Events I’ll be presenting at

Now I have the first three events of 2015 under my belt (Virginia Biofarming Conference, PASA Farming for the Future Conferece and the West Virginia Small Farms Conference, I am thinking about the next ones. Here’s the list for the rest of 2015:

MENFairLogoMother Earth News Fair, Asheville Anticipated Weekend Attendance: 15,000.

Dates: Saturday April 11 – Sunday April 12, 2015

Location: Western North Carolina Agricultural Center, 1301 Fanning Bridge Road,
Fletcher, NC 28732

Registration: $25 weekend pass.

motherearthnews.com/fair/north-carolina.aspx#axzz2k02EAfZq

motherearthnews.com/fair/exhibit.aspx#axzz3GJibTyC4

My Workshops: Hoophouse Spring and Summer Crops, Hoophouse Fall and Winter Crops

Booksigning


 

HHF Save the Date_2015Heritage Harvest Festival

Dates: Friday-Saturday September 11-12 2015

Location: Monticello, near Charlottesville, Virginia

Tickets: TBD. $10 in 2014, plus $10-15 per premium workshop

http://heritageharvestfestival.com.

My Workshops: Crop Rotations (Friday 1.30pm Premium Workshop in the Woodland Pavilion), Asian Greens (Saturday 4.30 pm in the Organic Gardening Tent at the Mountaintop – free workshop)

Book-signing


 

MENFairLogoMother Earth News Fair, Seven Springs, Pennsylvania. (to be confirmed) Anticipated Weekend Attendance: 18,000

Dates: Friday-Sunday September 18-20, 2015

Location: Seven Springs Mountain Resort, 777 Waterwheel Drive, Seven Springs, Pa. 15622

Registration: $20 weekend pass

motherearthnews.com/fair/pennsylvania.aspx#ixzz2k4f4jIuB

My Workshop topics to be decided

Booksigning


MENFairLogoMother Earth News Fair, Topeka, KS (to be confirmed) Anticipated Weekend Attendance: 12,000

Dates: October 24-25, 2015

Location: One Expocentre Dr., Topeka, KS 66612

Registration: $20 weekend pass

http://www.motherearthnews.com/fair/kansas.aspx

My Workshop topics to be decided


SAC-logocfsa-event-bug1-50x50Carolina Farm Stewardship Association Conference.

Dates: Friday – Sunday November 6-8, 2015

Location: Durham, NC

Registration: TBD http://www.carolinafarmstewards.org/sac-register/

http://www.carolinafarmstewards.org/

My Workshop topics to be decided


2015 Events Calendar and pawpaws

virginia-biological-farming-conference-2015-richmond

Virginia Biological Farming Conference  January 29-31 2015 in Richmond, Virginia.  Conference registration covers your choice of the 25 workshops on Friday and Saturday; Friday dinner and Saturday lunch; access to the trade show, where you can handle the tools you’re considering buying, and ask questions of the vendors.

Cole Planet Junior Push Seeder

Cole Planet Junior Push Seeder

Speaking of tools, I hope to sell our (long-unused) Cole Planet Junior push seeder at the conference. They are $760 new. Ours is in working order with all the seed plates and an attached bag to keep them in. I’ll sell it for $350 cash or check. Should you ever need them, spare parts are readily available, for instance from Woodward Crossings. It’s not a museum piece or lawn ornament, it’s a working piece of equipment.

At the VBF Conference, there are 3 pre-conference workshops (4 to 7 hours each) on Thursday, for $60-$75: Essential Tools & Techniques for the Small Scale Organic Vegetable Growers by Jean-Martin Fortier of The Market Gardener fame, Urban Farming Intensive with Cashawn Myer & Tenisio Seanima, and Edible Landscaping with Michael Judd and Ira Wallace (of Southern Exposure fame).

I’m giving two workshops. Friday at 3pm: Succession Planting for Continuous Vegetable Harvests – How to plan sowing dates for continuous supplies of popular summer crops, such as beans, squash, cucumbers, edamame and sweet corn, as well as year round lettuce. Using these planning strategies can help avoid gluts and shortages  and on Saturday at 10.30 am, Producing Asian Greens – Detailed information for market and home growers. Many varieties of tasty, nutritious greens grow quickly and bring fast returns. This session covers production of Asian greens outdoors and in the hoophouse. It includes tips on variety selection of over twenty types of Asian greens; timing of plantings; pest and disease management; fertility; weed management and harvesting. I’ll also be signing and selling books during Saturday lunchtime.

