Cover Cropping – Techniques for Creating Productive Soil

Cover Crop

Part 1: Should You Cover Crop? 

Yes! But only if you are willing to put in the time, money, and effort that having a successful cover crop requires. Most farmers are dubious about starting the journey because of the many associated costs and risks, and this is fair. However, when implemented with care, cover crops can make your crop and soil highly successful and productive. This article will illustrate some of the many benefits by talking to you about the story of walnut farmer Russ Lester. Later, once you’re convinced this is the way to go, I’ll give you the basics on getting started. 

What are the Benefits?

To start off, the benefits of cover cropping are a reduction of soil erosion and enhanced nutrient cycling which contributes positively to soil physical, biological and chemical properties. However, the success of the cover crop depends on the type of cover crop, timing and management as well as the crop that you are growing alongside or after it. 

Success with Cover Crops at Dixon Ridge Farms:

Russ Lester, co-owner of Dixon Ridge Farms, has been very successful at implementing a cover crop system on the walnut farm. Lester says, “We don’t just look at how cover crops can supply fertility; we look at how they can suppress weeds, conserve soil moisture, attract and keep beneficial insects, cool the orchard, and supply cover crop seed for next year.” He does this by using a “Rich Mix,” made up of Lana (wooly pod) vetch, purple vetch, common vetch, crimson clover, sub-clover, burr medic, oats, cereal rye, and barley, to maximize his cover crop benefits.This mix provides the low carbon to nitrogen ratio, meaning that C and N are cycled back into the soil, leguminous crops like clover and vetch fix nitrogen directly making them available for plants and uses water efficiently from the soil surface via irrigation. Evaporative losses are minimized because of the high soil organic matter from previous cover crops, which hold more water in the soil. In addition to this, the quick growth of the cover crops protects the water from evaporative losses. Weeds are also not a concern because they are quickly smothered by the planting and their growth is suppressed. 

Timing is Everything 

The process should also be timed to maximize benefits. A trade-off for cover crops is that it utilizes the water for the main crop, which is an issue in drought-prone environments like California. This is counteracted by growing the crop during the walnut tree dormancy, where the water use of the walnut tree is very low.  Cover cropping has a cost – seed and soil preparations and labor requirements factor into implementing the system. Although there is no direct profit associated with the process, it does increases water holding capacity, soil infiltration and soil biodiversity. It increases nutrient availability and nutrient content, soil stability and also suppresses weeds. This also means that the soil is able to absorb water from irrigation, rain and runoff from neighboring land, contributing to groundwater recharge which is especially important in California’s climate. Because of these reasons, at Dixon Ridge Farms, where the cover seed mix is produced in-house, the benefits are worth the expense. 

Cover cropping practices, if implemented well, can ultimately reduce costs for farmers by saving on irrigation and fertilizer, contributing to soil health, assisting in nutrient uptake (potentially contributing to greater yields); while at the same time decreasing demand for mining of minerals and contributing to groundwater recharge, adding to overall sustainability!

Taking the Plunge

So you’ve decided to take the plunge and start cover cropping. That’s great! There are a few key factors that you will have to work within and this entry is going to break them down for you. Cover crops are for the soil instead of for direct consumption, but they need to work within the framework of your typical growing practices. A successful cover process is a balancing act between the needs of the soil, and what you are willing and able to give. It may seem daunting to throw in an added element into the mix, but with some planning, time, and practice, the payoff is worth it.

What is your Cover Crop? 

Depending on the amount of time your fields are left fallow, and the nature of your crops, decide what kind of cover crops are even available to you. When growing a cover crop, it must suit your needs. If your crop has a long growing season, and your fields are fallow for a short time, you may consider Triticale. Triticale is an easy and quickly-established cover crop that adds increases soil organic matter. It doubles as a weed suppressant and grazing grass for livestock. On the other hand, On the other hand, if you are growing corn, for example, you may choose to cover with a mix that is predominantly leguminous. By growing legumes like hairy vetch and crimson clover, you add to the soil nitrogen stock by introducing desirable nitrogen fixing bacteria. The type of mix used can be manipulated to best suit your needs and give you the most bang for your buck. 

