I’ve just got back from a wonderful Agroecology Tour of Cuba with the Organic Growers School. Click the link to sign up for the 2021 tour. I have lots of photos and much to say, but so little time today! In 9 days we visited 9 farms, had several speakers address aspects of life (and particularly farming and environmental issues) in Cuba, had a couple of walking tours, ate many delicious farm-to-table type dinners and still had time for a salsa lesson
We are having trouble with our internet connection today, so this post will either be short or very short.
I’m headed to the Little Rock, Arkansas conference of the Southern Sustainable Working Group
Go to my Events Page for a full list of where to look for me. Not long after getting home from SSAWG I’m headed to PASA in Lancaster, Pennsylvania
Then the West Virginia Small Farms Conference
Then OAK, in Louisville, Kentucky,
Then Organic Growers School in Mars Hill, North Carolina
My next speaking event is the Organic Growers School at Mars Hill University, Asheville, NC on Friday–Sunday, March 8–10, 2019. It’s their 26th Annual Spring Conference. On Friday I’m giving an all-day workshop with Ira Wallace:
Join experienced vegetable, herb, and seed growers Pam Dawling & Ira Wallace for a step-by-step approach to growing year-round. Learn the tools to manage space effectively, grow the quantities of crops when you want them, and efficiently meet your growing goals.
Where: Creekside Farms Education Center, 339 Avery Creek Road, Arden, NC 28704
When: Friday, March 8, 2019, 9:30 to 4:30
Cost: $55 with Saturday and/or Sunday conference registration, $70 without.
Here are more details about what we hope to cover during the day:
Defining your Market: Are you growing for yourself or for others? When and how much do you need to harvest? Learn about yields of common crops and begin to create a growing plan.
Season Extension: From transplants and row cover in the spring, to hoop houses in the winter, learn to keep crops alive through the seasons. Calculate the last worthwhile planting date in your area, and choose a suitable combination of warm weather crops, cool weather crops, storage crops and cold-hardy crops appropriate for your scale.
Temperature Resilience: Discover tips to deal with extreme hot and cold temperature ranges including getting seeds germinated, identifying crops that do well in both extremes, and the importance of crop diversification. Climate change necessitates adaptive growing practices. We will incorporate soil building and water management, as well as the importance of seed saving and variety trials.
Crop Rotation: Keep roots in the ground at all times! Learn the art of crop rotation using planting calendars, observation, and garden planning. Discover relay planting, cover cropping, isolation distances, plants to attract pollinators, as well as tricks for fitting minor crops into available spaces.
On Saturday and Sunday at 9.00-10.30 am I will be teaching Sustainable Farming Practices, with a primary audience of beginner farmers. (Everyone is welcome!).
An intro to year-round vegetable production; crop planning; record-keeping; rotations; cover crops; compost; and mulch. Also direct sowing and transplanting; crop spacing; succession scheduling for continuous harvests; efficient production strategies; season extension; pests, diseases and weeds; determining crop maturity and harvest methods.
The Organic Growers School Spring Conference is for farmers, gardeners, homesteaders, and sustainability seekers.The Spring Conference offers practical, region-specific workshops on farming, gardening, permaculture, urban growing, and rural living and includes a trade show, a seed exchange,special guest speakers, and a Saturday evening social. More than 150 classes—both 90-minute sessions and half-day workshops—are offered on Saturday and Sunday in 17 learning tracks:
“The Spring Conference features a trade show on Saturday and Sunday that showcases a wide array of exhibitors and products from local farms, gardening suppliers, and cottage industries that specialize in organic products and resources. Also featured on Saturday and Sunday is the annual Seed and Plant Exchange booth which offers the opportunity to preserve genetic diversity and protect regionally adapted varieties. Attendees may bring excess seeds and small plants to share, barter, or trade.For 25 years, the Spring Conference has allowed OGS to reinforce Western NC’s role as a regional leader in sustainable food and farming. Attendees come from 18 states and Canada and have described the event as the kick-start to the growing season. The event has grown exponentially—from a small gathering of 100 growing enthusiasts in 1993 to a regionally recognized conference drawing over 2,500 attendees, exhibitors and speakers.“The 25th Anniversary of the OGS Spring Conference is really a celebration of our regional wisdom and commitment to land stewardship, sustainable food systems, and local farming,”says OGS Executive Director, Lee Warren.“The conference is a gathering place, a source of inspiration, and a reminder of the richness of our community,”
The 25th annual Virginia Festival of the Book will take place Wednesday, March 20 through Sunday, March 24, 2019 in venues across Charlottesville and Albemarle County, Virginia. For more, click Virginia Festival of the Book 2019 Schedule.