Bring a dish for the Friday potluck picnic at lunchtime, seeds for the seed swap, a notebook and two pens, a bag to collect handouts and so on, and if you play music, bring an instrument and some songs for the jam on Friday night.


 

logoThen the next weekend, I’m at the  Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture Farming for a Future Conference February 4-7, 2015, at State College, PA. There are extra pre-conference sessions on Tuesday 3rd and Wednesday 4th, then the main conference on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. I am speaking on Growing Great Garlic (Saturday 3.10 pm) and also on Cold-hardy Winter Vegetables (Friday 8.30 am). I will also be doing book-signing and sales.


 

small-farm-center_bannerFebruary 26-28, 2015 I will be speaking at the West Virginia Small Farms Conference in Charleston, WV. My workshops will be Succession Planting for Continuous Vegetable Harvests on Saturday 2/28 at 9.30 am and two new ones on Friday 2/27, Hoophouse Summer Crops at 9.30 am and Hoophouse Winter Crops at 10.30 am. They are currently listed as High Tunnel workshops. Some say that researchers and Extension agents call them High Tunnels and growers call them Hoophouses, but whatever you call them, high tunnels and hoophouses are the same thing.


 

MENFairLogoMy next booking is at the Mother Earth News Fair in Asheville, North Carolina, April 11-12, 2015. I haven’t firmed up my workshops and book signings yet, but I might do the hoophouse workshops again (from WVSFC)


HHF Save the Date_2015The next booking after that that I have is at the Heritage Harvest Festival at Monticello September 11-12, 2015. Too soon to name the topic. Maybe Crop Rotations and Asian Greens. And I expect to be doing book signings at the Monticello Bookshop.

 


 

As far as future events I hope to be at, there are the Mother Earth News Fairs in Seven Springs, PA September 18-20 2015 and Topeka, KS October 24-25 2015.


Now then, about pawpaws. Neal Peterson has worked for years developing superior flavored pawpaw varieties, and he wants to go global! That is, he wants to secure contracts to sell plants of his varieties worldwide. To do this, he has to have trademarked varieties. So he has set up a Peterson Pawpaws Kickstarter campaign to raise at least $20,000 by . If you’ve tasted pawpaws and if you support fruit diversity, consider if you can back up your support with some hard cash.

You can watch his video here:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1750376414/peterson-pawpaws-go-global?ref=card

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Why we grow foods organically

Ice on the pond. Credit Ezra Freeman

Ice on the pond.
Credit Ezra Freeman

Hoophouse greens in November. Credit Ethan Hirsh

Hoophouse greens in November.
Credit Ethan Hirsh

Here we have a second day of cold grey drizzle. The day length is as short as it gets. I have little enthusiasm for working outdoors. But this is a good time of year to remind myself why I value growing good food in a sustainable way. I want people to live healthy happy lives, and I want us to leave a planet worth inheriting.

I’ve just been reading Can organic crops compete with industrial agriculture? by Sarah Yang from Media Relations at UC Berkeley. There is a common belief that while organic farming is better in terms of doing less damage to the environment than chemical agriculture, it cannot ever feed the world. Sarah Yang says “A systematic overview of more than 100 studies comparing organic and conventional farming finds that the crop yields of organic agriculture are higher than previously thought.” And the productivity gap could be shrunk from 19.2% to an 8-9% difference in direct yield by sustainable organic farmers adopting or improving on certain practices.

The full study, entitled Diversification practices reduce organic to conventional yield gap, by , Claire Kremen was published on 12/10/14 in the Proceedings of the Royal Society. Global food needs will likely increase enormously in the next 50 years, and even if we were prepared to accept hugely increased environmental degradation from chemical farming, the fact remains that chemical fertilizers cannot increase yields by much above current levels.