What do you have now? Time:

First, how much time do you have? You can do cover cropping for long or short periods of time, depending on the season, the dormancy of your crop/orchard, they type of mix you are using

  • Mix/following crop/soil needs 
  • Kill type/time
  • Season

Key questions are what do you want out of the cover crop, where are your problem places and in what time frame are you looking to see a return on your investment? All these answers play a role in deciding what type of mix, when it’s sown, how long is grown and how it is maintained and integrated with the overall agricultural practice of your farm. 

Shailaja Chadha

About Shailaja Chadha

I am a fourth-year student at the University of California, Davis studying Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems. I chose this major because I wanted to study how people are connected to the ecosystem through food and the implications of our current food system. I am very interested in soil health and sustainability and am looking to pursue higher education in soil science and nutrient cycling. I joined ADAK Software as a blogger because I wanted to be able to share the things I learn in the classroom and on the field with everyone who is interested, in words that anyone can understand. I hope to eventually return to my home country, India, and develop agriculture and sustainability there to create a more equitable social, environmental, and economic system.

Sources

Agriculture Sustainability Institute  — UC SAREP. Retrieved from http://asi.ucdavis.edu/programs/sarep/about/copy_of_what-is-sustainable-agriculture/practices/cover-crops

California Agriculture http://calag.ucanr.edu/Archive/?article=ca.v048n05p43  

Dixon Ridge Farms.Retrieved from http://www.dixonridgefarms.com/farmingandprocessing/sustainability.html

Russ Lester — ASI.Retrieved from http://asi.ucdavis.edu/about/external-advisory-board-1/russ-lester

Increasing Farm Wages: A Labor Crisis and the Effects on Agriculture

Labor Costs

Rising Farm Wages and Labor Costs May Lead to Higher Grocery Bills

Farms across America are struggling to secure sufficient labor and pay increasing minimum wages. This issue is most prevalent in California where the minimum wage will continue to increase to $15 in just three years. Additionally, previous exemptions on overtime for agricultural workers are now null, meaning that any person working more than forty hours a week will have to be paid time and a half. Readers from other states might be thinking “who cares about CA politics, there’s no problem here!” Think again, With 60% of the country’s agriculture in California, a rise in labor costs will inevitably lead to higher grocery bills for consumers as well as more food waste.

The Response can be Challenging and Complicated

As farm wages rise, farmers are faced with few options. To mitigate the cost of labor farmers are forced to increase productivity of their crews, raise their prices, or switch to automated processes. Each of these options has major drawbacks. Increasing productivity is difficult and there is only so much work that can be done in one day. Some farms offer production bonuses to their workers based on how many pounds of produce is harvested in the day. These bonuses can be costly, especially since the workers baseline pay is already so high. Since labor is more expensive, the price of the crop must go up. However, farmers are competing not only with other states with lower minimum wages, but with other countries that have no regulations regarding farm labor. Raising the price of the product will only result in more produce being imported from Mexico. This takes jobs away from entry level positions across the entire farm.

Automation is Costly and Can lead to Increased Market Farm Consolidation

Automation seems like a great solution to this labor crisis; however, the technology has not yet met the complicated needs of agriculture. While new options are on the horizon, we are still very far away from fully automated harvesting or planting. The initial cost of machines is very high, and most small farms lack the capital required to invest in automation. As these technologies develop, we will likely see family businesses bought out by corporate farms. In addition, the agricultural workers will not benefit from the rising minimum wages as they will be without a job completely.

Is Buying Local the Solution?

