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We finally got some rain last week. Unfortunately, it was the day we were scheduled to host our second youth workshop with DREAAM House. We quickly switched gears and moved everyone inside. We had a last minute herb test tasting class and it was really funny watching all of the faces as they tried the different herbs from our rooftop garden. We also did build your own veggie pita pizzas which were a hit! The boys were very creative in trying to get around the two veggie topping minimum rule :).

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In other news we have been having a very early year, I think… Or it could be because we had a very late year last year due to the replanting of our transplants. We are harvesting close to 30 quarts of cherry tomatoes a week! Our peppers are big and beautiful and are just starting.

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Our pest problem seems to have subsided with the heat and now we are dealing with other issues. We have a serious problem with birds. They are incredibly pesky, sitting on top of the orchard trellis scoping out which watermelon or tomato they can take a bite out of. The farmers put a predator call out to scare them away. After Rey, Justin and myself recovered from realizing it was a predator call and not an animal that was being tortured for four days, we were very grateful.

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Our old enemy bacterial spot/ septoria has finally reared its ugly head. This is by far the longest it has taken to show up. Now that it is hear we are trying to minimize the damage and control future damage.

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Movin’ and Shakin’

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Photo cred to Justin Slade

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Hope everyone had a safe and happy 4th of July! We are in full swing here at the farm. Rey has come on full time with Justin and myself and we are currently looking for a part time person to start asap! Because the weather has been so great this year we are looking to have a full farm harvest in about one to two weeks. That means that the entire farm will be in production. We are currently getting about 400+ pounds of yellow squash a week, beautiful eggplant, hundreds of pounds of green beans, beets, lettuce, radish, kale and broccoli raab. We are soon going to add peppers, tomatillos, watermelon and tomatoes to that long list of luscious veg.

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We are in somewhat of a drought, which doesn’t affect us too much since we have drip line irrigation. Up until the storm today (which I love to watch come across the flat land) we have had 1/2″ of rain in the last six weeks. I would rather the weather be on the dry side than the wet. We have had zero battle with bacteria disease this year, which is very very uncommon. Usually lots of rain mean lots of bacterial problems. Our plants are big, beautiful and bright green! Fingers crossed that it stays that way!

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In between our harvests we are doing plot maintenance (mowing/ weed eating), fighting that damn potato beetle and planting for fall. Yes, I can’t believe it!!! It is time to seed for our fall crop. It seems as though summer is flying by. I am really excited for the start of school so all the beautiful produce we are harvesting has a greater scope on campus.

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We are currently having slight difficulty because of the temperature inside the greenhouse. We have been starting our plants outside but are fighting birds and Japanese beetles (which are horrible this year). We have been monitoring the damage closely and although annoying, have been replanting as soon as we see catch it.  The complaints are few and far between this year compared to other years. So far this is looking like the best season HH farms has seen yet!!

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Youth Workshops

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One of our goals this year was to use the farm as an educational tool, educating the children of the community on the importance of growing and eating fresh food. I was connected with an amazing outreach program in Champaign called DREAAM House. DREAAM House stands for Driven to Reach Excellence and Academic Achievement for Males. It is a program that was developed in 2015 to encourage positive behavior and learning, keeping kids (pre-K to 7th grade) in school and on the right track.

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We had the pleasure of hosting our first group this past Friday. There were 20 fourth and fifth grade boys. We did a farm activity identifying different crops then we all went to Hendrick House for lunch. It was so exciting and invigorating to watch these boys harvest and try different vegetables right from the farm.

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Squash isn’t for everyone 🙂

I am trying to track their knowledge and exposure to fresh vegetables through surveys. After I ensured them that I was not giving them a test on their summer vacation they were more than happy to oblige. It was interesting to learn that a lot of their schools currently have gardens, which is really great. We have two more workshops scheduled with DREAAM House coming up next week and July 11. The next two will be 23 first and third graders. It should be very exciting and I have lots of fun things for them planned 🙂

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Surveys NOT Tests!!

 

***All photos compliments of Laura Graven, DREAAM House***

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June Progress Report

Here is the progress report for this week!

 

Weather:

HOT HOT HOT!!! SO DANG HOT! We haven’t had rain in weeks! This is great for the plants (since we have irrigation) but not so great for Justin, Rey and myself. I am starting to lose the winter pudge at a rapid pace.