The researchers did a meta-analysis of 115 studies (three times more than any previously published study) comparing organic and currently-conventional agriculture in 38 countries and 52 crops over a period of 35 years. Yields from organic farms are on average 19.2% lower, although this may be an over-estimate. The various studies incorporated here show a very wide range. In some developing countries with few resources, adopting good sustainability practices increased yields 180% over the previous systems in place.

I doubt the recorded yields take into account the land lost by erosion, or that used for mining minerals for fertilizers or growing corn for bio-diesel for the extensive farm machinery used in currently-conventional farming.

Shifting away from environmentally damaging agriculture would be a good step. Increasing the land farmed organically from the current 0.9% and “Broad adoption of sustainable agricultural methods is unlikely, however, unless such methods are similarly productive and/or cost-effective, such that they improve livelihoods.”

How can organic farmers increase yields? The report suggests big yield improvements can come from giving more attention to crop rotations and multi-cropping (growing several crops together on the same field), two basic tenets of organic farming. (We can always aim to do these things better!) Other suggestions include increasing ecological diversity and harnessing ecological interactions by intercropping or cover-cropping with legumes to gain their nitrogen-fixing benefits.

More investment in research into organic management systems and breeding varieties (especially of cereals) suited to organic growing could (can!) reduce or in some cases eliminate the gap. Organic farming has been historically underfunded compared to agriculture which uses lots of products from Agribusiness, and crop varieties designed to work well with those synthetic inputs.

The senior author of the study, Claire Kremen, makes these important points: “It’s important to remember that our current agricultural system produces far more food than is needed to provide for everyone on the planet. Eradicating world hunger requires increasing the access to food, not simply the production. Also, increasing the proportion of agriculture that uses sustainable, organic methods of farming is not a choice, it’s a necessity. We simply can’t continue to produce food far into the future without taking care of our soils, water and biodiversity.”


Another interesting piece of recent farming news is the 12/2/14 report by Ken Olson from ACES Cover crops can sequester soil organic carbon. This 12 year study at the University of Illinois showed that cover crops do not increase crop yields, but do increase the amount of sequestered carbon in the soil. This benefit accrues in no-till, chisel-plowed and moldboard plow methods. the no-till system including cover crops, sequestered the most carbon. Ken Olson said that soil organic carbon losses caused by tillage, water erosion, soil disturbance, aeration, nitrogen injection and mineralization were less than  soil organic carbon gained from cover-crops.

The complete study Long-Term Effects of Cover Crops on Crop Yields, Soil Organic Carbon Stocks and Sequestration can be read here.

A cover crop mix of winter rye, hairy vetch and crimson clover. Credit Kathryn Simmons

A cover crop mix of winter rye, hairy vetch and crimson clover.
Credit Kathryn Simmons

Getting ready for Kansas Mother Earth News Fair

One of our garden carts, tastefully decorated by guests Susie Anne and Jessie. Credit McCune Porter

One of our garden carts, tastefully decorated by guests Susie Anne and Jessie.
Credit McCune Porter

This week’s blog post is a cartful of odds and ends. Talking of garden carts, we like the larger kind, with the loop-shaped legs in line with the length of the cart. This makes it easier to straddle rows of crops, and also means we don’t bash our ankles while pulling them. The smaller models often have a single loop “leg” right across the cart. We used to have some of these. We called them the “Ankle-Snappers”. I recommend making sure any cart you buy is made from exterior-grade plywood, not particle-board, or other kind of pressed together scraps of wood. They have a hard life!

 

Garden carts loaded with Romas tomatoes. Photo Wren Vile

Garden carts loaded with Roma tomatoes.
Photo Wren Vile

The crew working on the sweet potato harvest. Photo McCune Porter

We did tally our sweet potato harvest – about 6600 pounds! Here’s the crew at work.
Photo McCune Porter

 

West Indian gherkin. Photo Nina Gentle

West Indian gherkin. Photo Nina Gentle



Recently I wrote on the Mother Earth News Organic Gardening blog about West Indian Gherkins. I wrote about them on this blog. Here’s a new photo, which gives the impression of acres of the little things.