“Pam Dawling (The Year-Round Hoophouse) and co-authors Claudia Kousoulas and Ellen Letourneau (Bread & Beauty) discuss their personal approaches to preserving, cultivating, and enjoying land responsibly in the Mid-Atlantic region. Book sales and signing will follow. FREE to attend and open to the public.”
The panel will be moderated by local author Tanya Denckla-Cobb
Here’s my updated Spring and Summer Hoophouse slideshow, that I promised all the people at my Organic Growers School workshops. I rearranged the slides in what I think is a better order and revised the resources section.
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.
“Farming is tough work. The unpredictability of the job and the pressure to present a curated, bucolic version of the work can easily lead to various kinds of mental health problems: despair, feeling overwhelmed or like a failure, or even depression. In this episode, co-produced with Jessica Gale of Sweet Gale Gardens, we discuss the prevalence of mental health problems among farmers, and how to address them.” Jordan Marr
The March issue of Growing for Market is out. Nothing from me this month (I have articles for May and June/July coming up). In this issue. There are articles about No-till vegetable farming (Conor Crickmore at Neversink Farm, in the Catskill Mountains of New York), and Bio-integrated farm design by Shawn Jadrnicek, co-author with Stephanie Jadrnicek, of The Bio-Integrated Farm: A Revolutionary Permaculture-Based System Using Greenhouses, Ponds, Compost Piles, Aquaponics, Chickens and More. Lots of water in this book, and very practical. There’s an article on A DIY mobile cooler for moving and storing perishable foods – an insulated trailer using Cool-Bot technology by Cary Rivard, Kansas State Research & Extension Horticulture & Forestry & Extension Vegetable & Fruit Crop Specialist. Karin Tifft has written The “other” reasons to grow in a greenhouse: climate, light, good use of space, reduced wastage of produce, energy conservation and more. Andrew Mefferd, the editor has written on growing cucumbers umbrella style under cover. Finally, Debra Prinzing writes on Making your mark with local branding.
And here at Twin Oaks, we planted our spring potatoes yesterday, after pre-sprouting (chitting) the seed potatoes for a couple of weeks. Soon we hope to see the potato shoots emerging from the soil.
My next task this week is to upload my presentation Growing Great Garlic to SlideShare, and make it available here on my blog. Currently there is an older version of the presentation, from 2013, up there. By next week I should have the new version posted.
This compact and practical workbook is for small-scale vegetable or flower growers wanting to increase the success of their enterprise by better planning, or for new farmers wanting reliable help to get started. Clearly written, it follows a fictional couple (Hanna and Bruce) working through the eleven step planning process. This is a concise focused workbook with lots of charts, not a chatty bedtime read. But for small-scale farmers, this won’t be a dry book. As well as the excitement and relief of “Aha!” moments, readers can enjoy the chance to cement the practical tips of each chapter with a real-life example – a description of a farm tackling that chapter’s planning stage.
The approach of this book is very similar to the one I spell out in my book Sustainable Market Farming and in my slideshow posted above, although I have not yet met the authors , and we constructed our plans independently. This book leads the reader with every necessary detail and worksheet. The planning sheets are available to download as Excel spreadsheets from the Canadian Organic Growers website. You can then customize them for your own use. Or you can print them out and use as worksheets as they are, if you are not at ease with spreadsheets and would rather just have a ring binder of worksheets. One very important aspect of planning is to choose a method that works for you. If you find your record-keeping or planning method easy and comfortable to use, you are much more likely to use it and hence it will give you more useful results.
The eleven steps are:
Decide your financial goals
Decide on your markets
Make a preliminary planting schedule
Map your fields
Choose varieties and finalize your planting schedule
Make a greenhouse schedule for seedlings
Compile your seed order
Make a field operations calendar
Carry out your plan
Analyze your success
Plan next year
Crop Planning is written by two farmers from Quebec, so growers in other climate zones will need to keep this in mind. Hanna and Bruce’s harvest season starts at the beginning of July and runs to late October. Planting season runs from May 1 to mid-October. You will need to extrapolate at both ends if your winter hardiness zone is higher than theirs. You will also need to look at summer plantings – perhaps you won’t be planting lettuce, kohlrabi or arugula in July. You’ll need to apply your experience to the methods and decide on planting dates to fit your own harvest date goals.
Also, you won’t find info on growing Southern staples like okra, sweet potatoes and lima beans in this book. But you can feed information from elsewhere (including your own experience as a grower) into the format provided.
The fictional Hanna and Bruce in this book run a CSA as well as a farmers market booth, so that planning for both are conveniently included. Measurements are included in both the metric system and the feet and pounds of the old imperial system (more common in the US). Appendices provide reference charts; tips on designing a modular field layout to facilitate crop rotations and ease the transfer of standardized lengths of row cover and drip tape; a detailed money budget; some recommendations for further reading. Sadly, no index, but the contents list is clear and straightforward.