So, what can consumers do to help both agricultural workers and farm owners? BUY LOCAL. Even when produce is more expensive, buying local supports the farms in the community and reduces the ecological hazards of long distance shipping. It also provides demand for products that will lead to more production at local farms and therefore more work for agricultural laborers. Buying domestic products also guarantees that the people who produced that product were paid a fair wage, had safe working conditions, and the product passes the high safety standards of the United States. It only takes a few extra seconds at the grocery store to check the label on produce and ensure it is a product of the USA. Aside from buying local, another way to help local farms is to fully read and understand measures before voting on them. If you are unsure how a bill might affect agriculture, do research or try to speak with a farmer about their opinion. When the time comes to elect senators and representatives, consider their stance or background on agricultural policy. Human welfare and labor rights are extremely important, but food supply affects every single person in this country. When food costs rise, the poorest people are affected the most.

Author - Riley Graham

About Riley Graham

Riley is a third year Food Science student at UC Davis hoping to one day work in research and development. Her specific areas of interest are in sustainability in agricultural processing; however, she’s exploring other options in food science such as sensory science and even brewing. Being a food science student at one of the world’s premier agricultural research centers gives Riley a unique perspective on the issues we face in food production. Even when I’m outside of the classroom, Riley never stops learning. When not doing homework or working in a lab, Riley plays piano, reads science fiction, and loves to cook.

 

What Plant Propagation Methods Fit Your Needs?

Plant grafts

Easy Propagation by Division

Since some plants have trouble reproducing on their own, humans have created plant propagation methods to help aid in asexual reproduction. The first main type of propagation that is the simplest to perform is division. It pretty much is as easy as it sounds. Division is a method where the plant is broken up into multiple parts. Herbaceous perennials (aka herbs, non-woody plants that live for more than two years) are the most common type of plant used in division, due to their root and plant structure. The process is quite simple- gently separate the crown of the plant that contains shoots and roots either by hand or using a tool. As long as every separate section contains these shoots and roots, then it’s ready to replant! Division is a great and easy way to expand your plant population and can be done successfully almost any time of the year.

Simple Propagation by Cutting

Another simple method of propagation is cutting. This again is as simple as it sounds! Research should be done beforehand on the type of plant you want to cut, to double check and make sure your plant can root from a cutting. To begin taking a cutting, remove all flower buds and flowers from the stem, so more energy can be focused on the growth of the roots. Take the cut as close to the stalk as possible in order to get all the essential growth parts. After taking the cuttings, either directly stick them in potting soil, (if you only have a few), or store the cuttings in a high humidity place covered in plastic to help reduce water loss until planting. Cutting is extremely simple and beneficial if you’re wanting to expand the plant population by just a few, but it can also be beneficial when wanting to store and plant the cuttings in bulk.

Intermediate Layering Propagation

Layering is a more difficult method of plant propagation but can still easily be done. Layering is when root development begins on a stem while the stem is still attached to the parent plant. This is beneficial if you have a plant that struggles rooting from seed, so in this case, they can root from themselves. There are many different types of layering techniques to fit your need- and they all have an extremely high success rate. Simple layering, with no surprise, is the simplest form of layering. In this process, a low growing stem can be bent, staked, and covered with soil. If the bend is done properly and is facing vertically, then the bend will induce rooting and thus a new plant will begin growing. This process can also be repeated in the form of compound layering, where several layers can result from a single stem.

Mound and Air Layering Propagation

Mound layering is used more with heavy-stemmed branches or with rootstocks of fruit trees and is a process where the plant is cut back in the dormant season, and then covered with layers of soil as new buds shoot.

The last form of layering is called air layering, which is a method used to propagate large houseplants or woody ornamental plants. A wound is created on the stem of a plant, then the area is covered with moist soil and wrapped in plastic. This creates a growth environment for new roots to grow! Once the covering is filled with roots, you can sever the stem underneath the air layer and pot to continue growth. Since layering is a more in-depth technique, research should be done on your plant first in order to know which method would be most successful!