On Thursday I leave for Kansas for the Mother Earth News Fair there. The Program Guide is now out. I’m doing three workshops, a book signing and an interview. My workshops are Fall Vegetable Production, Cold-hardy Winter Vegetables and Crop Rotations. Hope to meet some of you there – do introduce yourself to me!

I was looking up a recent reference in the work of the Organic farming Research Foundation about organic farming storing more carbon in the soil than other types of farming. I couldn’t find the exact link but I did find that as far back as 2012, OFRF was already pointing out that cover cropping  “Enhances soil quality, reduces erosion, sequesters carbon and provides nitrogen, prevents dust (protects air quality), improves soil nutrients, contributes to productivity”

My other piece of organic vegetable growing news is that Biodegradable Biobased Mulch Now Allowed for Organic Production
“The USDA National Organic Program has amended the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances to allow the use of biodegradable biobased mulch film with restrictive annotations. This action also adds to the organic standards a new definition for biodegradable biobased mulch film that includes criteria and third-party standards for compostability, biodegradability, and biobased content. The rule is effective October 30, 2014.” It’s a lot of technical reading, but for certified organic growers it will be worthwhile. Biodegradable plastic mulch is such a saver of time, temperature and weed germination! “Bio-based” means the product is made from biological materials. See my blog post and the one after that for details on the difference.

Photo Yale Press

Photo Yale Press

I’m reading a few good books at the moment. More about them in the future. John Reader’s Potato: A History of the Propitious Esculent.

Photo Barnes and Noble

Photo Barnes and Noble

and Craig LeHoullier’s Epic Tomatoes: How to Select and Grow the Best Varieties of all Time, to be published December 2014

 

Mother Earth News Fair at Seven Springs, PA, and the Heritage Harvest Festival

Photo: 12-year-old FAIR Presenter Eleanor Wilkinson receives a signed copy of SUSTAINABLE MARKET FARMING by Pam Dawling, her favorite author and inspiration to start her own market farming business! They're both very special people. #MENFair

“12-year-old FAIR Presenter Eleanor Wilkinson receives a signed copy of SUSTAINABLE MARKET FARMING by Pam Dawling, her favorite author and inspiration to start her own market farming business! They’re both very special people. #MENFair”

I just got home from the Mother Earth News fair in Seven Springs, PA and found this already up on the MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR Facebook page. 

I think Eleanor is 13 now. You might remember I mentioned her last year after I met her at the MEN Fair. She succeeded in clearing $6000 in her first year, when she was 11. She now sells at two farmers’ markets. Her talk, Lemonade to Lettuce,  with help from her dad Matt Wilkinson, was clear, informative and engaging. I thoroughly enjoyed making the surprise presentation of my book at the end of her talk. Despite the shock, Eleanor was quickly professional in dealing with all the photographers and the public. A “growing farmer” to watch!


Myself, I gave two presentations twice each. Here’s Crop Rotations, in case you missed it, from SlideShare.net

<iframe src=”//www.slideshare.net/slideshow/embed_code/16456412″ width=”427″ height=”356″ frameborder=”0″ marginwidth=”0″ marginheight=”0″ scrolling=”no” style=”border:1px solid #CCC; border-width:1px; margin-bottom:5px; max-width: 100%;” allowfullscreen> </iframe> <div style=”margin-bottom:5px”> <strong> <a href=”https://www.slideshare.net/SustainableMarketFarming/crop-rotations” title=”VBF 2013 – Crop rotations – Pam Dawling” target=”_blank”>VBF 2013 – Crop rotations – Pam Dawling</a> </strong> from <strong><a href=”http://www.slideshare.net/SustainableMarketFarming” target=”_blank”>Pam Dawling</a></strong> </div>

I gave out 300 handouts for this one, and some couples shared a copy.

For Fall Vegetable Production, I revised my presentation from last year’s (which can still be found on SlideShare). I’ll be putting the new one up in a few days. I gave out 360 handouts on that one.

