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December 31, 2013, Looking back a great year — KU Student Farm 

We officially wrapped up the 2013 season on December 6th at a great End of Season Potluck at the Delaware Commons. The potluck was an opportunity to review the past season, and discuss our plans for the future. We had great attendance, enjoyed wonderful food, and shared many great conversations. At the potluck, we unveiled and discussed some of the ideas and initiatives in the works right now! A main area of focus for us is increasing and strengthening our membership, in order to strengthen our community with these initiatives and task forces!

We were blessed in 2013 to have five student farm officers! With this many great minds and talents, we have achieved a lot: we grew (and ate) A LOT of great food, radically increased our community involvement, had excellent speakers, learned a lot, taught a lot, and overall, had a great deal of fun! In 2014, we hope to continue this trend and ask more folks to step up and become officers!  During the summer, we work hard in the hot sun out on the farm, during these cold winter months we work on everything else that makes us the Student Farm!

Check out our new Get Involved page to see what we do and how you can help! We are thrilled to get a lot of projects off the ground in 2014, and we have many initiatives and task forces that need your help!

August 23, 2013, volunteer work day–Okanis Garden at Prairie Moon Waldorf School

Picnic table
(From left to right) Cooper, Emily, Becky, and Rick

We had a great time assisting Rick Mitchell with some work at Okanis garden!  We spent a beautiful Friday afternoon tying up overgrown (and delicious) tomato plants and weeding some of the herb beds.  We all brought a little food to share and sat beneath the great sycamore tree as Rick informed us about the philosophy behind the school, the curriculum, and the practices of biodynamic gardening.

Prairie Moon Waldorf School neighbors the Student Farm and the Okanis garden is a wonderful resource for the students of Prairie Moon, their families, and the Lawrence community.  The Okanis Garden was established with a grant received from the Elizabeth Schultz Environmental Fund through the Douglas County Community Foundation during the 2008/2009 academic year. They were awarded a second grant by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment through the Kansas Association for Conservation and Environmental Education (KACEE) to develop a nature and science curricula based on the garden and the land around the school.  This grant allowed for the creation of the rainwater collection system, which uses rain barrels to collect water from the flat roof and irrigate the garden.  Okanis is a market garden that has provided fresh organic produce to the Community Mercantile Deli.

Cooper and Tomatoes
Cooper picking some cherry tomatoes

When we were done working, Rick let us harvest some of their delicious cherry tomatoes!  They are seriously some of the best tomatoes I have ever tasted, and a wonderful incentive to bring us back!

To learn more about Prairie Moon Waldorf School, visit their website or Facebook.

– Becky
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October 18, 2012, garden tour–Kelly Kindscher, KU Student Farm Faculty Adviser

Kelly Kindscher is a professor at KU where he researches and studies medicinal plants. His home is on 17 acres of shared land where he collectively gardens with four other landowners. Kelly grows a wide variety of crops, from strawberries to all kinds of greens and fruit trees. To Kelly, gardening is a precious hobby that he uses to wind down every evening after long days at work. This hobby of his keeps him out of the grocery store as much as possible and provides him with fresh produce all year long. Kelly uses row cover to keep his vegetables strong enough to endure the cold temperatures Kansas never fails to throw at us!

Since most of us are beginners, Kelly recommended working with or helping someone who is a more knowledgeable and experienced gardener. He also mentioned that most people grow more than they can eat, so sharing a plot with someone is advisable. Though there are many tools around for people to get started, what beginners are not taught is how to pick and eat the food they grow. Kelly, therefore, encouraged us to only take on what we can manage as to make sure we never waste any of the precious food we grow.

Learn more about Kelly’s work here.
See more pictures from our visit to Kelly’s here.