Grafting in the Details

The last, most detailed method of propagation is grafting. Grafting is a way to join parts from two different plants and have them become one. (It’s basically surgery for plants). A common reason for grafting is wanting to grow a cultivar of a plant that doesn’t come true from seed. Grafting is an intense method of propagation used to create desirable traits in plants based on what the plant and farmer’s needs are. In this case, the scion of the desirable plant can be connected to the stalk of another until they grow as one.  There are many types of grafts, and they range in complexity. Grafting is a high leveled-skill, since vascular systems of the plants need to line up, and growing conditions have to be ideal. Experienced scientists or farmers can easily grow any plant they desire using grafting.

These main propagation methods, along with many more, assist farmers and home gardeners in their every-day lives by helping reproduce asexually and allowing for desirable traits of your favorite plant to shine through!

About Parker Greene

Although I grew up in the city, I found my passion lives within the farming lifestyle. I am currently a student at NC State studying agricultural education, where I spend most of my time learning hands-on with plants and animals. If I’m not found out at the farm, I’m usually spending time with family or at a sporting event supporting the Wolfpack.

Works Cited:

https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/plant-propagation-by-stem-cuttings-instructions-for-the-home-gardener

https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/plant-propagation-by-layering-instructions-for-the-home-gardener

https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/grafting-and-budding-nursery-crop-plants

 

 

Selling to Chefs: Overcoming the Logistic Challenges

Farm fresh chef's vegetables

By Adrienne Cohen

Whether you call it farm to table, locally sourced food, or a hyper-local food revolution, today’s hot trend is toward buying ingredients that are produced closer to the point of consumption. We have seen the growth of craft beers and local wineries, the explosion in popularity of local farmers markets and regionally-produced cheeses, pick-your-own orchards and vegetable farms. Numerous pop-up dining venues and eateries with limited menus feature only seasonally-available options, and their numbers increase every day.

It’s not only television chefs and fine-dining establishments that embrace the flavor, nutritional value and seasonal variety of foodstuffs and ingredients produced close to home; it’s also homemakers who frequent weekly farmers markets for organic produce and natural foods. It’s anyone who helps support a sustainable environment by buying from local farmers. And it’s the taste appeal of artisan bread, homemade jams and pickles, and local salad greens.

Reasons are diverse, ranging from distrust directed at big producers, recent food scares, flavor, freshness, GMOs and environmental concerns.

A Creative Collaboration

One-of-a-kind cafe owners, Mom and Pop proprietors, trendy food truck cooks and chefs who know the importance of fresh, tasty, natural ingredients have discovered the value of seasonal menu options. They recognize even more value in developing personal relationships with the people who grow and produce the food.

Rather than simply placing orders for ingredients that must be transported an average of 1,500 miles from farm to table, they get to know their suppliers by name and forge bonds that lead in innovative directions. They even suggest new crops on occasion, to the delight of growers who love to experiment.

Farmers who sell directly to restaurant chefs gain an understanding of the creative process of recipe testing and menu development. Not only is there a financial advantage for both, but the corresponding boost in respect becomes clear and well-defined.

The Logistics of Delivery

Delivering the goods, however, can represent a major stumbling block. Crop scheduling, farm recordkeeping and production management are tedious and time-consuming chores for a small farmer. Add time away from the farm to make deliveries and the business model can become untenable. Chefs, for their part, traditionally require a guaranteed order delivered on a regular timetable, a need that can be torpedoed occasionally by weather or pest infestation. Mutual understanding is key.

Almost 50 chefs throughout Dallas and Collin Counties now constitute a core group of food professionals who have taken the “seed to plate” concept way past the experimental stage. Profound Microfarms, a family-run farm in Lucas, Texas, a suburb approximately 25 miles north of the Dallas core, was the innovative catalyst. Jeff Bednar’s greenhouse hydroponics farm produces a variety of leafy greens, herbs and edible flowers, and during a past several years, since starting his farm, he forged relationships with a number of local chefs and restaurateurs. “We speak chef,” he says, noting that he enjoys learning from the chefs and responding to their requests for unusual produce, including edible flowers.