I had a very busy day Saturday, two workshops, one booksigning, one interview, one book presentation, one MEN Bloggers’ lunch, one promoter’s dinner with many speeches. Lots of walking from A to B. And it was raining in the morning, so I was schlepping handouts and posters in several shifts through the rain to the tent where my morning presentation was. I’ll say this for MEN readers – they don’t let bad weather put them off! Sunday I had a lighter day and managed to get to workshops by others. Doug Stevenson lives at the Farm Community in Tennessee. Here’s the blurb from the MEN Fair website:

Creating a Permaculture Ecovillage: My 40 Years at The Farm Community
Douglas Stevenson – The Farm Community
Douglas Stevenson has two books out this year: In one, he describes The Farm’s colorful story and its evolution from world’s largest hippie commune to modern ecovillage. In the second work, he digs deeper and examines the building blocks of community and sustainability. In this workshop, he’ll cover both in a fascinating and inspiring presentation.Read more: http://www.motherearthnews.com/fair/workshops-and-speakers-pennsylvania.aspx#ixzz3DULQBK3R

and I shared a dinner table with Ros Creasy and later traveled home with her (and Ira Wallace and Gordon Sproule). Long ago, when I was looking for a publisher for my book, Ros advised me that writing a book was going to be a lot of hard work. Her advice was good: she was right, and she didn’t dissuade me!

Edible Landscaping: The why and how
Rosalind Creasy – Freelance writer/ landscape designer
Join Rosalind Creasy, a pioneer in the field of edible landscaping, as she gives a PowerPoint presentation on the whys and hows of designing a beautiful landscape with edible plants. Among the topics she covers is an A to Z of her recommended beautiful edible plants for home gardens, the positive effects of edibles on the environment, an overview of the wide variety of individual edible landscapes, and styles as well as principles of landscape design particular to edibles.Read more: http://www.motherearthnews.com/fair/workshops-and-speakers-pennsylvania.aspx#ixzz3DUKpuV8Y


And on Friday I was at the Heritage Harvest Festival, closer to home, in Virginia. I gave my Cold-hardy Winter Vegetables presentation. And I signed books in their bookstore Gift Shop. Sadly, this year HHF and MEN Fair PA were on the same weekend, and I had to leave not long after my workshop, to drive to Pennsylvania. Next year they won’t be on the same dates. In case you too, are planning a year ahead, here are the dates:

Heritage Harvest Festival September 11-12 2015

Mother Earth News Fair, Seven Springs, PA September 18-20 2015


 

And meanwhile in the garden, the spinach seedlings are battling with faster-growing buckwheat seedlings, because we didn’t till the preceding cover crop of buckwheat in time. The weather is cooling down, and remaining dry. An advantage as far as hoeing goes. I just have to remember to keep switching irrigation on and off.

My next speaking event is the Mother Earth News Fair at Topeka, Kansas, Oct 25-26.

 


 

Updated Crop Rotations Slideshow

Here’s my updated Crop Rotations slideshow for your viewing pleasure, as they say!

<div> <strong> <a href=”https://www.slideshare.net/SustainableMarketFarming/crop-rotations-for-vegetables-and-cover-crops-2014″ title=”Crop rotations for vegetables and cover crops 2014, Pam Dawling” target=”_blank”>Crop rotations for vegetables and cover crops 2014, Pam Dawling</a> </strong> from <strong><a href=”http://www.slideshare.net/SustainableMarketFarming” target=”_blank”>Pam Dawling</a></strong> </div>

I heard from the Asheville Mother Earth News Fair organizers that there were 16,000 people at the Fair!! They had expected 10,000 for a first time at that location. The next MEN Fair is May 31- June 1 at Puyallup, Washington. I’m not going to that one (too far, too busy). I will be going to  Seven Springs, Pennsylvania. That’s September 12-14. Then there is Topeka, Kansas, October 25-26. I hope to be there.

Somehow, I’m also presenting at the Heritage Harvest Festival at Monticello, September 12-13. Ira Wallace, Cindy Conner and I (and perhaps some other speakers) will all be presenting earlyish at HHF (mostly Friday) then heading north to present at MEN. Next year these events will not be double-booked!

Meanwhile, home on the farm, we are transplanting broccoli, rather late this year, due to cold wet weather. Now it is dry and warm, and our over-large plants are suffering. . . Time to set out the sprinkler irrigation. There is some chance of showers today, but I don’t think it’s going to add up to much water. “At least they won’t be getting drier” as my predecessor taught me to say!

