The Heat Is On

Summer is upon us and with it comes the heat. Triple digits are in the forecast for here next weekend and the time to prepare is now. How do you keep your plants from baking in the summer sun?  There are several tried and true methods to ensure your plants can retain the water you give them.

  • Water in the morning. Watering in the heat of the day can damage plants, especially leaves. Watering in the evening can create an environment for disease by leaving things moist for long periods overnight. By watering in the morning, things dry up quickly and your plants have that moisture available during the daytime while they are actively growing and producing.
  • Water deeply. Frequent light waterings encourage shallow root growth making plants more susceptible to damage during hot, dry weather.
  • Mulch, Mulch, Mulch! Putting mulch around the bases of plants helps hold moisture in the soil. This is one of the best defenses against evaporation. It also helps regulate soil temperature as well during a heat wave.
  • Use good soil. Healthy, well structured soil is able to hold more moisture and air, keeping a plant’s root system fed and watered and comfortable. Poor soils like those heavy in clay or sand can cause many problems during extreme temperatures
  • Shade cloth.  During extremes, especially if you have less than ideal conditions, even the toughest plants might need a little shade when the mercury hits triple digits. Commercial shade cloth or even just an old sheet could provide enough protection to save a plant from the oven.

Most summer garden vegetables do well even in the warmest weather with a little planning and preparation. If you’re not already thinking about what you need to do, it’s time to get started.

Join us here for more tips, tricks and helpful information.

Pest Management Teaching Series

Our new Pest Management Teaching Series just went up. This is a big subject and we’ll be adding many lessons soon. Our first is about the basics of Integrated Pest Management or ‘IPM’. You’ll hear this term a lot and this lesson introduces the basic principles and types of pest management in sustainable production.

Enjoy! And check back often or subscribe to our blog to keep up with new lessons as they come out.

The FRESH Program Farm Incubator

Why a farm incubator?

There are teaching farms and farm incubators dotted around the country. They serve specific purposes and are helpful to beginning farmers in many different ways. But, in doing our research during the development of this program, we found that not a single one brings all of the important aspects together like the FRESH Program does.

First, an analogy: If you were given a tomato plant, would you just take it home, toss it in your yard, and hope it found an environment to be productive in? Of course not! You’d prepare the soil or container to plant it in, you’d water it, give it the nutrition it needs to thrive and give it support when it got large enough to bear fruit.

Well, we realized that the support and care that we would give a little tomato plant was not being given to the students coming out of these horticulture programs, and these students are so much more valuable and important than any crop.

Sure, they can get loans and grants. They have the technical knowledge to farm. But still, about half of them burn out in the first two years. A staggering percentage of those left burn out by year five! This, while the average age of the American farmer is 58.3 years old and rising. We are, like those tomato plants we talked about, just throwing these new farmers out into the industry and hoping they find a place to produce.

Some will. Some are resilient and stick with it, often with long hours, stress and heavy debt. Some luck into a retiring farmer’s enterprise and can take over. What about those that don’t? The ones that would make tremendous farmers if they just had the chance or a little boost? They don’t want a handout. They are willing to and excited about working for it. They have a head full of ideas and can’t wait to get their hands dirty! All they need is a little support.

So, with that in mind, we have developed a farm incubator that does just that. It’s not an elaborate farm rental program like some incubators around the country. We are not in the business of making a profit while these farmers toil away in debt and unpaid bills. No, it is a non-profit, well-rounded, comprehensive business development program that trains these beginning farmers in everything they will need to run a successful farm business.

To break it down:

  • We provide the farmer with land on which to farm that is adjacent to other participants on the same property as well as the centrally located, foundation run farm. This provides support from other participants and access to equipment, tools, and materials on-site. For convenience, yes, but more importantly for economic savings. They won’t have to “run to town” every time something is needed or to rent/buy equipment and tools.
  • We provide financial management. Help developing a business plan, budget, marketing plan, tax plan, everything they would need to know and, unfortunately, sometimes learn the hard way if they are on their own. By the time they complete the program, they will have a road map to financial success, in whatever form that means to them. The program contains specific steps to achieve all of these goals.
  • We provide professional support. Not only can they rely on other participants for advice and support, but we also provide them with access to experts, industry professionals, local and online educators, and regulatory agencies. This will help when filing for various certifications or grants/loans, with technical questions, legal questions, establishing best practices, and any other problems that might arise. In addition, the on-site farm manager will be there to mentor, advise, and coordinate communication with these support resources.
  • We provide marketing assistance. The Foundation-run CSA and Native plant lines, online sales, on-site sales, and various farmer’s market booths all serve as an outlet for these budding farmers to market the fruits of their labor. One of the biggest barriers to being successful is being able to sell what you produce. You could grow a thousand pounds of food but if you are unable to sell it you are wasting your time and money. These marketing outlets as well as the previously mentioned support system will be available to these farmers, if they wish, even after they complete the program.    Then finally, and most importantly,
  • We provide a chance for these farmers to be successful in a field that they love and are well trained to do. That chance is provided without them having to go into crippling debt to do so. It is focused on them and their success, not financial gain of the incubator. These farmers come first!

They will also be involved in the Teaching-Farm activities. From hosting or leading public tours and field trips to attending or helping teach classes and hosted events. In turn, they will be able to educate their future customers about how, where, and who grows their food. These outside attendees become the kind of consumer that demands that kind of sustainable production for their food. All these things work together. The end result is a safer, environmentally conscious, local food supply that everyone benefits from.