In April of 2018, Bednar and Nelson Carter of Cartermere Farms in nearby Celina teamed up to form Profound Foods, a farmers distribution company that now delivers products from about a dozen different farmers to chefs across a two-county swath of North Texas. The deliveries, made on Tuesday and Thursday, include a variety of different proteins, including beef, lamb, pork, chicken and eggs, cheeses, greens and other vegetables, herbs and edible flowers.

Goals and Long-Term Plans

“We want to raise awareness for local food,” according to Bednar. Across the country, there is ongoing interest in a variety of unique models for food hubs and farmer-directed coops to expand the availability of locally-grown food.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture endorses the effort; Profound Foods is the recipient of a $495,000 USDA grant that will allow the venture to grow during the next three years. The plan is to add new farms, attract new restaurants, expand the delivery territory to nearby Fort Worth, purchase equipment, including computers and refrigerated trucks, and hire a full-time driver. The fledgling company has already brought on board a staff director of farmer relations. The future is bright, says Bednar.

While it may be rare these days for a chef to visit the field to select fresh produce or to personally pick a side of beef, restaurants throughout the country are partnering with small-to-medium size producers to satisfy customer demand for fresh, nutritious food. The details may differ from one region to the next, but a powerful collaboration is being driven by innovative growers and food producers who market and deliver directly to enthusiastic chefs and local restaurateurs.

We all become winners when the collaboration is successful.

It’s possible to taste the difference when the lettuce and tomato on your burger was picked that same morning, and conversation seems to flow more naturally at the local coffee shop when both chef and customer can greet a farmer who deliver eggs and bacon to the back door. If that was once the norm in small-town America, it may again become the standard for market farming in the modern age.

Adrienne Cohen
Adrienne Cohen

Adrienne Cohen is a full-time freelance writer with a passion for travel, good food, urban agriculture, school gardens, and architecture and design. She writes about them all and is happiest when her travel plans allow her to visit with farmers and educators, restaurant owners and chefs in far-flung places. Although her forebears were farmers, she claims to struggle with her own garden, but loves plucking fresh flowers from their stems and harvesting fresh herbs to use in new recipes. She is a member of the North American Travel Journalists Association, maintains a couple of personal blogs and contributes to travel, agricultural and lifestyle magazines, both online and for print versions.

 

 

Sources

https://www.thebalancesmb.com/ten-reasons-restaurants-should-buy-local-foods-2888595

https://www.thebalancesmb.com/local-food-trends-for-restaurants-2888604

https://www.thebalancesmb.com/how-to-start-farm-to-table-at-your-restaurant-2888285

https://www.thebalancesmb.com/ten-reasons-restaurants-should-buy-local-foods-2888595

https://www.thebalancesmb.com/restaurant-trends-boost-sales-2888674

https://www.greenbiz.com/article/can-cooperatives-save-americas-small-farms

https://www.cartermerefarms.com/about-us.html

 

Small Farm Labor: Hiring Freelance Laborers or Employees

Farm laborer picking beans

You may be able to start a small farm with just your own labor and the help of family members and friends, but eventually a successful market farming operation will grow big enough to need outside labor. Without enough workers on hand, you can miss out on crucial growing and harvesting windows and lose an entire farm vegetable crop. Choosing a type of labor is a major part of small farm planning because each option offers a mix of restrictions and benefits. Explore the two main options for staffing a growing vegetable farming operation to pick the right fit for your market farming plans.

Hiring Freelance Laborers or Employees

Whether you need help only with harvesting a growing bumper crop or year round work, hiring an independent contractor or farm employee is often the most reliable way to close the labor gap. Freelancers and contractors are particularly helpful for piecemeal and single time market farming work, such as harvesting, while any long-term schedule and need for close control over the work requires you to hire on a permanent employee for your small farm.

In order to hire a freelance farm laborer or team for market farming, you must meet the standards set by the Department of Labor (DOL) and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for this arrangement. These requirements may include:

  • The contractor supplying their own tools and equipment, including combines and harvesters on large farm jobs
  • The job requires only broad objectives, such as bringing in a specific amount of crop by a certain date, with relatively few specifications on how the work is done
  • The contractor is free to offer the same services to other farms
  • The employment offer is based per project and not on an ongoing daily, weekly, or monthly schedule
  • The contractor sets and controls their own schedule, although the farm hiring them can specify a deadline for the work.

