Cover Crops slideshow, speaking events, good reading, and spinach varieties

I’ve had a busy few weeks. On Thursday 9/29, I presented my new slideshow Cover Crops, to the Local Food Hub in Charlottesville. Here it is with a few bonus slides. Like most of my slideshows, you can find it on Slideshare. I’ll be presenting a shorter, more concise version at the Virginia Association for Biological Farming Conference January 9-11 (yes, midweek) at the Omni Homestead Resort, Hot Springs, VA.

On Saturday 10/1 I gave a shared presentation with Ira Wallace on the Seed Garden, at Lynchburg College. I’ll tell you more about that next week, once I’ve got the slideshow uploaded.

I found out that the Mother Earth News Fair in Pennsylvania where I gave two workshops and some tomato string-weaving demos, had 19,000 attendees! Quite the crowd! I’m hoping to get to the 2017 Fair in Asheville, NC and at least one other next year.


October 2016 cover 300

The October issue of Growing for Market magazine is out. There’s an article by Karin Tifft on Getting Started with Biological Pest Control. She writes in a very straightforward style, pointing out many mistakes to avoid, and navigating the route into a complex subject. Phil Norris writes from experience about growing in clay, covering water management, aeration, soil amendments and erecting a movable high tunnel (hoophouse) on clay. They hadn’t sufficiently anchored the structure, which was on a windy site. It blew a foot and a half to the south, and the clay held 3 of the 4 corner posts, saving the structure! Bret Grohsgal writes about introducing unusual crops to your customers successfully – free samples, higher prices, and follow-through, not discounts! the GfM editor, Andrew Mefford, reviews Shawn Jadrnicek’s new book, The Bio-Integrated Farm and Miraculous Abundance by Perrine and Charles Herve-Gruyer. Jane Tanner writes  about building a local flower movement.FarmersOfficeCoverjpg-250x300 The cover article is by Julia Shanks, author of the new book, The Farmer’s Office which I wrote about previously. I’m looking forward to reviewing a copy. In this article, Putting the Right Price on your Product, Julia covers all the aspects of price-setting: costs of production (direct costs, labor and overheads), analyzing what others are charging, and communicating value to your customers.


Photo courtesy of Organic Broadcaster and MOSES

Photo courtesy of Organic Broadcaster and MOSES

The September/October Organic Broadcaster has also arrived. The lead article shocked me by revealing that the increased demand for organic corn and soy in the US has lead to an increase in imports. The “organic” labeling of some is in question, as imports are required to meet he standards of the exporting country, not the US. Are we being chauvinist to expect these standards to be looser than USDA certification, or gullible to assume they are at least as stringent? Either way, cheaper imports are leading to lower prices, and difficulties for US Organic farmers. If you can, buy local. Another topic covered in this issue include the law requiring GMO (bioengineered) packaged food to be labeled (good!) but the information that the labeling is in those cryptic QR codes that need a smartphone to read them. There are also articles advising on precautions when putting organic grain into a grain bin previously used for non-organic crops; informing on how the National Organic Program protects organic integrity through oversight and regulation; advising on how to use fishmeal to improve poultry performance, how to create enterprise budgets to see what’s financially worthwhile, how to access farm-to-school programs,how to farm safely with children. Lisa Kivirist writes about the Rural Women’s Project in the Midwest. They have a summer workshop series, farm tours, conference, and lots of networking with over 5000 women farmers involved. An article on farmer-veterans in the Midwest speaks about the solidarity and practical help available.


Fall spinach Photo Wren Vile

Fall spinach
Photo Wren Vile

This week in the Twin Oaks garden we have been using the “ideal transplanting weather” (that means rain!) to move spinach and kale plants from clumps that came up well and survived the grasshoppers to bare patches.  Transplants survive so much better if planted late in the day during overcast weather or light rain.

Tyee spinach. Photo Johnnys Selected Seeds

Tyee spinach.
Photo Johnnys Selected Seeds

This fall we sowed three spinach varieties: our long-time favorite Tyee spinach which has been discontinued by the seed trade. We’re trying a couple of other savoyed or semi-savoyed varieties.

Avon spinach and purple-handed gardener. Photo Fedco Seeds

Avon spinach Fedco Seeds

Avon spinach from Fedco Seeds is a promising alternative (I just hope it doesn’t turn everyone’s hands purple as this photo suggests! ) 42 days to mature spinach. This variety starred in Fedco’s 2015 spinach trial A vigorous semi-savoy variety with large broad dark green leaves and a sweet mild ‘sprightly’ flavor. Tender leaf and stem, an upright spreading habit. Tyee had great bolt resistance but tended to yellow, slightly tough, leaves in the fall. Avon promises to hold well in heat and keep its good texture and appearance in the fall, while offering high yields early and late.

Chevelle spinach. Photo Enza Zaden

Chevelle spinach.
Photo Enza Zaden

We are also trying Chevelle spinach, which we bought from Osborne Seeds. Their website is out today, here’s their Phone: (360) 424-7333.

Our variety trials have not got off to a good start, because we are moving plants around so much to fill gaps. But we have got reliably labeled plants in our cold frames, where they will grow overwinter until we need the space for seed flats in spring.

 

 


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.