We hope you can understand and get behind what we are doing, and more importantly, WHY we are doing it.

These farmers can quite literally change the world if given the chance. Well….here’s that chance! Let’s change the world together!

JD

 

Langston’s 23rd Annual Small Farmer’s Conference

Langston University is hosting its 23rd annual Small Farmer’s Conference at the Saddleback Inn, just off of Reno and Meridian in Oklahoma City. Please make plans to attend this fun and informative event on May 22nd, 23rd, and 24th! This years theme is “Tools for Successful Small Farmers and Ranchers”

To register or learn more, you can click HERE!

“The 2018 Langston University Small Farmers Conference is under the leadership of the School of Agriculture and Applied Sciences. This eagerly anticipated conference will provide a rich venue for small farmers and ranchers to learn about practices to enhance their production systems and alternative enterprises. The conference will also provide a platform for small producers to meet and engage in conversation with national, state and local leaders in United States Department of Agriculture Agencies.” – Langston announcement.

We hope to see you there!

J D

 

Connections

We’ve made quite a few new connections this week. Contacts like some of the tribal governments as well as new partners at OSU Stillwater and several more. All of these new affiliations will serve to make our teaching farm and farm incubator reach the goals of education, awareness, and helping new farmers get started.

The programs that we are developing will help people all over Oklahoma reconnect with where their food is grown, how it is produced, and who is producing it. That connection has been lost over the years with a reliance on big box stores carrying produce that often travels thousands of miles before it reaches your home. Knowing where, and who your food comes from is safer and healthier. It’s good for the local economy, it’s good for you and it’s good for farmers.

We hope you will join us on this journey!

Keep up with all the changes and new developments here on our blog.

JD

Our Teaching Series Launch

Announcing our new Teaching Series!!!!

Today marks our inaugural lesson in our teaching series starting with a quick tutorial on the makeup of Soil. Join us HERE and learn what really is down there under your feet AND why it’s important. We’ll have many more to come so check back regularly and follow our BLOG to keep up with new topics.

We hope you have fun learning about sustainable agriculture!

Sustainability. What does it mean?

Sustainability. The short definition is: the ability to be maintained at a certain rate or level. The easiest way to describe it agriculturally is to put as much or more back into the soil as you take out. I say soil because that is what sustainable farmers really and truly grow. If you concentrate on the health of the soil, plants grow themselves.

Sustainability is much more than just the environment, however. Here at the FRESH Foundation, we consider all aspects of farming and how they can be protected and nurtured and yes, sustained. These four principles are the cornerstones of sustainability:

  • Economic viability; If you can’t make a living, you won’t be able to do it for long.
  • Environmental compatibility; It must be safe for people and other organisms.
  • Socially responsible; inclusive and charitable, good for everyone.
  • Effectively productive; efficiency breeds sustainability and production.
*Adapted from the College of Food, Agriculture and Environmental Sciences – The Ohio State University

Practices like no-till or strip tilling preserve the integrity of the soil structure and cause minimal disturbance to the microorganisms that are so important to the availability of nutrients to plants.

Responsible use and selection of pesticides (yes, organic and sustainable production still uses pesticides) for specific problems ensures that unintended harm is not done by their application.

Micro-irrigation, sub-irrigation and other responsible watering techniques conserve water and place it only where it’s needed. Inter-planting different crops together increases beneficial insect populations, disease resistance, and crop yield.

Knowledge of soil structure, texture, microorganisms, organic matter, water infiltration and storage capacity, plant nutrient and water needs, efficient production practices, and many more aspects all go into sustainable production. These concepts have been proven to work on the smallest backyard garden all the way up to large farm crop productions of thousands of acres.

We will be covering many of these aspects in more detail as we go. An important part of the teaching farm includes classes to help gardeners and farmers learn more about the details and the benefits of these systems. We hope that you’ll be able to follow along and make your corner of the world a little more sustainable.

JD

Here are some good resources to help you get started;

 

An Emerging Seedling

Seedling.jpg

Just Popping Out…

A squash seedling is just popping out of the ground, seen here in West Farms’ Facebook post. Look hard. It’s right there in the middle. It reminded me so much of where the Fresh Foundation is at this very moment. We’ve planted the seeds for a wonderful idea that will benefit thousands of people all over Oklahoma and eventually the entire nation. And it’s just popping out of the ground now!
The excitement, the potential, the hope; they’re all there in that image of a little seedling seeing the sun for the first time. They’re all there in the emerging programs that we are developing at the FRESH Foundation too. The new partnerships with local universities, regulatory agencies and education organizations have the same potential to produce an exciting crop of new farmers and new consumers that are knowledgeable about where their food comes from and how it’s grown.
Just like this little squash plant, the FRESH Foundation is growing and producing in an environmentally sustainable way. A new but also ancient way to produce food without destroying the microorganisms in the soil; without unnecessary fertilizer or pesticides; without using excess water or fossil fuels.
This brand new seedling represents the very essence of what we’re all about. We are growing food of course, but at our core we are growing farmers, people, knowledge, and environmental responsibility. We are changing the way our food is grown by putting as much, if not more, back in to the land as we take out of it. That’s at the heart of sustainability. And just like our little squash here, we are going to feed the world!
We hope you will join us!

JD

Coming Soon to OKC

Thanks for joining us!

Our teaching farm and farm incubator will be launching in January of 2019. Lots of changes will be happening between now and then! Visit our contact page to learn more and come back to this site often for updates and news.

A society grows great when old men plant trees under whose shade they will never sit. – Greek proverb

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