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Edison Middle School Summer STEM Camp

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One of the primary goals of Hendrick House Farms is to educate within the company and the community the importance of fresh, healthy food. As the company grows, we are acquiring unique materials to facilitate in that goal. One of the things we have at our disposable is a one acre teaching vegetable garden that includes a composting station, pizza garden and chickens. We were fortunate enough to partner with an Edison Middle School teacher, Julie Anders, to help in teaching kids about farm to table cuisine. My team and I are very good at setting things up and doing the behind the scenes labor while Julie and her group are excellent about lesson plans and communicating the message to the students in a way they are able to understand and learn from. With our combined forces we are able to host informative/ fun filled workshops at the farm.

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The second unique feature Hendrick House has built is a teaching kitchen. This is amazing on so many levels. It gives us a space to host split workshops where the kids can be on the farm for the first 1/2 of the day and then actually create something edible for the second 1/2. We will be using this space for the first time tomorrow and I am so excited for this opportunity.

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Our intern from Urbana High School, Tony, educating some students on seeding green beans!

We had our first workshop with the summer STEM camp last week. We talked about farm safety, intro to horticulture and had hands on learning stations. The children had snacks harvested from the garden and were able to correlate what they learned with final results they could eat. It was an invigorating day! It was difficult to tell if the farm team was more exhausted after pounding 300 t-posts in the blistering heat or running around with middle schoolers for a whole day :).

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I’ll let the pictures tell the rest of the story….. do note that Danil wanted to practice his english by helping Julie read to the kids. His posture while reading was absolutely hilarious and he was a natural! Also, Justin wanted me to mention in the blog that his sweet corn planting station was voted the best! (He had tadpoles and fresh strawberries to show off….. a little unfair if you ask me :). )

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Photo and caption courtesy of Justin Slade

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New Equipment for 2018

Having access to equipment makes life on the farm much much happier. The farm has been a very dependent operation the last several years on the University of Illinois for access and use to their equipment. This year because we are transitioning to our new acreage west of Champaign, it has made borrowing equipment even more difficult. We aren’t able to use U of I equipment off property. A lot of the time the equipment at the new farm is being used in a different location or has maintenance problems. We are very excited to be expanding but are feeling the growing pains. It’s too bad money doesn’t grow on trees :).

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With that said, we did get a couple new pieces of equipment this year that has made our lives much easier and much more efficient. The first piece of equipment, and probably the favorite so far, is an Earthway seeder. Gone are the days of scattering seed on our hands and knees, going back down the bed covering the seed with dirt, and waiting for the seed to poorly germinate. This little contraption is a labor saver!! It is made up of two wheels and a small container with different size discs, depending on seed size. The seed goes in the container and as the seeder rolls down the bed it picks up seed with the disc and drops it through the bottom, followed by a dragging chain to cover the seed with dirt and a back wheel to pack it down. It does everything for you the first pass and all the lines are straight and even without wasting a bunch of seed. This has changed the attitude at the farm. When I say we are planting it is greeted with cheers instead of moans with the imminence of formidable back pain.  I can’t wait to post the results!!

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The second piece of equipment we received this year is a flame weeder. We are doing an experiment at the east end of our plot this year, which I will talk more about next post. The flame weeder burns newly exposed weeds so when you direct seed into that bed, the seeds have a head start and you can actually tell the difference between your crop and the weeds. When using this piece of equipment I felt two things.

1. I’m about to blast off into the sky ….and

2. I hope I don’t blow up.

I did make Justin stand next to me for a good 10 minutes with a cooler of water in case something bad happened. Poor guy.

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The last, best and probably most important piece of equipment we received this year was a traveling tool box with tools! Since we are in transition, our farm truck is basically our mobile office/ storage unit, which can be tricky storing everything while transporting five people. The tool box stays in the truck at all times and now has every tool we use on a daily basis. These tools include; socket wrench set, nut drivers, screwdrivers, torx set, utility knives, storage for our harvest knives, sunscreen, bandaids and the list goes on and on. Say we are fixing irrigation at our three acre farm but had worked at our new farm the previous day. It would be very inconvenient if we had to spend 40 minutes round trip going to pick up equipment, which has happened. Also, it is inconvenient to stop what you are working on to go to another part of the U of I to borrow a tool. It’s a terrible waste of time. The tool box sits between the front seats and is such a luxury to the crew this year!

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