Broccoli seedlings in the cold frame Credit Kathryn Simmons

Broccoli seedlings in the cold frame
Credit Kathryn Simmons

We’ve also transplanted the 120 lettuce for the week, and after the forecast chilly Wednesday night, we have chard, cucumbers and squash to set out, and corn to sow. We will be firmly into the warm weather crops then, and the start of the busy season.

Spring lettuce transplants protected by rowcover. Credit Kathryn Simmons

Spring lettuce transplants protected by rowcover.
Credit Kathryn Simmons

Another of my tasks today is to make maps of where the drip irrigation is to go, so more of the crew can set up the systems. Then I really have to tackle the unholy mix-up of low-flow and medium-flow drip tape that we unwittingly got ourselves into last year.

March Events

I have two events in March, where I am making presentations. The first is an online conference (no travel costs!)

 

CSA Expert Exchange:
An Online Conference
Presented in partnership with Small Farm Central
March 6 – Want to Start a CSA?
Beginning Farmers Session
7:00pm-9:30pm EST
March 7 – CSA Expert Exchange Main Event
11:00am-3:30pm EST

Register for one or both days. Sessions will be recorded.
I am speaking on Crop Planning on Friday at 1.40pm.
Then on Sunday March 16, is the rescheduled day at Lynchburg College (postponed from February 15 because of all the snow). I am speaking on Feeding the Soil.
Ira, Cindy and Pam working on our presentations

Ira, Cindy and Pam working on our presentations. Photo Betsy Trice

gws1

gws2

 

Book Report: Cindy Conner’s Grow a Sustainable Diet

79656b7348504867374d52494a3839696d6d77-400x400-0-0Book Report

Cindy Conner: Grow a Sustainable Diet: Planning and Growing to Feed Ourselves and the Earth. New Society Publishers 2014.

 

“This book will help you learn how to calculate how much food you need and how much space you need to grow it, ” proclaims Cindy Conner. It  is written for the backyarder or homesteader who takes food self-sufficiency and ecology seriously. To grow food crops without depleting the soil or bringing in outside inputs, for instance, you will need to dedicate 60% of your land to growing compost crops or cover crops. This challenge is not for the faint-hearted. But here you have the leader-in-a-book, you are not going it alone.

Cindy explains what she means by a sustainable diet and includes a fascinating exercise “What if the Trucks Stopped Coming?” – where would you go to get all your food within 100 miles from home? Within 50? 25? What foods would you be eating and what would disappear from your life? Would the existing farmers be able to supply everyone’s needs locally, or would you need to provide more for yourself and your household? What would your priorities need to be? Your first thought might be that you’d need to make secret stashes of food, and get guns to keep away your hungry neighbors. Cindy says she doesn’t believe guns will keep hungry people away and the better answer is to act from compassion, and work with your neighbors to meet whatever the future brings. None of us can survive without community, so let’s make sure our community is strong enough to meet the challenges.

In the Garden Maps chapter, Cindy explains how to divide the available garden space up into smaller plots or sets of beds, increasing your ease of access without losing a high percentage of potential growing space to paths. Beds curved along the contours will reduce rainwater runoff and erosion. On the other hand, straight lines are easier to hoe quickly. Design your garden to suit the ways you use the space – how you get to the chicken pen, or the compost pile. Permaculture design principles have influenced Cindy’s choices.

Next you can chose your crops. If all your nutrients are to come from your garden, you will need to pay attention to growing enough calories. otherwise you’ll lack the energy to get to the end of the season! Cindy reports that potatoes, Jerusalem artichokes, sweet potatoes, parsnips, salsify, leeks and garlic are on the list of calories/area. Personally I can’t imagine getting a lot of calories from garlic. Besides the overwhelming flavor there is the issue of the work involved – garlic is labor intensive at certain times of year. Leeks similarly don’t seem a good source of calories per pound, even if they are good per square foot. And winter squash are easy to grow and surely full of calories. They do take space to grow, but I wouldn’t rule them out for that reason alone.