Unlike many labor requirements, your growing farm may not have to meet all of these requirements in order to legally hire freelancers and independent contractors. When you choose this kind of small farm labor, you don’t have to pay half of each employee’s FICA taxes like you do with employees. However, you will still need to file income reporting forms with the IRS if you pay your contractors more than a few hundred dollars within each calendar year.

Hiring an employee for your small farm may lead you to do more paperwork and pay a small amount of tax per worker, but you’ll gain many benefits in exchange. You can directly control an employee’s method of completing work, down to specifying when they arrive and when they take their breaks. If you need to move them around to different growing and harvesting tasks on the farm, there’s no need to renegotiate a new project contract. You are responsible for filing a W-4 and I-9 form for all employees you hire. The first form tracks your responsibility for part of the employee’s Social Security taxes, while the second determines if the employee is legally allowed to work in the United States. Failing to complete either form for an employee could lead to thousands of dollars’ worth of fines from both the DOL and IRS.

Inviting Volunteers to Help

When you only need help occasionally and in a relaxed way, such as making small improvements to existing market farming infrastructure, you may only need volunteer and intern labor. Be careful when using these kinds of arrangements, even when working with a well-established organization. Unless the volunteer group is providing the insurance, you may be liable for any injuries that occur while guests are visiting your farm.

There are multiple organizations that provide short to long term free labor in exchange for room and board on a small farm. Some organizations prefer farms to offer guests a small stipend per month to help cover their living costs as well. Groups like World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF), Workaway, HelpX, Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas (ATTRA), and many others provide free or low cost listings for growing market farming operations looking to attract volunteers, guests, and interns. However, you’ll need to follow both federal and state guidelines for utilizing free labor on your farm, especially if you refer to your opportunity as an unpaid internship.

Interns in particular are protected by federal law and by even stricter standards in many states. Federal requirements include:

  • Educational opportunities similar to what one could receive from a college classroom setting
  • No automatic offer of employment at the end of the internship
  • A mutual understanding that no wages will be exchanged, even if a stipend is involved
  • Someone from the farm is designated as the leader of the internship program
  • No immediate profit or advantage can be gained from the intern’s labor
  • The entire experience is primarily for the benefit of the intern and not the farm.

You’ll still need insurance if you stick within the regulations for internships and volunteer opportunities. Even if your guests sign waivers, you’ll want the extra protection of liability insurance since farms are inherently risky environments for inexperienced volunteers.

Jessica Kolifrath farmer, educator and blogger

Jessica grew up eating homegrown tomatoes and showing rabbits at livestock shows, so it’s no wonder she has her own 3 acre organic hobby farm today that will soon be home to a small licensed nursery for valuable trees and native shrubs. When she’s not busy with her own gardens and chickens, she enjoys helping build greenhouses and weed the blueberry fields at her friend’s 30 acre organic fruit and vegetable plant farm.

 

 

Sources

http://organicgrowersschool.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/2016-Structuring-Labor-on-the-Small-Farm-FINAL.pdf

https://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/download.php?id=505

https://extension.unh.edu/resources/files/Resource006459_Rep9258.pdf

6 Market Farming Crops That Tap Into the Healthy Holiday Cooking Trend

When you’re trying to make the most of limited greenhouse resources, trying to plan your crop scheduling around culinary trends may sound futile. However, a willingness to at least try and keep up with long lasting trends in cooking can make the difference between success and failure at market farming. With traditional holiday foods featuring high levels of saturated fat, sodium, sugar, and refined flour, there’s been a decade-long shift towards healthy holiday cooking that you can tap into. Try at least one popular farm vegetable crop listed below that can help boost your sales during the holiday season.

