GAP Certification & Harvesting
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 CoolBot website 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!