If you grow a lot of the calorie crops already mentioned, you will also be growing a lot of protein. Legumes produce more protein, at the cost of needing more space than the high calorie crops above. Beans, peanuts, peas can be interplanted with other crops to get that protein in the most space-saving way possible. Grains provide amino acids that are complementary to those in legumes, and the straw of grain crops is valuable for mulch or compost-making. Calcium is vital for bone health and there is plenty to be found in leafy cooking greens. A little oil or butter on the greens will help assimilate vitamin D, which is as important as calcium.

Oils and sweeteners are the two space-hogging challenges when it comes to food self-reliance. Sunflower and pumpkin seeds and peanuts, whether eaten whole or pressed, supply oil, as can some tree nuts. The home-grown vegan diet would be short on oils. Those who drink milk and eat eggs get some fats that way, easier by far. Some fruits store for out of season use. Honey, maple syrup and sorghum syrup can be home-produced, although you’ll be shocked the first time you see how much land and how much work goes into the vegan options. (Honey is made by small furry animals, it isn’t vegan.)

The question of  How Much to Grow is important, if time, effort and land are not to be wasted. Locally-adapted varieties and your personal culinary preferences, as well as potential yields per area will influence your planning. After your first year, your record-keeping will be your guide to making improvements.

To keep your garden productive year after year, you will need to feed the soil. You can do this by bringing in organic materials as mulch or to contribute to your compost. If you worry about the reliability of the supply from outside, or whether it is contaminated with herbicides or car exhaust, or whether its production is truly sustainable, you’ll want to be as self-relaint in that department as in the rest of your enterprise. You could grow mulch crops (straw or hay) as part of a bigger farm, in rotation with grazing animals. Or you could grow all your compost and mulch crops within the boundaries of your garden.

Compost is a priceless soil amendment, adding not just organic matter and the basic nutrients but also a fine collection of microbes. There are almost as many ways of making compost as there are compost-makers. Cindy prefers the cool, slow method (using a relatively high proportion of carbon materials to nitrogen materials), in order to “farm” the particular mix of microbes that result that way. The annual pile is part of her garden rotation, built on top of one of the beds, starting in the fall. The next fall, after that compost is spread on the garden, winter rye is sown.Next spring this is cut and left as mulch. The rye has scavanged any compost left from the pile and returns the nutrients to the soil as it decomposes around the corn seed (sown into the mulch).

Earlier, I said you need to plant 60% of your garden in compost crops or mulch, to have a sustainable system. Two thirds of that space would be in carbon crops and one third in nitrogen crops. Happily, some of the compost materials will be grown as a by-product of a food crop (corn stalks are a good example). The book leads you through the process of identifying suitable crops, and best of all, provides a worksheet to help you determine Bed Crop Months. For each bed, from your plan you determine how many months that bed has food crops and how many months compost crops (remember that one crop can be both!) Winter cover crops really help achieve the goal! After considering each bed, you tally up and see if you need to find more niches for compost crops.

All the work in Cindy’s garden is done by hand, including cutting down cover crops, and this is carefully explained. The space is used very intensively, often planting several crops in the same bed to get best use of the space, and so that one can take over from another later.

Scheduling so your crops mature when you want them is the next big task, followed by planning a good crop rotation,and fitting everything into the space you’ve got. “Lay out your intentions, stay flexible and keep learning.” More worksheets are provided to help you.

Sections on looking after your seeds, on including animals, on food storage and preservation and on sheds, fences and other support systems follow. About animals: “You can plan a diet of only plants, but you would be hard pressed to fill all your nutritional needs without taking supplements, which are not part of a sustainable diet.” Hear, hear!

Cindy’s book will set you on the path to providing healthy food for your household without depleting the Earth in the process. Her conversational style will give you confidence as she breaks complex ideas into manageable steps. Beginners are talked through the process step by step. Cindy’s years of teaching college shine through. One reframing exercise I liked was this “if you have thought of weeding as drudgery, something you have to endure [b]egin to think of weeding as a harvest of materials for the compost pile.”

