to get pencil and paper and start some planning. Here is an Essential Rainwater Harvesting Spreadsheet Toolkit from Verge Permaculture: https://vergepermaculture.ca/product/spreadsheet-tool/ $29.00 CAD (Canadian dollars)

The Essential Rainwater Harvesting Tool is a spreadsheet tool for analyzing the feasibility of a rainwater storage system on your farm. It contains tables, formulas and logic from the Verge Essential Rainwater Harvesting book, pre-programmed and ready-to-go, plus a substantial number of extra features.

They are also offering a FREE WEBINAR on Jan 14, 6:30 pm MT: IS RAINWATER SAFE? with pioneering Australian hydrology engineer, economist, policy analyst, educator, UN adviser and researcher Peter Coombes

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UK Farming goal net zero by 2040

https://www.nfuonline.com/nfu-online/business/regulation/achieving-net-zero-farmings-2040-goal/

The National Farmers Union in the United Kingdom has announced in this 12-page report their ambitious goal of reaching net zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions across the whole of agriculture in England and Wales by 2040. This is farming’s contribution to the UK’s ambition of net zero by 2050. In the UK, agriculture’s contribution to Greenhouse Gas Emissions is 10% of the nation’s whole. (27% is from transportation)

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For those with serious New Year Resolutions here are 6 Personal Carbon Footprint Calculators (and How to use Them Efficiently) from Mother Earth News

https://www.motherearthnews.com/nature-and-environment/carbon-footprint-calculators-and-how-to-use-them-efficiently-zbcz1812?newsletter=1&spot=headline&utm_source=wcemail&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=MEN%20HE%20eNews%2001.07.2019&utm_term=MEN_HE_eNewsAll%20Subscribers&_wcsid=79E96C01FC4AFE8B2C8184EBA1FEB58413B54C4386F47764

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And here are 12 books on climate change and the environment,

from Yale Climate Connection

https://www.yaleclimateconnections.org/2019/12/gift-guide-12-books-on-climate-change-and-the-environment/?utm_source=Weekly+News+from+Yale+Climate+Connections&utm_campaign=f83923d619-Weekly_Digest_of_December_9_13_2019&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_e007cd04ee-f83923d619-59330105

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Hoophouse video interview, plus 2019 Round up of favorite topics and posts you missed

No-Till Growers and Josh Sattin collaborated to post this Hoophouse Tips video interview of me talking about our hoophouse:

 

After a Best Ever day on November 7, 2019, when 876 people viewed my website (4,855 that week), December has been quiet. It’s not a big gardening month for most of us, and the month is full of holidays. And then there’s the urge to hibernate.

Nonetheless, I have been reliably posting every week, and you might have accidentally missed something, while entertaining the visiting aunts and uncles, or rushing to get the carrots harvested, or something involving food and drink. Here’s a chance to  find the lost treasures!

December 24, I posted a Book Review: Grow Your Soil! by Diane Miessler

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Three potato forks to the left, four digging forks to the right.
Pam Dawling

On December 18, I posted Making Use of Greenhouse Space in Winter and Getting the Right Fork

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Purple ube grown in North Carolina by Yanna Fishman

December 10, did you miss Yanna Fisher’s splendid purple ube?

And Josh Sattin’s video interview with me? Legendary Farmer on a Legendary Commune  https://youtu.be/vLzFd4YP9dI

And Jesse Frost’s interview with me on his podcast No-Till Growers ?  You can listen to it here and it’s also on You Tube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p75gRIl0Hzs


Reflect spinach in the open got damaged but not killed at -9F.
Photo Pam Dawling

On December 3, I posted Cooking Greens in December

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On November 26, I offered you a Book Review: Will Bonsall’s Essential Guide to Radical, Self-Reliant Gardening


My Top Six. no Seven,  posts of all time:

Winter-kill Temperatures  of Winter-hardy Vegetables 2016 with 23,776 views, peaking in November. Clearly lots of people want to know which crops will survive and which to hurry and harvest, or protect with rowcover.

Garlic scapes with 11,202 views. Garlic and sweet potatoes are the favorite crops on this site. Garlic scapes used to be under-appreciated and under-used. Not now!

Winter-kill Temperatures of Cold-Hardy Vegetables 2018 with 9,979, also peaking in November. My list gets updated each year as I learn new information. But the older ones come higher on internet searches.

Soil Tests and High Phosphorus Levels close behind at 9,503. High phosphorus is a worry for organic growers, especially those using lots of compost, as it can build up each year.

How to Deal with Green Potatoes at 8,613, with sustained interest through August, September and November. Obviously we are not the only growers with this problem, caused by light getting to the tubers.

Tokyo Bekana at 2,199 (who knew that was so popular?)

In 2019 other popular posts included Hunting Hornworms and the newer Winter-Kill Temperatures of Cold-Hardy Vegetables 2019. It takes a while for newer posts to gain on the older favorites.