Crop Planning will quickly repay the $25 cover price. It’s all too easy to make a mistake costing $25 or more if you are under-informed, or under-prepared in some other way. Pay now and save!
The March issue of Growing for Market is out. It includes my article on planning and siting a hoophouse. This is a good time of year to scope out good sites for a hoophouse (high tunnel) if you don’t already have one. Or if you want another!
I address NRCS funding; what to look for in a good site (sunshine, drainage, good soil, fairly level land, wind protection, road access, electricity and water supplies); size and shape; and DIY versus professionally made frames (my advice – don’t skimp!). I go into the debate on single layer versus double layer plastic and special types of plastic.
I will be writing a follow-up article soon, talking about hoophouse end wall design, windows and doors, fixed walls, roll-up and roll-down walls, interior design (bed layout) and questions of in-ground insulation or even heating, as well as rainwater run-off and perhaps collection.
Other articles in this issue of Growing for Market include one on Integrated Pest and Disease Management by Karin Tifft; one on how to plan to make more money, by Jed Beach; Edible landscaping by Brad Halm; and Gretel Adams on how to best look after flowers at harvest, to cope with their particular and sometimes peculiar needs. An issue very packed with information!
My talk at the Culpeper County Library last weekend was very well received. Most of the audience were small-scale growers themselves, some were CSA farmers.
Now I’m gearing up for a Crop Planning class at For the Love of the Local in my home town on Thursday 3/10 6-7pm. 402 West Main Street. Louisa, Virginia. (540) 603-2068.
Immediately after that I’m headed to Asheville, NC for the Organic Growers School. On Saturday 3/12, 2-3.30pm I’ll be presenting (a shorter version of) Intensive Vegetable Production on a Small Scale, which was a big hit at the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group Conference at the end of January. On Sunday 3/13 , 4-5.30pm, I’ll be presenting my Growing Great Garlic slideshow.
Two weeks after that, I’ll be back in Asheville for the Mother Earth News Fair. Click the link to see the draft schedule. I’ll be giving presentations on Crop Planning and on Fall Vegetable Production. We decided that although the Asheville Fair is always in April, people there also may be just as interested in fall vegetable growing as much as in spring vegetables!
For the stay-at-homes I’ll put these presentations up on SlideShare after the event and share them on my blog.
Spring has reached Virginia and it’s time to be on the lookout for ticks. I found a really good interview with Rick Ostfeld of the Cary Institute on A Way to Garden. This blog is by Margaret Roach, a long time garden writer, who interviews many interesting people. You can listen to her podcast or read the interview. Learn why the black-legged tick (which can transmit Lyme disease) is called the deer tick and why that isn’t the best name; why mice, chipmunks and shrews (but not voles) contribute to the spread of Lyme disease, and why foxes, opossums, raccoons and bobcats can reduce Lyme disease incidence (by catching the small mammals). Possums also “hoover up” and eat the ticks directly.
We’ve finally started planting! We transplanted some spinach and sowed carrots on Saturday. The new spinach is covered with hoops and rowcovers, just as our overwintered spinach is. This has been a tough winter. The cold-damaged spinach had bleached frozen spots on the leaves, but we have been able to harvest it about once a week.
I’ve been busy planning my workshops for the next several months and beyond. Here’s a list of what I have confirmed and some that are just possibilities at this point. Remember, conference registrations can make nice gifts! (as can books – click my Book Reviews category in the side bar.)
Intensive Vegetable Production on a Small Scale — Learn techniques for raising large amounts of food on small acreages. Pam Dawling, who raises vegetables for a 100-person community on 3.5 acres, will discuss direct sowing and growing of transplants, close spacing, raised beds, irrigation, disease and pest management, and season extension techniques. This session will be valuable for small market farmers and urban farmers who want to maximize production with limited space.
Book Signing: Thursday, January 28 7:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
Location: University of North Carolina Asheville, UNCA
Workshop topics: Growing Great Garlic – Planting, harvest, curing, storing and the selection of planting stock are comprehensively covered in this workshop. As well as both hardneck and softneck bulb garlic, this workshop covers “byproduct crops” such as garlic scallions and scapes, which are ready early in the year when new crops are at a premium.
Intensive Vegetable Production on a Small Scale — Raise large amounts of food on small acreages. Learn about crop planning and record-keeping, growing and maintaining healthy soils, using crop rotations, cover crops, organic mulches and the basics of compost making (and growing). Compare methods for direct sowing and growing transplants. Learn about plant spacing, raised beds, irrigation, disease, pest and weed management, and season extension techniques. For both small market farmers and urban farmers who want to maximize production with limited space.