Fun on the Farm!
Did you know? In 2011, there were over 8,000 farms across the United States that utilized sustainable energy sources to help support their operations; including the use of solar panels, wind turbines and solar thermal heating systems. That may sound like a lot of farms, but it is a mere 0.003% of all 2.1 million farms throughout the U.S.. These systems are currently an untapped resource for many farmers, many of whom lack the immediate funding to invest in these renewable energy source, to help fulfill some of their energy needs.
What’s Growing On?
Well, it has been another busy week on the Urban Farm, as we start to wrap up the end of the 2017 harvest season and prepare to roll straight into the 2018 growing season. My two Wofford students have final exams next week, and will be finishing up their first semester as Work Study students on the HCFM Urban Farm. They have both expressed interest in returning to the farm to work again, in the spring semester, for which I am very excited! They have been an invaluable addition to the farm, through their enthusiasm and engagement! I pulled my back doing some farm work earlier this week, and the rest of this week would have been incredibly difficult without their help, support and cheer! I cannot express enough, how much I appreciate the new partnership with Wofford College, and these two pioneering students!
Inside the Greenhouse, all things are warm and well watered, with the incredible automatic watering system working like a charm! This holiday season has already been a test for the automatic watering system, to ensure that we designed and installed it properly; and I can proudly say that it is working and high fives are in order on the Urban Farm! It took some time and a few little adjustments, but the system is up and working, which is all that matters! My peppers are still doing amazing, producing more pepper babies than I’d care to even think about (100+ lbs of peppers into the season); but since one of Luke LeCroix’s favorite things to do on the Urban Farm is picking peppers, I don’t think that I have to worry about it too much!
My tomato plants inside of the Greenhouse are also doing really well, and they have been producing flowers left and right! I hope that, if this continues, we will have a really decent batch of tomatoes coming out of the Greenhouse in the early spring time. So far, so good! It will be really neat for both Cat and Luke to get to witness the growth and development of multiple types of plants, from start to finish, during their time here on the Urban Farm! They helped seed and then transplant these beautiful Tomato plants, and to see them producing fruit will be yet another reward of the farm!
My new flats of cucumbers have germinated during the past week, so I have a little family of cucumber seedlings on the bench right now! It will never get old seeing an emtpy flat of soil one day, and coming back to a whole host of little seedlings the very next day! Cucumber plants are just so incredible; the rate at which they grow and develop just amazes me! I also took some time this morning to trim down my microgreens, and I will be starting another new batch later on this afternoon. Microgreens are one of the easiest products to grow during the winter time because they finish off so quickly and don’t require much attention.
One of the many things that I have learned upon arriving in the south, is that A. people like their fresh garlic, and B. it is difficult to grow garlic during a wet winter/spring season. Garlic plants don’t do well when the ground is consistently damp, which has led to the inspiration for our latest experiment. Instead of growing greens or some other traditional winter crop in our vertical garden wall, I have decided to experiment with growing Garlic vertically; thereby improving soil drainage and reducing the chance of plant rot and disease. If the garlic does well in these vertical growing systems, then that is how we will attempt to grow garlic each year, when we are anticipating an unusually damp or rainy winter season. The reduction of sunlight hours, increased cloudy weather and an unusual amount of rain during the winter time can lead to consistently moist soil (especially on the Urban Farm, which tends to stay quite soggy during the winter), which is good for most crops, but not for onions or garlic, which prefer to have drier feet.
Outside in my linear rows, Cat and Luke will be helping me to install several low tunnels and frost blankets this afternoon, to help protect my plants from the expected frosts, as well as help promote plant growth. By installing low tunnels and maintaining a certain temperature range around the row of crops, it helps to promote growth and production among my crops. Earlier this week we got some Snap Pea seeds in the ground, and are hoping for a decent Snap Pea harvest this spring. Last winter, my Snap Pea rows took a beating from some Round Up spray done at the adjacent energy station. So, this summer, I put up a barrier, which will help to protect some of my crops from any damaging spray, should the crew come through again during the winter or springtime. After loosing half of my Snap Pea crop due to pesticide spray last winter, I took some necessary precautions, and hope to avoid that level of catastrophic damage again. 2017 has been a year of both ups and downs on the Urban Farm; from crop damage due to Round Up, a very wet spring and early summer and bunnies coming and eating almost all of my fall cold crop seedlings, to successful production with my new PVC towers, the creation of a Wofford/Urban Farm partnership in the form of Work Study students, the addition of multiple raised beds throughout the farm and opening the farm up to the public each month for gardening classes, farm tours and volunteering. All in all, I am really proud of where the farm is right now and of what we have accomplished during this past year! I have worked with my Work Study students and several other community members to develop some effective plans for 2018, to help continue the growth and momentum that we have started on the Urban Farm this year, and I hope to be able to share those plants with you all in the upcoming months!!!
As always, I look forward to sharing more with you again next week! If you have any questions or comments, please send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org)! Thanks!