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October 4, 2012, speakers–Bill Wood & Jennifer Smith, K-State Extension

Bill Wood is the county director at Douglas County Extension and took time out of his evening to share his knowledge of soil testing and fertilizers. Bill has soil and fertilizer choices worked down to a science, literally. He provided us with informative graphics, attached here, that list optimum soil pH range for various vegetables, materials to add to correct soil pH, properties of organic fertilizers and sidedressing. If you want to find out the pH, phosphorus and potassium composition of your garden’s soil, you can order a soil test from K-State Extension. The test costs only $7, and obtaining the results is rather simple. All you have to do is take 10 to 15 soil samples around your plot (making sure to go 6 to 8 inches deep), put them in a plastic cup, and take them to K-State Extension in Lawrence to be analyzed. You’ll have the results in 7 to 10 days, and can use Bill’s documents to see how you should treat your soil based on what they found.

If you’re serious about getting into your gardening and being successful, Bill highly recommends getting the soil tested as to ensure you are giving the soil the nutrition it needs to birth healthy crops. If you need some more guidance on how to grow crops effectively, Bill suggested the “Kansas Garden Guide,” a book on the basics of getting a garden started and doing it right.

After being enlightened on the complexity of soil science, we heard about Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) and Good Handling Practices (GHPs) from Extension Agent Jennifer Smith. The purpose of GAPs are to help minimize the risk of providing food that could cause food borne illness. Supermarkets, restaurants and farmers markets are the usual culprits for food borne illness, typically due to mishandling or a contaminant in the water or soil. GAPs were established in the 90s when there were salmonella outbreaks in fresh produce. It caused concerned among consumers and led to the creation of the program. As we’ve seen in recent years, outbreaks have become more common. As a result, GAPs and GHPs have as well. There are many ways to ensure produce does not get infected. By maintaining strict hand and produce washing rules, outbreak risks are significantly reduced. Following GAPs is currently by choice, but Jennifer suspects it will be required for farmers in the future. The important lesson to take from her presentation is that you should always wash your hands and food before taking that first bite. If you’re interested in reading up some more on GAPs and GHPs, check out “Food Safety Begins on the Farm.”

If you would like to read up on what the Douglas County branch of K-State Extension and Research is up to, you can “like” them on Facebook or visit their website.

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September 20, 2012, farm visit–Jill Elmers, Moon on the Meadow

Our most recent farm tour was at Moon on the Meadow. Jill Elmers owns and manages the three and a half acres of land in east Lawrence, and was nice enough to show us around. Moon on the Meadow got its beginnings when Jill and her business partner bought 34 acres of land. Even with her engineering background, she had always been interested in farming, and finally got the chance to truly get into it after this big purchase. After 20 years in the electrical engineering world, Jill will finally ring in the new year as a full-time farmer, which we could all tell she was very excited about.

Jill’s ambitions are what have grown Moon on the Meadow into the successful business it is today.  She told us she gets bored easily, and is therefore constantly looking for new plants to grow and projects to get into. One of her most recent successes was growing heirloom wheat, and milling it on site. Another project Jill took up was extending her season by growing year-round using hoop houses and coverings. It’s harder to market since people aren’t used to getting fresh produce when there’s snow on the ground, but it’s something Jill isn’t afraid of trying.

Moon on the Meadow has been certified organic now for four seasons, which is just another one of the accomplishments Jill has achieved. She is constantly finding ways to expand her business. One thing she hopes to do in the future is to grow dry goods, like beans, since she feels that is something missing from the Farmers Market. Although Jill is the mastermind behind Moon on the Meadow, she does get some help from PhD students and seasonal employees. That said, if anyone is interested in volunteering, or hearing about Jill’s winter CSA, you can get in touch with Jill through her Facebook page.

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September 15, 2012, farm visit–Jen Humphrey & Jess Pierson, The Red Tractor Farm

A few weeks ago, we found ourselves at The Red Tractor Farm in southern Douglas County. We got a tour of the farm led by Jen Humphrey and Jess Pierson, proud owners of this beautiful land. At Red Tractor Farm, Jen and Jess raise Boer goats, chickens and vegetables. We got to see all of these things, but one of the highlights of the tour was the hoop house they recently built. They decided to play around with season extension this year, and thanks to a grant from the Natural Resources Conservation Service, they were provided with enough funding to experiment.

Jen and Jess are obviously well-established farmers. However, they are quick to admit that even professionals like themselves are constantly learning from mistakes and figuring out how to improve their business. It was very humbling to see two such successful people share that even the most experienced farmers are still learning and tweaking their gardening techniques, which makes people like myself who aren’t as skilled feel much better!

