Extremely unusual for a government program, it is very participatory and diverse. The Administrative Councils have representatives from universities, industry, NGO’s, state and federal governmental organizations as well as farmers. They discuss and debate the future of agriculture and how to direct that future towards more sustainable solutions via the carrot of grant monies. Not only was I exposed to the newest cutting edge ideas in farming and the leading minds in sustainable ag but also how this kind of group operates. The politics and relationships involved, how to manage large groups of diverse opinions to come to decisions, where the money goes. In the end I was elected to the august position of council Chair (I think I left the room at the wrong time). This took me to the National Operations meetings where I was able to work with my counterparts from the other regions. In all it was a very formative time for us. So late March be damned, Betsy particularly thought I should attend partly for the conference sessions but also to see old friends. Off I flew early Tuesday and returned late last night tired but glad that I did attend infused with new ideas and renewed contacts.
Here on the farm the staff and Betsy have been making great headway. The early tomatoes and cucumbers were planted on Tuesday, waiting until just after what we hope was the last night in the mid 20′s. As it has become more common in recent years we are having to do variety trials to find a replacement for a longtime favorite vegetable. This time it is the early red tomato we have relied on for great early production with great flavor. Most tomatoes are not suited to planting this early and the ones that are, usually don’t have very good size or flavor. Burpees Early Pick hybrid is the one we have grown for years and it has performed reliably but in today’s modern seed industry they have decided to discontinue it’s seed production, damn! We had some seed left and are growing it alongside three new varieties in the hopes of finding good replacement. In a few months you will get to taste the results. Big cultivation and weeding week, looks like they got everything cultivated while I was gone. Weed control is all about timing and the soil conditions were ideal this week. If all goes well, that will be the last time we have to do any cultivation on the early spring crops.