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Roof:

Sedum = Kudzu of the midwest. Don’t plant it unless you want it to remain there forever!!! This was the ground cover on the roof before the remodel. I am completely convinced it will grow in midair. 🙂

Pests:

We are at full scale war with the Colorado Potato Beetle. I completely underestimated this pest. What they lack in smarts they make up for in numbers. We have now implemented hand management, meaning we are going over every single eggplant, potato and tomato plant once a week between treatments squishing them by hand. It has been really interesting to see the entire life cycle, which is pictured below.

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Eggs hatching

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Larvae turning to soft bugs

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Soft Beetle

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Colorado Potato Beetle Damage on Eggplant

Vegetables:

The farm is flourishing! Our crops look amazing!! We are having an early harvest on almost everything. Even our tomatoes are fruiting! I am slightly nervous about them ripening so far from the beginning of school but am excited that we can get some processing in before the kitchens get busy. We harvested some beautiful beets this week. The squash is so early that we will be harvesting next week!

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The plants are flourishing!

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Turnip bigger than Justin

Despite the horrid weather we had at the beginning of the season, the farm is doing quite well. All of the surviving plants have seemed to have outgrown the damage that was inflicted by the storm. Justin and I have settled into our routine for plot maintenance (trellising, fertilizing and weeding) and we are already harvesting, which is two and a half weeks ahead of last year! We harvested huge turnips that were so deliciously smelly the scent followed us around the entire day. We also harvested kale and many of our herbs. This warm weather is really doing great things for the plants and promoting rapid growth.

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BUT… you can’t have thriving plants without everything else from their habitat thriving as well.

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Colorado Potato Beetle

Our enemy the Colorado potato beetle reared its ugly head at the end of last week but it wasn’t on our potatoes. It was on our tomatoes. Coincidence that the tomato beds are in the spot where are potatoes were last year?? Upon first finding this pest I initially thought “What a dull-witted lazy bug.” The beetle would play dead once found which made them easy to smash. Thinking they were only on the tomatoes I also thought they were lazy since they had not migrated to the other end of the farm. I was wrong.

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Colorado potato beetle damage to tomato plant

Upon further inspection of the entire acreage I found several egg clusters on the back of the leaves of our potatoes, peppers, eggplant AND tomatoes. Luckily they are bright orange and therefore easy to spot. If you all remember last year, it was less than a week for total destruction of the potato crop once finding these little nasty things. I was prepared, got up very very early (two days in a row), as to not hurt our little pollinator friends, and took them out.

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Colorado potato beetle egg sacks on the back of a tomato leaf

We also smashed the egg sacks by hand. Bleh! It’s hard to see from the above picture but they are the gross orange things on the leaf. So far so good… and our potato crop is big and beautiful this year!! 😉

 

**** For all those gardeners out there reading the blog let me offer up some advice… If you have a pest problem and aren’t friends with a entomologist yet that would be my first suggestion.

Secondly, take a picture of the target pest and use google search images to identify what they are and what is the best way of controlling them. Google was very helpful in identifying this particular pest!

 

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Things are a little bit brighter

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Justin and Rey building the border.

Well this has already been a better week. We actually had four consecutive days of warm weather and sunshine. It was too wet to get into the field at the end of last week to finish planting the farm crew headed to town to work on the roof. I am always surprised to find out new things about the crew. You sort of take for granted assuming you really know someone one just because you work with them every day during the week. It was Rey’s turn to surprise me last week. While we were on the roof brainstorming ideas as to how to keep the compost and mulch from running off the bed every monsoon season, Rey decided to tell me he was an expert carpenter. Well heck ya Rey!! The funny part was that he didn’t really come out and say it. We were doing measurements and Rey would chime in saying don’t forget you have to make one of those ends 3/4 ” longer than the other. Finally we got it figured out that we had an expert in our midst. Hours later there were all kinds of power tools (which I love), saws and drills. Within a day Rey, Justin and myself had built a beautiful wood container edge to hold the beds in place and to prevent soil runoff. The new design for the roof is complete and now we are just waiting for things to grow. It is beautiful and super efficient, with the irrigation working perfectly!!

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Rey and his masterpiece

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