I would strongly encourage anyone who missed this tour to check out The Red Tractor Farm website and their Facebook page to get more information. You can also visit with Jen and Jess at their stand every Saturday at the Lawrence Farmers Market.

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September 5, 2012, speaker–Pamela Bramlett, Lulu’s Garden and Lawrence Farmers Market

On September 5, Pamela Bramlett of Lulu’s Garden gave a talk titled, “Sustaining the Farmer – Work Smarter, Not Harder” and shared with listeners the importance of running a farm as a business. Pamela sells her organic herbs to vendors in both Kansas City and Lawrence. She also runs the Lawrence Farmers Market. Needless to say, she is a busy woman with a lot of valuable information to share!

Pamela has grown her organic herb farm into the successful business it is by finding what the market was missing, and jumping on it. She made it very clear that she owes her success to not being just another corn or potato farmer. Many farmers don’t do the necessary research to find out what the market needs, and instead get caught trying to sell a product that too many others are already selling. That’s why Pamela turned to herbs. Not only do they require less labor by nature as perennials, but there was a big market for them that she filled. She also stressed the importance of knowing how to market your product and establishing relationships that will aid you in the success of your business. The message she wants everyone to take away from this is that farming can be a very successful way of life, you just have to do your research and know how to penetrate the market.

Pamela suggested some books for people interested in running their own farming businesses.
“The Organic Farmer’s Business Handbook” by Richard Wiswall
“Market Farmer’s Handbook”
“Tomatoes Love Carrots”
There’s a local food book fair at the Lawrence Farmers Market on September 25.There will be vendors there promoting at the event, as well!

Pamela also mentioned that anyone interested in volunteering or WOOFing (Working on a Farm) on her farm is more than welcome. For those of you not familiar with WOOFing, it’s a global program in which farmers in need of help offer room and board to people in exchange for working on their farm.

Lawrence has four farmers markets EVERY week! Here are the times and locations of each so you can be sure to make at least one.
Tuesdays-10th and Vermont from 4:00pm-6:00pm
Thursdays-11th and Wakarusa from 4:00pm-6:00pm
Thursdays-Cottin’s on 18th and Mass from 4:00pm-6:30pm
Saturdays-8th and New Hampshire from 7:00am-11:00am

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July 2012, officer blog–Tresa Carter

Read the new blog post from SF officer Tresa Carter! Tresa shares her experience becoming an officer and coming back from Ecuador to work at the farm in person.

Also, if you want to read up on how the farm started, check out our old blog here.

After the last Environs meeting of the year, Kim asked me if I could stay after to talk to her. For some reason, I was convinced she was mad at me and was about to yell at me for something I did. That thought process was ridiculous for two reasons: one, Kim could never yell at anyone; two, what she wanted to talk to me about was some of the most exciting news I had gotten all month. She asked me to be an officer for the farm, and I could not have been more excited to get involved. I have been working for the farm now since December of 2011 and every month keeps getting better. I have met wonderful people and learned so much more than I anticipated. I spent the last semester abroad in Ecuador, so I wasn’t able to be physically present for anything that went on. However, I kept in touch as best as I could, and even though I had the most beautiful country to distract me, I still looked forward to the weekly meetings I joined via skype. As a transfer student, the student farm helped me find my place at KU and feel more connected to the people and the land that we work on.

I was able to attend my first workday recently and had the best time! It was great being back out on the farm and seeing all of the hard work people have been putting into their plots. Kim, Tyler and I spent most of the time planting all the heirloom tomatoes I desperately needed to get into my plot. I learned so much just from the two hours I was there, and I think that is something really unique about the student farm. It feels like I learn new information every time I am there just from talking to the people around me. The Native Medicinal Plant Research Garden tour last Saturday was a perfect example of this. I knew Kelly was a smart guy, but his knowledge of medicinal plants is unbelievable. Listening to him talk about the research he is doing at KU while sipping on some mint tea was the perfect way to spend my Saturday morning.
Going out to the farm is always such a treat for me because it is such a peaceful environment. As soon as you pull up, the smells and noises of the city blur into the distance and all your worries seem to slip away. I think that is the biggest gift I have been given since being a part of this group. As a person who gets stressed easily, the farm is an escape for me. For that reason and more, I am looking forward to the events the rest of the summer has to offer, learning more about how to successfully grow my own food and continuing to connect with the people who make the farm a possibility.

