On The Farm

Weekly Update: May 1st, 2017

May 1st, 2017 Weekly Update

Outreach & Education Update

We’re wrapping up projects with Ms. Frazier’s Earth Science classes at Legacy Charter School. Scholars have spent the semester comparing how veggies and oats grow in different soils, including biochar, which is charcoal made from heating biomass. We’re excited to read through their findings and learn how biochar impacts soil health. Farmer Jason also attended the City View Coalition meeting. To learn more about the Coalition and its aims, check out this fantastic article.


Our seedlings have all been transplanted! For reference, a job like this took about 108 hours split between three or four workers. We timed our seedling deliveries for two separate weeks in order to keep our work load manageable and to have a bit of succession so that all of the lettuce isn’t ready to be harvested at the same time. We suspect that we’ll need to separate our succession by more than one week in the future to achieve a more manageable harvest schedule. Also, since we ordered three different varieties of lettuce, we may discover that some varieties have different maturity rates. We’re keeping a production log to track planting, timing, order size, and labor. When it’s time to harvest, our log will help us determine a fair price for our produce. Jason developed the production log based on Curtis Stone’s and Richard Wiswall’s production planning.


GAP certification

In order to sustain our operation, we hope to sell some of our produce to Legacy Charter School. In order to do this, we need to focus heavily on food safety certification and develop a system to track and recall produce. We’re planning to pursue the USDA Harmonized GAP Certification with the help of the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association (CFSA). We’ve filled out an Application for Assistance, which outlines where we’re at and where we hope to go. CFSA will first help us out with food safety and GAP certification, and then move into business development.

Stephen Nix, CFSA’s South Carolina Food Systems Coordinator, has shared three very useful resources on post-harvest design that we’re studying at the moment: Building a Low-Cost Cooler and PackshedTwo Vegetable Wash Station Designs, and Building the Leopold Center GAP-Certifiable Vegetable Wash Station: Notes and Modifications

Cooler Upfit

The students of Goodwill’s YouthBuild program have completed our walk-in coolers and delivered them to our post-harvest processing space yesterday! The partnership won’t end here though – we’ve got plenty of other ideas in mind! Our next project will likely be a farm stand. Ratenski Services helped us move our greenhouse, as well as the walk-in coolers. The coolers are plugged in and operating while we test out CoolBots and AC units.


We’ve continued to observe and adjust the farm’s irrigation settings. Since we don’t live on the farm site, we drop by at least once a day to check on everything. We try to stop by between 2 and 4pm since it tends to be the hottest time of the day and thus, the most stressful for our young lettuce seedlings.



So far the fencing is doing its job! Our seedlings have not been impacted, but we’ve noticed that something likes to burrow in our leaf mulch. Leaves are often moved around and we’ve found a few burrows too. Our neighbor, Ms. Tarrant, says she often sees squirrels near the fence, so they may be the culprits.


Business & Marketing Update

GREAT NEWS! We’ve been awarded a $1,000 grant from the SC Exotic Pest Plant Council. We plan to use the funds to control and/or remove the site’s callery pears, mimosas, honeysuckle, and kudzu.

This week, our primary focus is on post-harvest operations. We’ll continue searching for and pricing the following equipment: a durable spring scale, plumbing supplies, shelving for supplies and coolers, hose fittings, hand sprayers, sanitizer, brooms and squeegees, buckets for harvesting, and a big dunk tub.
We’re also working to set up a PayPal account that’s ready to invoice our sales!


Next week

Celebrate the end of our biochar projects with a tour of the farm; continue to monitor seedlings and adjust irrigation setting; acquire more post-harvest equipment; organize post-harvest processing; continue connecting with CFSA on GAP certification
On The Farm

Weekly Update: April 24th, 2017

GAP Certification

We have stayed in touch with Stephen Nix and Patricia Tripp of the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association (CFSA) about Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) Certification. Mr. Bowen of Legacy Charter School has helped us transition into our mini-post harvesting processing space, which is fantastic news for the farm and for our future GAP audit. Look out for our post-harvesting plan in the coming weeks, including a layout for our coolers, sinks, and storage. We’re also working to devise a Food Safety Manual. CFSA will help us make good bold moves toward food safety certification.