  1. Cauliflower

With the increase of adherence to vegetarian and vegan diets, many home cooks have recently turned to roasting whole heads of cauliflower in place of meat main dishes like turkeys and hams. Mashed, pureed, or even riced cauliflowers has been a trendy replacement for starch heavy potato and rice dishes for nearly a decade now. This is one of the more time and labor intensive cruciform vegetables to grow, but the higher price per pound for a quality head makes it worth the work of adding it to your marketing farming efforts. Smaller side shoots and miniature varieties ripen fast and are easily marketed as quick roasting and easy to slice after cooking whole.

  1. Lentils

Lentils won’t work for greenhouse or hydroponics growing in most cases, but it’s a great rotational crop for small farms with open field acreage and a relatively long cool season with mild temperatures. Locally grown lentils demand a high price per pound as a specialty organic crop, while they’re also replenishing the soil where you grow them since they’re a legume that fixes nitrogen. Make sure you’re willing to invest in small scale winnowing and threshing equipment if you add this crop to your routine. Brown, green, red, and yellow lentils are all commonly used to create tasty vegan and vegetarian meat-free lentil loaves for holiday meals that are packed with flavor, protein, and fiber.

  1. Sweet Potatoes

Growing in a hot and humid climate or a heated greenhouse environment instead? Try sweet potatoes for a double crop that is in high demand for all sorts of holiday dishes. While many market farmer customers are primarily familiar with eating the roots of the sweet potato, they’ll be happy to learn that the greens are mild and nutritious as well. Sell your trimmings from exuberant growth in your greenhouse or hydroponics system to make money on salad mixes in addition to sweet potatoes sold to make Thanksgiving casseroles and Christmas pies.

  1. Root Crops

Root crops often go out of vogue for decades at a time, but they’re enjoying a renaissance for now and deserve attention since many of them grow quickly and produce a harvest within one to three months. From specialty radishes to colorful carrots, tiny tender turnips, creamy parsnips, and even unusual sunchokes, you have plenty of options to find root crops that fit your chosen market farming method and climate. Many root crops like parsnips are lower in carbohydrates than potatoes and other holiday standards, so they’re popular even among market shoppers following paleo and low carb diets.

  1. Winter Squash

While butternuts and acorn squash were once primary in demand only for holiday meals, now these squash are easily sold from long-term storage all year round. Unique and unusual hybrids of spaghetti squash mixed with sweeter kabocha and pumpkin are in high demand for trendy holiday dishes that also happen to fit into many diets and satisfy healthy eating concerns. Be sure to outline the exact features and benefits of specific winter squash at the market since many varieties feature high levels of important vitamins and nutrients with low fat and moderate carb content.

  1. Kale

Kale’s time as a superstar has come and gone, but it remains a staple for healthier eating for many people. It’s one of the easiest greens to mix into stuffing, salads, appetizers, and even vegetarian and vegan main dishes like nut and lentil loaves. While it’s no longer quite trendy enough to plan an entire season around, most markets will support a steady sale of many dark and bitter greens during the holiday season. Commit to a little space for the most popular varieties of kale in your farm vegetable crop planning for a easy to grow holiday crop that remains in-demand from year to year.

Regardless of the crops you choose to grow for holiday markets and CSA delivers, you’ll need the right farm planning software to manage recordkeeping and rotational information. Check your fall and winter growing and sales plan at a glance by using Farm Production Manager to keep everything under control and boost productivity at the same time.

Jessica Kolifrath farmer, educator and blogger

Jessica grew up eating homegrown tomatoes and showing rabbits at livestock shows, so it’s no wonder she has her own 3 acre organic hobby farm today that will soon be home to a small licensed nursery for valuable trees and native shrubs. When she’s not busy with her own gardens and chickens, she enjoys helping build greenhouses and weed the blueberry fields at her friend’s 30 acre organic fruit and vegetable plant farm.

 

Farm Production Manager – Product Announcement!

homegrown fruit basket

Albany, New York – ADAK Software is excited to announce the launch of Farm Production Manager. This innovative vegetable and flower growing production planning and management software application will transform the way Business Minded Farmers plan and control production on their farms. This includes greenhouses and hydroponics facilities. The official launch date for Farm Production Manager is September 24, 2018.

