It’s hard to believe the grant year has come to a close. We’ve learned an incredible amount over the past year and are grateful to have been given this opportunity to bring sustainable farming to the City View and Woodside communities. In the past year, we’ve set up a business, cleared an overgrown plot of land, developed the site, and grew a whole lot of lettuce! Thank you to our partners and the fantastic community that helped make it all possible. A special thanks to our neighbors, local restaurants, and the Swamp Rabbit Cafe & Grocery for supporting our mission and loving our produce.
It’s here we say goodbye to Woodside City Farm
The project’s original partners have chosen not to continue with the farm, and farm staff and volunteers will be focusing on new endeavors. While we don’t know what will become of the farm site, we hope conservation and community remain at the heart of it. Jason continues to grow food in his own yard and will be on the lookout for future vacant lots! We hope our hard work will serve as a resource for future urban farmers as they develop their own projects and navigate the associated hurdles.
Thanks to all who supported and followed our journey from kudzu to crops!
Depending on how overgrown the area is, there are a couple options SCEPPC recommends for dealing with invasive plant species.
There’s a natural hormone in all plants called indoleacetic acid. This hormone is what allows a plant’s root system to form and grow. It’s also what’s responsible for creating the characteristic crown of any plant. The crown of a plant refers to its above ground parts – stems, leaves, etc. Crowns are what make Cedar trees triangular and Oaks more open, for example.
We can also thank this hormone for our problem with invasives. It’s what keeps them sprouting! For this reason, it’s imperative to cut beneath the plant’s crown (see photos) so that the root left in the ground cannot sprout back. If you cut above the crown, you have left a completely developed root system that still has a high concentration of indoleacetic acid, which spurs growth.
Manually removing crowns of invasive plant species is definitely the most ‘organic’ way to go. No chemicals involved – just lots of hard, tedious work. If you’re able to go this route, Bill suggests using a hand saw and/or a Pulaski axe.
Manually removing each individual crown is labor-intensive, which is why we have to turn to chemical sprays for a plot like ours.
SCEPPC President, Bill Steele, recommends adding food coloring to your spray so you’re able to keep track of where you’ve been. Within 7 – 10 days, you’ll start to see leaves yellow and die. It takes up to 2 weeks for the plant to die. If you’re looking for gear, Gempler’s is a good place to start. Bill recommends using a backpack sprayer with a 14.5 PSI constant-flow valve, and setting the droplet size to large. Be sure to check the weather beforehand. You should avoid spraying before or immediately after a rainstorm as the oil needs time to soak into the bark.
There are a number of chemicals available for killing invasives. Basel, for example, works great for Mimosa. Basel should be sprayed from the groundline to 10 inches above. If you’re spraying a stem (3 inches down or less), you only have to spray one side. Anything larger and you’ll want to spray all the way around and all the way up to 10 inches.
DOW Milestone is recommended for Kudzu, while Triclopyr works best for Chinese Privot and Bradford Pears.
If you don’t feel comfortable removing invasives yourself, Bill Steele recommends the Marshfield Forest Services. They have experience removing invasives in state and federal parks.
Lettuce rejoice – our romaine lettuce is making its way around Greenville!
Last week, we harvested, washed, weighed, and packed 20 sample bags full of lettuce. We gave them out to members of the City View community, our colleagues, and potential buyers. After a successful trial harvest, we’ve worked out most of the kinks and have begun selling produce to local restaurants.
Following GAP protocol during and post-harvest (practice makes perfect), we harvested about 24lbs. of fresh Romaine on Tuesday!
We’re well on our way to having a post-harvest processing system, which means we’re almost harvest-ready! This is all thanks to Legacy Charter School, who has allowed us to use a building on campus (a space we simply call the blue building). We have the alarm code and keys to the building, the roll door will be repaired soon, and our field sinks are fitted and ready to go! We’re still working with CFSA to plan a site visit and mock audit for GAP certification. As we approach our first produce sale, we plan to work diligently on the safety manual and operating procedures.
We’ve also been working on field carts! Jason turned an old, broken wheelbarrow that his neighbor was throwing away into a cart we can use to transport between our field and the blue building. We also realized we could use one of Jason’s old child-bike carriers to bike or walk our produce to Swamp Rabbit Grocery or to neighbors. Next step: figuring out how to keep produce cool.
We’ve been testing our coolers and everything looks promising! The CoolBots seem to operate well but unfortunately, we damaged one of the thermocouples during installation. Thermocouples are temperature sensors often found in thermostats. Luckily, Farmer Jason was able to follow directions on the CoolBotwebsite to modify the controller, which allowed the CoolBot to operate without a thermocouple. A new thermocouple ($20) has already arrived and we tried again. This time, we were able to get both coolers down to 45°F in the morning shade. When we get these coolers moved into the blue building, we’ll be able to achieve even lower temperatures! This week, we spent about 10 hours caulking, sealing, and cleaning the coolers. They’re ready to go!