Cooler Upfit

This week we’ll continue to work with Mr. Cheek and the students of Goodwill’s YouthBuild program, who will help upfit our coolers. Our goal is to redesign our coolers with food safety in mind. That means easy-to-clean, smooth surfaces with no gaps for potential contamination. If we are able to sanitize the inside surfaces of our coolers, then we are more likely to be food safety compliant. After we install vinyl surfaces, we’ll install and test the CoolBot, a controller that’s helped us make an affordable walk-in cooler. Check out Curtis Stone’s video on walk-in coolers to learn more about CoolBot technology and farming on a budget!


Up and running! We tested the rain delay feature this week. Because we’ve had so much rainfall and our soil is so absorbent, we’ve decided to reduce irrigation for the time being. We found many springtails, which are insects often found in damp soil, hopping everywhere. We’ll let mother nature continue to water our seedlings in the meantime.


This may be our biggest weak spot at the moment. We’ve seen groundhogs and rabbits in our neighborhood almost every day, so we’ve designed and installed a light weight, step-in fence that extends about 1ft underground. We didn’t have the resources to build this 6ft design, so we stuck to a 3ft design for the time being. While there are mixed reviews on its effectiveness, we’ve used chicken wire. We’re prepared to learn a few lessons here and will keep you updated!

Seedlings & Cover Crops

We planted 50% of our seedlings last week, which are from Banner Greenhouses. This week, Farmer Jason will pick up the remaining order. With help (and the weather’s cooperation), we’ll complete transplanting on Tuesday. We’ve also planted an interesting mix of summer cover crops and compost crops! These will help protect the soil from erosion and improve the soil’s nutrient levels by adding organic matter. We’ve chosen grains, legumes, and vining squashes. You can learn more about cover crops from Clemson Extension here.

Business & Finance

Farmer Jason is documenting crop inputs using a combination of enterprise-type budgets he’s studied from other farmers and organizations – primarily from Curtis Stone (The Urban Farmer), Richard Wiswall (The Organic Farmer’s Business Handbook), and Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (Fearless Farm Finances). Along with some of our own thinking and spreadsheet skills, we should be able to identify the financial bottlenecks in our processes. We’ll share what we learn!

This Week’s To-Do List

Transplant remaining seedlings; watch for sprouting cover crops; start moving supplies to our post-harvest processing space (which we like to call the blue building); organize and clean blue building; create food safety manual outlines; continue consulting with CFSA for GAP guidance; chop invasive plants on the farm’s perimeter; meet with Ms. Frazier’s scholars about analyzing data, making conclusions, and finalizing the reports for our biochar projects.

On The Farm

Weekly Update: April 17th, 2017

Legacy City Farm Weekly Update: April 17th, 2017

GAP update

Farmer Jason’s been organizing his thinking and planning for post-harvest processing. Luckily we have the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association’s (CFSA) publication, Good Agricultural Practices for Small Diversified Farms, which we were given at their GAP workshop. We may be ready for the mock audit sooner than we originally expected! To-do: Set up our hand washing sink and plumbing; Move in to and set up our new post-harvest processing space; Design a food safety manual with procedures and training; Test our walk-in coolers; and much more! We think we can achieve most of this while the plants do their growing. Our aim is to be GAP certified by Fall 2017.

Cooler Upfit

Mr. Eric Cheek and the students from GoodWill YouthBuild have nearly completed work on the walk-in coolers. On Tuesday, they put up boards to help finish off the AC walls. Next week we’ll schedule the vinyl work to make our coolers up to par for GAP certification. After that we’ll be ready to test the units!

Home Base

Mr. Barry Bowen of Legacy Charter School showed us around our future post-harvest processing home. We need to do some plumbing, planning, and arranging, but we anticipate having full access to the building by the first of May. We may hire Ratenski Services, LLC to move our small sheds to their new home. They’ve helped us before and were well-equipped, quick, honest & reasonable.

Irrigation Update

Jason and two of his sons installed some simple plumbing on Tuesday to help get water flowing to the beds (surely that’s how the boys wanted to spend their Spring Break, right?). On Wednesday, Shelby & Kirsten from the Greenville County Soil & Water Conservation District, along with two of Jason’s old students, Anthony & Sean,  helped install the majority of the irrigation system. On Thursday morning, we completed the irrigation installation. Everything has been tested and is running on a new timer!