ADAK Software believes Farm Production Manager will replace the collections of homegrown spreadsheets that most farmers use today.

Our customers are Market Farmers of all types; vegetable, flower and fruit growers, organic and natural. They will no longer need to use complicated formulas to calculate requirements for field area, critical resources and purchased components.  This modern digital tool for the business-minded farmer will enable adopters to become more agile competitors. User will react faster to changes in the supply chain and anticipate capacity and material requirements.

Farm Production Manager is available in the cloud on a subscription basis. The application can be deployed at significantly lower operating costs over time. The system outperforms spreadsheet driven systems currently used by many market farmers.  Also, cloud-based performance provides much better data security and availability than local in-house networks.

Managing the Growing Process

The Farm Management application uses a simple production model to define the growing process. It’s all-inclusive, from seed purchase to greenhouse transition, and field planting to the harvest event. Farmers start by entering harvest output and harvest dates for a given product or crop. Then, the Farm Production scheduler instantly calculates all dependent dates and quantities. Farmers can also schedule crops forward from the planting date.

The system comes with a resource planning capability which allows Farmers to extend the Production plan quantities and dates. User defined resources can be connected to a crop as a bill of resources. So, the entirety of activities and resources that can be scheduled includes production starts and completes for trays and fields. Harvest activity can be scheduled with any combination of user specified resources.

Outputs are available via an array of reports. Focused task lists are deployed in dynamic tabular grids that support users’ farm specific real-time customizations. Farmers can show or hide columns, rearrange the order, sort filter and group.

Finally, Farm Production Manager’s Record Keeping feature allows the farmer to track results at each stage of the plan. Smartphones and tablets will provide for remote recordkeeping tasks, in the farmhouse, greenhouse or in the field. The Farm Product Manager Record Keeping App, will soon be available for download from the Google and Apple app stores.

Farm Production Manager – Customer Testimonial 

It’s hard to explain how useful this program is. I’ve tried all the other ones. Nothing comes close.

Yes, you have to put the data in. But then it’s magic every crop, every field, row foot, greenhouse tray, harvest #’s, dates, customer, seed count and so much more display in multiple formats and reports.

CLICK and reformat or customize any REPORT and export with multiple options.

Combines all my market demands into one crop plan. The resources / tasks feature keeps my field operations on schedule

Bob Walker ~ Farm Manager
Katchkie Farm ~ Kinderhook, NY

 

About Katchkie Farm

Katchkie Farm is a year-round NOFA-certified organic Community Supported Agriculture farm in Kinderhook, New York. Katchkie is dedicated to building connections between consumers, food professionals & families and healthy, delicious local food. The farm prides itself on holistic stewardship of the land and its bounty. Katchkie’s partnership with the Sylvia Center enhances our educational mission by hosting children for hands-on farm-to-table culinary experiences and supporting their cooking programs in New York City.

 About ADAK Software, LLC

ADAK Software has been developing scheduling software and working with farms to schedule their crops and keep records, since 1996. ADAK aggressively adopts and incorporates new technology into its products with Farm Production Manager available as a completely cloud-based application. We have an industrial strength backend using Microsoft Azure SQL Server and the best user interface technology available. Farm Production Manager’s user interface is customizable by the User and data interactions with the cloud are fast and responsive. ADAK also offer mobile apps to extend the utility of our product to areas where internet connectivity does not exist.

Why Winter Is The Best Season For Expanding Your Farm’s Infrastructure

Red barn shown in quiet, cold winter - a good time to plan for next year!

Unless you live in Southern California, Florida, or other parts of the Deep South, winter is likely a fallow time with few viable crops and little income on the farm. While some farmers may use the time for vacationing, most market growers are operating on a tight enough budget that they need to do as much productive work as possible during the down season. Winter is the ideal time for upgrading infrastructure on the farm regardless of the size of your operation.

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