Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Third Week (Sept. 10, 2012)

This first picture is of a hydroponic gutter vegetable garden one of the people in class is experimenting with, and is using to grow vegetables o their back deck. The total material costs, including pump, was about $60.

Classes started Thursday with work on pressure canning of low acidic foods (vegetables and meats).  A pressure caner is used to heat the material being canned to a higher temperature than boiling water for the purpose of killing bacteria.  

After the pressure canning we learned about the science behind safely preserving foods and then proceeded to test the pH of the high acid (pH < 4.6) foods that we canned last week.  The pictures below are of a jar of pickles purchased at the Detroit Lakes  Farmers Markets.  Note the proper label and pH 3.4.

Friday started at Bluebird Gardens watching some you-tube videos from last years class.  Go to www.bluebirdgardens.net and select the video tab to view some of these videos as they are pretty cool.

From that we discussed importance of balancing the nutrients in the soil to have healthy energy dense produce.  Then we talked about using cover crops.  After that it was out into the fields to observe first hand how they were using cover crops in their operation growing vegetables.  For example they will plant a mixture of various plants (i.e. nitrogen mix consisting of 10 different nitrogen fixing plants) as a cover crop early in the spring and then plow it under as green manure, or till rows in the cover crop and plant a crop like melons or pumpkins as in the photo below.

Sudan Grass cover crop that followed harvest of a field of sweet corn.

Traveling gun sprinkler.  Irrigation is very important to a successful CSA vegetable farm.

We wrapped the morning up on weeding and some of the various equipment (cultivators) used for weeding.  The video below is of one of the weeders used at bluebird gardens.  The idea is that the person riding weeder moves the spinning cultivators in and out of the rows trying to take out the weeds without taking out the plants.  It is kind of like playing a video game.

Friday afternoon it was over to Paradox Farm for Farm Skills.  There we started tearing down existing fence and gates to prepare the site for a new greenhouse with underground thermal storage that we will be building as a class project.  Practical knot tying skills were worked into the day.  We finished Friday with a lesson on various forage plants and there value as forage for animals.

Building an electric fence for a new lane to route the dairy goats and cows around the  greenhouse construction area to the milking parlor.

 Saturday was a long day, it started at the busy Detroit Lakes Farmers Market.  Note how well the produce is displayed.  We observed that this booth had a significant amount of traffic.  All the vendors were willing to discuss their product, and some of the ins and outs and drama's of the farmers market.

Here I am haggling with the vendor over price.  Actually we are just posing for the picture.  Ryan the booth owner is one of the class instructors 2nd semester.  We finished the day at his CSA farm (unfortunately my camera batteries were dead by the time we got to Ryan's farm  so I did not get any pictures of his High Tower, 2ac of produce, windmill, chickens or sheep.
 In between the farmers market and Ryan's Lida CSA Farm we had the opportunity to visit an Amish Farm owned by Robert and Debbie.  Robert was in charge of communities co-op prior to his retirement last year.  They are converts to the Amish life, two of only 100 such in the nation, which gives them a unique perspective.  Robert did most of the talking, he is college educated and very well read. In addition to learning about their adventures in sustainable farming, farmers markets, and selling to produce wholesalers, we also learned a little bit about Amish life. There did not seem to be any question off limits.  The most interesting was an example of why they are a horse driven society.  It is that it helps keep the community close.  The community needs to live within a 10+/_ mile radius for horse transportation to be practical.  They don't use tractors and other machines to improve the efficiency of their harvest and work because then it would be like telling your neighbor that you didn't need them.  Where without the modern equipment neighbors need to help each other out for everyone to have a successful harvest.

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