-Tresa

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Squash Bugs and Squash Borers (6/24/12)

From Trina McClure

squash bugs

KU Student Farm participants,

Patty and I took a walk around in the expansion area and noticed some wilt on the squash.  Upon inspection we noticed two unfriendly visitors to some of the squash in the individual plots.  A few squash plants were damaged to the point of near death so we pulled them.  Read below on both the pests we noticed today.  I will posts pictures on facebook. If I see plants too far gone to save I WILL PULL them as should you.  If these guys emerge and enter the soil then the cycle continues for us next season.  How can you tell if your plant is too far gone to save?  The wilting will be quite bad, no new fruits will be setting and you’ll notice yellowing.  The worse plants will be those who have not been well tended (especially a lack of water).

Squash bugs: These guys are somewhat obvious.  Check the underside of your leaves for eggs and the ground below for the mature bugs (see facebook pictures).  A female will deposit up to 20 eggs on the leaf area so you should notice a clustering of small bronze colored eggs. There were also 3-5 level instars present along with adults.  Wikipedia entry. The bugs can also carry curcurbit yellow vine disease.  They inject a toxic saliva into the plant, the plant will tolerate only so much until it wilts and dies.

Squash vine borer moths: The larva of this moth burrows into the stem of squash and eats its way up until it finally emerges to overwinter in the soil.  You will see the yellow stuff protruding from some spot at the base of your plant that is called frass.  If you see this then there is a moth larva or two in your stem.  Take a sharp knife or razer and slit the stem and pull out (kill) the larva.  Mound soil over the cut stem to encourage new root growth.  If you fear there are unhatched eggs on your stem (these are very very small) then simply wipe done the stem once a week todetach the eggs from the stem.  See wikipediaentry for a tip on rooting squash stems at various locations.

Next time you come out check out a plot in the expansion area, mid way down towards the western side of the field, with the butternut growing in the front.  You will see small cute early green squash producing on the plant.  Notice the stem base that is flattened and very hard.  This is one reason why the butternut and other moschata species of cucurbits are famed for their resistance to borers.  Their stems are THICK,  too thick for those larvae to chew through.  Beautiful plant that I recommend you take a look at.

Note: There is someone with a plot (43, 44, or 45 I think) who has three beautiful large summer squash plants in the front of the plot.  All three are infected and all three have over grown squash.  These plants can be salvaged but the borer needs to be removed and actually the front squash may be too far gone to save.

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What is the community garden?

comm garden

The community garden is a shared space where people come to learn together. We emphasize companion planting, permaculture techniques, intercropping, seed saving, and successional planting. A large portion of the garden comes from local seeds and were grown from seed in the West Campus Greenhouse at the University of Kansas. We also utilize a fair amount of vertical growing techniques. Beds include: lettuce/kate/bean, cucumber/radish/daikon/borage, Three Sisters, pole beans/nasturium, fennel/sunflower/climbing flowers, peppers/tomatoes/eggplant/marigolds, potatoes/cleome/onions/cilantro,cabbage/sunflower/broccoli, watermelon, sweet potato, and okra.

Our mission is to educate students, faculty, staff and friends about growing food collectively which in turn provides us with locally grown produce. Whether you are a beginner or an expert we want this garden to be a place and opportunity to explore and experiment with different growing techniques. All ideas are welcome and encouraged. We want to facilitate discussion among all levels of gardeners through this shared space and we love to have local community members join us to share their stories and experiences with gardening/farming.goodies

We had six regular participants last season and many volunteers. We would love to have more participating in the future! We encourage beginner gardeners to start in the community garden as it is an excellent space to learn how to successfully grow and harvest food before graduating to managing your own plot. If you are interested in participating in the community garden, just send us an inquiry at kufarming@gmail.com

 emily csinsi

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