3/28/08 Vol. 5 #2

Busy week, the last out of town conference trip of the season combined with typical spring chores.  Who would have thought that I would be in Kansas City twice in the span of two months?  In January I flew in to be the keynote speaker and a conference presenter at the Great Plains Vegetable Growers conference, a new group to me and I had a fine time.  In the back of my head was the knowledge that the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SARE) was having their 20th anniversary meeting in late March, also in KC.  For us, once the market season starts, we just don’t go away, too much to do.  But the SARE program holds a special place in my heart and in the development of Peregrine Farm.  SARE is the federal government’s effort at promoting sustainable agriculture through an innovative grants program and then information dispersal.  Split into four regions of the country, I spent seven years in the 90’s as a farmer representative on the Administrative Council  of the Southern Region which reviews the grants and oversees the operation of the regional program.

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.

Picture of the Week
Newly planted tomatoes
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