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The Importance of Record Keeping

Like years past, as soon as the plants get in the field we are scouting for pests. For the first ten minutes of everyday, the entire staff walks the farm and scouts for damage. I started doing this this year for a couple reasons.

 

  1. It teaches everyone to be aware of their surroundings at all times.

 

  1. It drives the point home that the plants are our #1 priority while at work.

 

  1. It also teaches everyone how to identify pest damage so they can be my eyes and ears while I am doing other things.

 

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So far, we have seen ten billion potato beetles that over wintered from last year. Danil doesn’t have the heart to kill them so he takes them hostage and releases them in my hands to do the dirty deed of ending their life. I am trying not to worry about the rising army but know things will get real once the little suckers start reproducing. After talking with our neighbors, Matt Turino from the U of I Student Sustainable Farm, we have decided to play it cool until they start reproducing. Then it’s game on!! Danil might have to take that day off :).

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Aside from the potato beetles we haven’t seen much damage. Justin spotted something eating the new growth of our pepper plants. After pulling off one of the leaves and doing an ole google search we quickly found our answer ……. From a previous blog post ……. Of mine ……. Highlighted on the internet. Hahahaha, this is a prime example of why it’s a good idea to keep detailed records of previous years. The damage matched perfectly and we were able to tackle the problem immediately. Pesky Cutworms!

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2018 Year of the Cat

****Please click red circle for the theme song to this post. Unfortunately you will have to go to the youtube link below to hear the full song as I am a complete idiot when it comes to technology :)****

***Please open another window and click ‘WATCH ON YOUTUBE’  in the box below***

 

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All three farm locations this year are almost all planted. I am very happy with our progress especially coming off an extended winter. The weather couldn’t be more perfect for the staff. We are as comfortable as can be expected on our hands in knees planting. The weather has been in the low 80’s, cloudy with a slight breeze. Perfection! We also had beautiful plants to work with! Our friends at PSL took great care of our plants as they were germinating in the greenhouse. They were by far the best they have ever looked going into the field.

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I would like to introduce the staff of 2018! These amazing people will be seeding, planting, weeding, trellising, irrigation maintenance, overall plot maintenance of all three sites and working on community outreach with Champaign/ Urbana’s youth!

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This is Kat, but she is fondly known to us as Kitty Kat. Kitty is a trained chef and helping us out during the summer when U of I is not in session. Normally you can find her throughout the school year at Pi Beta Phi cooking with our farm produce. She was the largest greek purchaser of farm produce last year. I am so pumped to have another farm to table chef passionate about food!  Like a true chef she hates having her picture taken. You can see the progression I had to go through to her to smile :).

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Danil hails from Cuba. He is a returning gem from last year. A photographer by trade, he loves being in the dirt, asking questions and learning as much as he can from his surroundings. His attention to detail is unprecedented. Taking everything by its literal meaning, he makes us laugh constantly! Also not liking his picture taken, he was yelling at me but I couldn’t really hear what he was saying, lol.

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Justin, my assistant farmer, is also back this year. He gives the literal term to “right hand man”. Justin is always in step with me and can predict my next move. It is really nice having a returning veteran who knows the ropes and can help me in leading our other team members.

We have had a great start and it is going to be a phenomenal year! Our motto: check your catatude at the door! (Shout out to a random bumper sticker and kitty for that inspiration.)

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Welcome 2018!!!

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……..And we are off!!! This is after the longest winter ever. We had freezing temperatures all the way until mid April. I can’t tell you how happy I am that the sun is shining and there is finally color on the ground.

Not all was doom and gloom this winter. I am very excited to announce that Hendrick House Farm is moving to 10 acres located west of Champaign starting next year. We couldn’t be more excited, although we will be sad leaving our U of I friends. We are slowly starting the transition this year and have started working with a Unit 4 school teacher, by the name of Julie, on a one acre educational plot for students. This piece of land is just south of where we will be farming in the future. The land around our new farm is run by an old high school friend of mine. Everyone is likeminded in the sense that we want to be good stewards to the land and it is a incredibly happy, peaceful environment!

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Despite the long winter I have been keeping busy with planning 2018, attending conferences and even hosting our first workshop with Urbana High School and Edison Middle School. It was a great success and we got a lot of work done on the educational plots despite the sub zero temperatures! The kids were freezing, wrapped in multiple blankets but were still able to have fun, play with the chickens and get the garden ready to plant.

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In addition to Illinois Speciality Crops Conference that I attend every year, I also went to MOSES and Our Farms Our Future Conference. MOSES is the largest organic conference in the country located in the beautiful city of LaCrosse, Wi. Although a little intimidating, I was able to attend informative lectures and acquire amazing resources to help in increasing our sustainability efforts in the future. The Our Farms Our Future Conference was my favorite of the year. It was hosted by SARE and I was there with other SARE grant awardees presenting our grants. The conference was full of Extension Educators (my favorite people) from all over the country. I love Extension Educators because they are an endless resource always helping local farmers. It’s very important to research and network in the off season so you learn from mistakes the previous year and develop a support system to help you in the future!!

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