Unfortunately, we have discovered a recurring problem. Occasionally, without notice, the drip tape disconnects from the coupling, which is a tube that connects the drip tape to our sub-main, ½” water line. The connection is a slip-on fit with a screw-type cinch-down onto the coupling. This could perhaps be user-error — we may have been a little sloppy while connecting it all together. We’re reaching out to the company we purchased everything from to see if there’s a good tip for avoiding this problem. Meanwhile, the irrigation still works great! In the 36 day billing cycle from 3/23/2017-4/28/2017, our Greenville Water bill shows 3,200 gallons used. This is 88.9 gallons per day. We’re incredibly happy that we invested so much effort into high-quality irrigation. We don’t think our first round of crops would have made it through this warm Spring without a dependable system.
Fencing & Wildlife
We think the squirrels are up to no good! Occasionally we find small objects buried in holes, like small rocks, shiny pieces of plastic, and this week, a glittery Christmas garland! We don’t think any of our fence options would prevent squirrels. Our neighbor, Ms. Tarrant, continues to see rabbits in her backyard, but has yet to notice them on the farm… Yet! Friday afternoon, we saw two brown rabbits dart away from the overgrown weeds at the edge of our beds. They are still outside the fence and we’d like to keep it that way, so we’ll reinforce parts of the fence that are drooping. We also plan to do a good job maintaining the edges of the beds so pests have fewer places to hide.
Seedlings & Plants
One row of irrigation was not connected for a weekend, so that row looks a little stunted compared to the others. It’s likely that the other rows didn’t get the correct amount of water either due to the disconnected line — it would’ve reduced pressure for the entire system, which might have compromised the watering rate. Otherwise, the seedlings look healthy. They taste good, too!
Business & Marketing
We paid our first water bill this month. Next, we will set up our monthly payment to use the blue building. The biggest news is that Jac and Julie from the Swamp Rabbit Cafe & Grocery visited the farm and our processing area. We will work with Julie to sell our first round of lettuce crops! We’ve invested in produce bags and are working to secure Legacy City Farm labels. Thankfully, we have all of our crates ready to go!
Education & Outreach
We had a great time at Legacy Charter School’s Career Fair! We brought worms, rye, oats, wheat, herbs, and flowers for the scholars to see, smell, and hold. There are so many great opportunities to work with Legacy scholars on senior and classroom projects.
We also attended the City View Community Meeting, where The City View Coalition, Bon Secours, and Legacy Charter School worked with the Greenville County Planning Department to create a community vision! The kick-off event really showed the value of having a working farm in City View. We put some effort into highlighting the importance of healthy food access in the plan.
Farmer Jason also attended the CFSA Cover Crop Workshop at Clemson University’s Student Organic Farm. At this meeting, we were able to see some of the large-scale cover crop procedures first hand and learned about ongoing research. Best of all, we got to meet other farmers who have a like-minded curiosity about conservation practices. We strongly recommend that all growers pay attention to upcoming CFSA workshops and publications. We all left with a nice copy of the SARE publication: Managing Cover Crop Profitably. The publication is available for download on the SARE website.
We’ve wrapped up the Terra Preta Research Project with Ms. Frazier’s scholars at Legacy Charter School. We had a small celebration, as well as a reflection on our semester-long biochar project. We were most impressed with the cooperation and genuine interest of the scholars, as well as Ms. Frazier’s patience! We persevered through many weeks of data collection, analysis, and background research. For many of the scholars, this was their first time reading and analyzing scholarly, scientific papers. Likewise, this was surely our first attempt to write a comprehensive scientific paper of our own. We look forward to working with Legacy scholars on more science projects in the future!
The primary focus now is getting our first round of lettuce across the finish line! We’ll continue setting up procedures for harvest and post-harvest, as well as start weed wacking, and working to secure produce bags and labels. We’ll also begin planning our perennial food hedge along North 6th St!
We’ll use grant funds to remove invasive plant species including Bradford Pear, Mimosa, Honeysuckle, Wisteria, and Kudzu. More than 100 million acres in the U.S. are impacted by invasive species, yet plenty are still sold. We’re looking at you, Bradford Pear, Mimosa, and English Ivy…
Managing invasive, non-native plant species is challenging to say the least. The restoration of overrun areas is a monumental project that depends on public awareness, ongoing support, and participation. That’s why the SCEPPC’s mission is to support the management of invasive exotic plants in South Carolina’s natural areas.
The SCEPPC not only provides a platform for the exchange of scientific, educational, and technical information, but also offers an annual Community Grants Program (CGP). The CGP is a competitive grant program that offers financial assistance to individuals or organizations restoring sites degraded by non-native invasive plants. Two $1000 grants are available for purchasing equipment and materials each year. This year, both of those grants happen to be for projects in the Upstate.
What are invasives and why are they a threat?
Not all non-native, exotic plants are invasive. In fact, a large number of our agricultural and ornamental plants are non-native. According to SCEPPC, non-native plants become invasive when they escape cultivation, spread rapidly, and aggressively compete with native species. As invasive populations grow, they adapt and multiply too. For this reason, they often reach unmanageable levels, reducing plant biodiversity and destabilizing entire ecosystems.
“The bottom line is you have to kill the roots,” says SCEPPC President, Bill Steele. “Once you get your property under control, it’s also important to talk to your neighbors about their invasives because seeds are going to travel.”
Woodside City Farm plans to remove invasives from their plot in City View by manually removing plants with Pulaski axes and handsaws, and also by applying tested sprays recommended by SCEPPC and Clemson Extension.