Back from Allegheny Mountain School

<div style=”margin-bottom:5px”> <strong> <a href=”https://www.slideshare.net/SustainableMarketFarming/coldhardy-winter-vegetables-pam-dawling-2013″ title=”Cold-hardy winter vegetables – Pam Dawling 2013″ target=”_blank”>Cold-hardy winter vegetables – Pam Dawling 2013</a> </strong> from <strong><a href=”http://www.slideshare.net/SustainableMarketFarming” target=”_blank”>Pam Dawling</a></strong> </div>

I’m just home from a trip with Ira Wallace of Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, to the Allegheny Mountain School, where we each gave several presentations. My new one, Cold-hardy winter vegetables, is embedded here. For my others, go to SlideShare.net and search for Pam Dawling. Here’s titles I’ve up-loaded previously, if you’d rather cut and paste than browse:

Fall vegetable production (60 min)

CFSA 2012 – Growing great garlic

Southern SAWG – Producing Asian greens for market

Southern SAWG – Intensive vegetable production on a small scale

VABF Farm School 2013 – Sustainable farming practices

VABF 2013 – Crop rotations for vegetables and cover crops

Ira Wallace contributes to the SESE blog and to the Organic Gardening blog on Mother Earth News. Click to read her recent post about planning a tomato tasting party. Here’s more about AMS from their website:

“Allegheny Mountain School (AMS) is a not-for-profit experiential fellowship program designed to serve our region’s communities in developing a more secure food system.  AMS is located in Highland County, VA. Allegheny Mountain School (AMS) has assembled its third cohort of nine Fellows where they are working and studying sustainable food cultivation and restorative, nourishing traditions.  Our goal is to teach Fellows to train others to grow their own food and to understand the benefits of eating local, whole foods. AMS is a fully funded intensive 20 month two phase program.  Phase I (April 28,2013-November 1, 2013) takes place on a mountain farm in Highland County, VA where Fellows experience a full growing season to cultivate and harvest their own food, prepare nutritious meals and put up/sow food for winter.  In addition, Fellows engage in mentored research on topics relevant to food or medicinal cultivation and health.  During Phase II (January 1, 2014-December 31, 2014), AMS Fellows are provided stipends to work in positions for our Partner Service Organizations, local nonprofits focused on food systems activities which positively impact community and environmental well being.”

The nine energetic and enthusiastic Fellows are a small temporary community farming together and learning about sustainability. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting them, as well as Kayla and Trevor, the two farm managers, and Laurie Bergman. They farm in a splendidly isolated zone 4 mountainous area. Their gardens are almost weed-free, and their onions and leeks are stupendous! Brassica flea beetles are the main insect challenge. The fresh air was a lovely change from muggy central Virginia. Several of the crops we grow outside (eggplant, peppers, watermelon, sweet potatoes) are creatively packed into their hoophouse.

VABF Farm School and Virginia Festival of the Book

I gave a presentation at the  VABF Farm School  at J Sergeant Reynolds college, Goochland, VA, with Ira Wallace of Southern Exposure Seed Exchange on Monday evening (3/18). It was one of three classes on Sustainable Farming Practices. You can see my half here:

Between us, we covered garden planning, record keeping, crop rotations, succession cropping, storing seed and doing a seed inventory, (mostly me). And production efficiencies, online planning tools, growing healthy plants, seed growing and ripeness indicators (mostly Ira). The purpose of this program is to help beginning farmers and ranchers in Virginia to make informed farm planning decisions as part of a whole farm plan. It’s a  six week comprehensive program (Monday evenings from 6:00-9:00pm) covering:

  • Introduction to Whole Farm Planning
  • Marketing
  • Sustainable Farming Practices
  • Holistic Business Management
Virginia Festival of the Book
And yesterday, Thursday March 21st, I spoke at the Virginia Festival of the Book in Charlottesville, Virginia.I talked about the process of writing my book Sustainable Market Farming, who I wrote the book for, the gaps in the available books about ecological vegetable production that caused me to write it, and about my experience growing vegetables sustainably to feed our community at Twin Oaks.My panel discussion, the Locavore track, was at the JMRL Public Library, 201 East Market Street. 

Also on the Locavore panel was Jackson Landers, author of The Beginner’s Guide to Hunting Deer for Food and Eating Aliens (about hunting invasive animal species for food). Here’s an interesting interview with Jackson Landers from 2010 and his blog The Locavore Hunter.book_detail

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