Sweet Potato Experiment

Another experiment we're doing, this one sponsored byPractical Farmers of Iowa and based on a discussion we had at the PFI cooperator's meeting, is on sweet potaotes. Sweet potatoes, like most all root vegetables, send out aboveground shoots to collect energy, which is then sent to the roots or tubers, usually in the form of starch or simpler sugars. We generally only harvest the central crown of the sweet potato plant, but because they vine across the ground, they often send ancillary roots down from their vines. These roots might help the plant get extra nutrients, and so we haven't been bothering with them, but some other farmers said that they remove these roots from the plant so that they didn't get sent any of the carbohydrates the leaves produce, with the idea that those carbohydrates would then go to the main crown, increasing the harvestable crop. So we're doing a random experiment with 10 rows, most of our crop for the year, removing the ancillary roots on half of the roots every once in a while throughout the season, then measuring how or if this affects our yields.

Tabletop and Superheroes

This weekend we had two major things going on with our farm. First, as you might have read below, we had superheroes training here to go out into the world. You might read more about them from someone else later, or meet them off the internet and on the streets, but it was a fun training that some of us were able to join in, and the group was made up of lots of cool people we got to meet.
Also, this weekend, some of our farm team, some people from other farms, and some superheroes went to TableTop Farm, another vegetable farm that some of our friends started this spring. Chris Corbin, who our never-updated "Our Team" page has as part of our farm, has actually left our farm to help start TableTop farm along with Sally Gran, whose husband Luke you can see walking with Laughing Moon above. The superheroes were helping at our farm this Monday, and will be wandering Iowa for a while starting Tuesday.

bicycling superheroes, and other events...

There’s a lot going on at the farm these next few weeks, so I’ll try to give you the facts without overwhelming you with details. if you want the details, look at the end of this blog entry.

Quick summary: 1. We’ve had some changes to our pot-luck schedule – see below.
2. Superhero bike ride in Iowa, “Haul of Justice” is starting at Mustard Seed Community Farm, this weekend, and you are welcome to join in with some superhero training and/or service.

Asparagus Experiment

So this year PFI is sponsoring an experiment on a few Iowa farms that grow asparagus. We're not one of those farms, but they've kindly provided us with the plans for the experiment, and since they sounded like a good idea, we decided to just use the experimental approach on all of our asparagus, in a "see how it works" experiment. I rototilled the top few inches of our entire asparagus bed, to break up the weeds there. That's why the bed looks pretty bare in the picture at right. We then densely planted soybeans, which should smother out the regrowth of weeds and act as hosts for nitrogen-fixing bacteria, to increase the fertility of our bed. We'll see how it works. The main interesting result so far is below, where it appears I knicked the growing point of the shoot, causing its confused spiral.

Yoga and Spirituality

This Friday, June 10th, at 6 PM, we'll have a potluck on the our farm (366 W, Ames, IA, 50014), and then afterword, starting around 7, Rachael Cox will lead a discussion on Yoga and Spirituality. She's promised it will be a highly interactive presentation, so you might want to wear clothes for doing yoga in, though we won't be doing anything advanced, and everyone should be able to participate. Hope to see people there!

Cucumber Beetles

This spring, my friend Leslie brought us some melon varieties to try from Seed Saver's Exchange. One of them was Collective Farm Woman, which sounded like something we had to grow. Unfortunately, we had something of a plague of spotted cucumber beetles last week, which maybe carried a virus or maybe just straight up killed the plants, but anyway, the collective farm woman and lots of the rest of our melons, cucumbers, and summer squash have been killed. We're trying a few things to deal with this. we'll likely be replanting, as well as considering growing less melon-type crops in the future. We also have been trying out the white row cover seen in the picture above, pyrethrum sprays, and some kaolinite spray which is supposed to coat the plant and in some manner stop them from getting hurt as bad. We'll see what works, or doesn't.

Potluck this Friday: Today!

Dinner at 6, discussion at 7

Speaker: Carl Roberts, Happily retired ISU professor

Title: Whence democracy, and whither to?

read after the jump for more info!

pot-lucks again!!!!

Hello Everyone!

(if you are skimming - my summary is that there are 2 schedules in this email - 1. pot-lucks, and 2. Farm-labor-share work days. 2 events: this friday and saturday)


My name is Luciano Garofalo (I go by Looch) and the Lady of the Onions pictured below is Emily Boston. We recently moved here from Tacoma, WA, to work at Mustard Seed, learn more about food, and build community with the wonderful folks here! We had previously been working in L'Arche (, an intentional community for adults with and without developmental disabilities. I lived in and managed one of our four homes, and Emily worked on our community's organic farm.

Workday, Potluck

This Saturday, I went out and planted a good portion of this year's onions with two of our new workers, Looch and Emily, spreading compost over the tilled ground, incorporating it and shaping the beds, then planting the onion starts with 1/3 cup of water each. Our farm's been busy with a lot of other things, including pruning our grapes and raspberries, planting oat-pea mix for our soil-rejuventation phase of our rotation, and planting peas, starting seeds of our hot-season crops, and several other things I am not able to remember. At this point, the weather's warm enough that there's a lot of work that can be done, and the sooner we get stuff put in, the sooner we'll start harvesting.

Potluck this Friday: Food Policy
Friday, April 15, we'll be having our April potluck, from 6-8 PM
The location will be at 804 Douglas Ave, Ames, IA, 50010, hosted by Donna Pritzingas.
Potluck dinner will start at 6, and then our discussion at 7 will be lead by John Dean, of the Iowa Food Systems Council.
John Dean looks forward to demonstrating why small and unique farms should care about food policy! The Iowa Food Systems Council's primary objective is to nurture a strong food system throughout Iowa. The IFSC is highly involved in helping to create small councils and organizations, and providing resources to help strengthen all of these smaller connections. The potlucks are open to the public, so invite a friend!

Upcoming Workdays
Saturday, April 16:
This Saturday, the day after our potluck, we'll have a public workday on the farm from 1-5 PM. We'll probably be planting much of our broccoli family, our potatoes, and the rest of our onions. This will hopefully get a good start on finishing up our spring plantings.

Friday, April 22:
As part of their Earth Week celebration, the Wheatsfield Cooperative will be organizing a workday at our farm from 3-5PM. We'll be planting much of our greens: Arugula, mustard, chard, lettuce, as well as peas. Meet at 2:45 PM in the Wheatsfield parking lot (413 Northwestern Ave, Ames, IA, 50010) to be sure to catch the carpool.

Saturday, April 23
Meet at the farm, again from 1-5 PM. Again, we'll be planting arugula, mustard, chard, lettuce, peas, depending on what we didn't finish the day before. We'll also be planting any potatoes we haven't planted yet , and preparing beds for our warm-season crops.

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