On Wednesday, the team also put together a fencing package after shopping around a bit. We started to set it up on Thursday with Anthony’s help. The fence we chose is designed to deter rabbits and groundhogs. It goes a little deeper than a normal fence, and remains floppy on the top so that ground hogs tip over and get discouraged. We need more fence posts than originally expected, so we have a bit more work to do next week.


The seedlings are ready for pick-up at Banner Greenhouses facility in Nebo, NC. It’s going to be a lot to plant, but it’s what we’ve been waiting for! We can count on a few neighbors, Jason’s old students, and a few friends from the Soil and Water Conservation District to transplant seedlings.

Business & Finance

After consulting with a number of experts, we’re focused on getting the fields planted and setting up our post-harvest processing before we speak seriously with potential buyers.

This Week’s To-Do List 

Transplant Week 1’s seedlings; complete fencing; Seeding summer cover crops; Set up home base; Organize post-harvest logistics
On The Farm

Building Local Relationships

Throughout our project, we paid considerable attention to our immediate neighbors. Our project goals involve serving the community where our farm resides. In our case, the Woodside and City View communities tend to have residents with lower incomes. There is also  a high concentration of residents on disability income.

Our political efforts have involved meeting our neighbors at their door steps. By partnering with community organizations like Bon Secours, we go door-to-door sharing news about the farm.

A lot of our neighbors admitted that they can’t help us physically or financially. However, everyone’s thrilled about the project! Neighbors are happy about us turning an overgrown plot into something they can be proud of seeing in their local community.

We’ve also built a relationship with the City View Coalition, a group of concerned citizens who want to see the community improve. We attend the monthly meetings and help spread the word to neighbors about the coalition and their efforts. Because of these meetings, we’ve seen the farm operation become a part of the community planning effort.

Politics play a big role in an urban area. 

Higher land prices and smaller lots make land supply low and related costs high. Even when land has limited use, questionable history, or limited development value, urban areas have more people with conflicting ideas of how to make things happen. Food will always have a political aspect.

On The Farm

Confronting Contaminated Land

Urban contaminants must be confronted for the sake of healthy water, soil, and consumers.

In an area like ours where mills once dominated the landscape, contamination is a serious risk. Urban farmers need to consider that their products can become contaminated by root absorption or via dust in the air. Precautions must be taken and the presence of contamination may impact your entire operation. For example, perennial fruit plants in an orchard will carry a different risk than root vegetables grown in direct contact with the soil. An option may be to avoid soil contact entirely by growing hydroponically, cultivating mushrooms, or growing in raised beds. Though contamination in an urban environment may be widespread, there are still plenty of ways to make urban agriculture work.

Suppose urban farming stakeholders have a significant liability concern and all risk of contamination needs addressing. The remediation of some contaminants may be quite difficult and expensive depending on the type of contaminant. There are several possible contaminants in highly populated areas. This all depends on the previous use of the land and proximity to contaminated water ways. Some common chemicals of concern are petrochemicals, heavy metals, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). In fact, some contaminants may have been in the ground for centuries.


Remediation efforts include scraping up, properly disposing, and replacing contaminated soil with clean soil. Other remediation may involve growing in clean soil on top of contamination via impermeable barriers such as raised beds. There are even specific species that, over time, can mend contaminated soils as well. For example mycoremediation uses mushrooms to essentially soak up contaminants. Upon harvest, the mushrooms can be collected and disposed of safely. In addition, mushrooms can be “trained” to eat and render petrochemicals into less dangerous forms.

We have also read about phytoremediation, which uses sunflowers to soak up heavy metals into their tissues. Likewise, bacteria can also be used to transform petrochemicals into harmless element compounds. Ultimately, if we do find pollutants, there are a number of routes we can take to remove them.


“Brownfields are properties where the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant. Since 2000, the City of Greenville has received approximately $1.8 million from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) brownfield grants.”

We were lucky to secure grant funding for our site. The grant project uses funds from the EPA to help developers understand invisible contamination risks. The grant funded a Phase I Environmental Assessment. This assessment initiates a formal reporting process conducted by an environmental engineering firm to explore the history of the land. This is done by using available databases, photographic evidence, and personal interviews. Upon completion, the stakeholders learn about potential Recognized Environmental Issues. If the report shows Recognized Environmental Issues, a Phase II Environmental Assessment may be requested. If needed, The Phase II Assessment requires additional expense as this calls for more elaborate site testing such as trenching and soil laboratory testing.

Results to be determined!