SSAWG Conference, Mother Earth News and Eat-All Greens, Growing for Market

I’m home from a very successful Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (SSAWG) Practical Tools and Solutions for Sustaining Family Farms Conference in Lexington Kentucky. It was the biggest so far, with 1400-1500 participants. My workshop Intensive Vegetable Production on a Small Scale ran out even of standing room, so I was asked to repeat it in the afternoon. I did that and the new room was half full. I gave out over 230 handouts. The impossibly broad topic was a challenge for a 75 minute workshop, but I did my best. Last week I blogged the info on Bio-intensive Integrated Pest Management that I had to drop from the slideshow.

I love the SSAWG conference. I learned so many useful tips that will improve my farming this year and in the future. Such as another way to tell a ripe watermelon: stroke it and feel the texture of the skin. If it’s slick the melon isn’t ready. When it becomes a little rough, it is. Such as, yes a 60cfm inflation blower really should be adequate for a 30′ x 96′ hoophouse, so we almost certainly have holes in the plastic. Such as ways to deal with tomato diseases in the Southeast (thanks Joe Kemble of Auburn University).

If you are now wishing you’d been there, go to SlideShare.net and search for SSAWG. There are so many valuable presentations from conferences over the years. Also the audio of this year’s presentations (and last) are available from Rhino Technologies. Wait a few days for them to get home and load everything on their website.


Eat-All Greens on October 19 Photo Bridget Aleshire
Eat-All Greens on October 19
Photo Bridget Aleshire

And while the soil outside is waterlogged and you can’t do much gardening or farming, what better than more veggie-reading? Mother Earth News Feb/March issue has an article by Carol Deppe,  on How to Easily Grow High-Yielding Greens. Carol is the inventor/discoverer of Eat-All Greens, which I have been writing about on this blog. Her 20 years of trialing this method of growing cooking greens quickly with very little work has led her to now recommend seven greens as particularly suitable. Green Wave mustard, Shunkyo and Sensai radishes (I was interested to read that Carol also harvested the radish roots as we did with ours in December), Groninger Blue collard-kale (must get that this year), Burgundy amaranth, Tokyo bekana (check!), and Red Aztec huazontle. No mention this time of peas. Peas provided our earliest harvests this fall. Keeping them tender was a challenge though. The article includes information on where to buy the varieties she recommends. Carol also has her own seed company Fertile Valley Seeds, selling varieties and strains that she has developed.


Potato harvest in November Photo by Lori Katz
Potato harvest in November with our Checchi and Magli harvester
Photo by Lori Katz

In the same issue of Mother Earth News is some of what I have written about dealing safely with green potatoes.


GFM_February2016_cover_300pxLastly for this week, the February Growing for Market is out. This is the first issue from the new editor, Andrew Mefferd. He tackles the thorny topic of hydroponics and whether it can ever be considered Organic. (Many organic and biological growers believe it is important to Keep the Soil in Organic)  As well as the Organic status of hydroponics, he describes the various types of hydroponic production for those that want to grow food that way, and for the rest of us to understand what we are talking about.

There is an article by Nick Burton about his hydroponic system and developing a trust-based sales system in a gym for people on a “paleo diet”, who eat lots of vegetables. Then a salad mix kit. He had moved from running a plant nursery to selling produce to selling convenience for people short of time and enthusiasm for shopping and preparing food. I admit to being skeptical about the paleo diet. Didn’t those paleo people spend all day scavenging for food?

Gretel Adams writes about running a bouquet business efficiently. (I’d be no good, I would dither for too long!)

My own article this issue is very down-to-earth: growing oats as a cover crop. They are easy-care and in climates in zone 7 or colder, they reliably die in the winter, making for easy early spring cultivation. We like to undersow oats and soy in our last sweet corn patch. This saves us from having to disk up the patch to establish a winter cover crop (it’s already there!), and means we can follow the late sweet corn with an early spring crop the next year. In our case it is the March potatoes.

Late season sweet corn undersown with oats and soy Photo Kathryn Simmons
Late season sweet corn undersown with oats and soy
Photo Kathryn Simmons

 

Review of the Organic Broadcaster, and Bug Tracks

Photo courtesy of Organic Broadcaster and MOSES
Photo courtesy of Organic Broadcaster and MOSES

Maybe you are not getting a chance for any agricultural summer reading, but I’ve been lucky enough to have some time off, while the crew took care of everything. I recently discovered the Organic Broadcaster, newspaper of MOSES, the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service. This magazine is a free digital or print bi-monthly. You can subscribe here.  You can also make a donation or post an ad, which will help the paper stay afloat.

Although I don’t live in the Midwest, I really appreciate this publication. It’s an 11 x 17″ 24-page newspaper, with a board of directors drawn from Minnesota, Missouri, Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin. Unlike many East Coast organic publications, this one includes information from farmers growing grains and raising livestock.

The articles are in-depth and substantial, and there are also news briefs, classified ads and an events calendar. The display ads are from businesses relevant to sustainable farming.

The July/August issue is packed with at least 12 articles. It includes (what I think are) regular pages: Ask a MOSES Expert (this time: setting a reasonable rent for grazing land); Book Review (this time The Small Scale Dairy by Gianaclis Caldwell); news from the Rural Women’s Project.

In the summer issue, the other articles included: Non-GMO farmers caught in the crossfire on herbicide-resistant weeds; Financial analysis showing the demand for grass-fed beef is growing; Discussion on the Organic status of hydroponically-grown crops; Using heat generated by a composting process to heat tanks of water and using that stored heat for  hoophouse (high tunnel) beds through a cold snap; Seven lessons in farm diversification; Research exploring the benefits of using cover crop mixes; Marketing your farm brand; Collaborative Farming (new farmers helping each other at Sandbox Co-operative, a 50 acre incubator farm – see them on You Tube); Prevention and sustainable controls for external parasites of livestock; Keeping useful farm records; and a study comparing soil health under organic and non-organic systems.

The News Briefs section contains info on field days, MOSES book sales, and sales of audio recordings from the previous MOSES conference, links to useful organizations, legal guides, funding and resources. Altogether a very valuable resource.


 

Bug Tracks blog
Bug Tracks blog

Another discovery while I indulged in summer gardening reading was the blog Bug Tracks. It has the subtitle Bringing glory to Earth’s small and neglected creatures. Charley Eiseman writes this blog and takes the splendid photos. He is a freelance naturalist based in western Massachusetts.If you have a mystery insect, you can send him a photo to see if he can identify it. Or you can look at pictures  of bugs that have mystified him, and see if you can identify those, if you’re very good! He has a Monthly Mystery series.

We’ve just had National Moth Week, and Charley’s current post has pictures of moths.

book_cover_awardCharley Eiseman has also written a book, Tracks & Signs of Insects. “The first-ever reference to the sign left by insects and other North American invertebrates includes descriptions and almost 1,000 color photos of tracks, egg cases, nests, feeding signs, galls, webs, burrows, and signs of predation.”

He’s now working on another book, this one on North American leaf-mining insects.

And I’m back at work, hoeing lettuce and setting up irrigation.