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Nature’s Gift

Spring has Sprung :)

Spring has Sprung 🙂

Morels

Morels

Spring is an exciting time for many reasons. The sun is out, people are generally happier and everything has come back to life from a long dormant winter. I spent the last weekend with some of my farmer friends walking through the woods learning about edibles that grow in this area. It is amazing the amount and quality of delicious food that nature produces this time of year. Thank goodness I was with people who knew what they were doing because the chef in me wants to put everything in my mouth.  I was stopped from eating some inedible plants, one of which was described to me as tasting like chewing on a light bulb. Whew, gross. I know this is a farm blog but

Jeremy, Nate Deppe and Nate Beccue Foraging for Edibles

Jeremy, Nate Deppe and Nate Beccue Foraging for Edibles

farming is about local food and you can’t get more local than this. I learned about some very cool species of plants called Japanese Knotweed, wild Garlic Mustard, Stinging Nettles, Sassafras root and Morels (well, I already knew about morels and nettles 🙂 ). While I was impressed with all of these finds I think I was most impressed with the Japanese Knotweed. It is an invasive species native to this area and it tastes very similar to rhubarb. Next time you guys are on your mower take a careful look at what you are mowing down. You may be able to eat it!!!

Japanese Knotweed

Japanese Knotweed

Tomatoes Are Up

Tomatoes Are Up

Some of our seeded transplants have started to pop up to say hello. Most of our tomatoes are up and weare still patiently waiting for our peppers. The weather is supposed to be nice all week and we are hoping to start laying plastic Thursday or Friday. This couldn’t come soon enough. I think Ben hates office work as much as I do. 🙂

We all want to be outside!!!

We all want to be outside!!!

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Hello, Hello, Hello, Is there anybody out there??

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Helllllllooooo readers! Hope you’re still with me. It was a four month hiatus but we are back in action with some new players for the 2015 season. Before I introduce you to them let me give you a little update on what has been happening since we last spoke.

Speaking at the Gateway Fruit and Vegetable Conference

Speaking at the Gateway Fruit and Vegetable Conference

I have been trying to immerse myself in the farming culture over the last couple months, attending the Speciality Crops Conference in Springfield, Illinois and also the Gateway Fruit and Vegetable Conference in O’Fallon, Illinois. I absolutely love these conferences because not only do you learn so many new things from people who have been in the industry for years and years but you also have the opportunity to network with so many great and knowledgeable farmers and educators. I always leave feeling inspired and ready to apply the new ideas to my business plan.

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NYC

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NYC

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My favorite restaurant, NYC

When I left you at the end of last year we were unsure of what would happen for 2015, except for knowing we received land. I am happy to say that we will be growing on 1.5 acres, which is triple the size we were for the previous two years. I spent the latter part of December eating my way through NYC, becoming inspired with food again. I got down to work in January and February though, developing a business and farm plan with projected costs and profits for the 2015 growing season. I also developed a marketing strategy to try and widen our customer base and touch a larger number of students. I will elaborate more on these topics as the season progresses. Since we tripled the size of the land we are to grow on I also needed to hire some additional help that will be full time when the students come back in the fall.

Let me introduce you to the 2015 lineup of players 🙂

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Ben Ucherek is a new addition to the Hendrick House staff. He has been responsible for most of the planting in the last week while I finish up the school year. He comes from Prairie Fruits Farms where he worked as a herdsman for the last 6 years. I am so excited that he is part of the team this year and look forward to working with him in the 2015 growing season.

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Jean Paul Gauthier Kodiemoka has been working with me since the fall of 2014. Originally from Congo, he has been living in the country for over a year and working for Hendrick House since August of 2014. If you ever pass by him please say hello. He is the most wonderful, good hearted and hardworking person you will ever meet and I am very fortunate to add him to the 2015 farm team.

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Michael Douglas is a research assistant for Sam Wortman, a professor at the U of I. Michael and I are working together this year as he is doing a research study on part of my plot of land. I am really looking forward to learning the research he is trying to accomplish and also being a part of the educational aspect of university growing. Really, I am just super pumped I get to hang out with my friend all summer (and Hanna) :).

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Jeremy Shafer, who runs the farms at the U of I is always a tremendous help to me every year. I’m so excited to be able to help him with the Beginning Farmer Program incubator plots this year. I can not say enough great things about that program and am sad this is the last year for their grant. I am looking forward to the new group of growers that will be next to me this year. It is such a great environment to be a part of!

(Not pictured whom I’m sure you will hear about as soon as I sneak attack them with a photo: Rick Weinzierl, Head of the BFRD Program and Entomology Professor at the U of I; Bryan and Kenny, U of I farm employees; Billy Bnizz, Turf Research; Matt Turino, Student Sustainable Farm; Jeff Kindhart, comedian extra0rdinaire and Dixon Springs Research Professor.)

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We started planting last week and so far we have finished seeding our 1/2 acre of tomato transplants and 500 pepper plants. I am so happy to have the season underway and thrilled that my hands are back in the dirt!

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