Practical Farmers of Iowa Cooperator's Meeting

Alice and I were at the second day of the PFI cooperator's meeting today, talking with other farmers and Practical Farmer's staff about last year's research and planning the research and demonstration projects people will be doing next year. PFI are pretty cool for a lot of reasons, and one of them is they organize and sponsor a bunch of research:

Here's a page with all the horticulture research projects from last year,

Here's a page you can get to all of their research projects and other resources,

and I was going to put a link through to our results from the research we and Scattergood friend's school farm did, but it isn't up yet. In short, the variation in sweet potato yields, from plant to plant and from row to row is really high, so the main question of our research, "Does removing ancillary roots from sweet potato vines increase yields of the harvested roots?" couldn't adequately be answered, since our interval of possible effects was quite large: we were 95% confident that removing the roots not coming from the crowns of sweet potato plants caused something between a 39% decrease and 56% increase in yield. Which doesn't say much, other than that sweet potato research is difficult at our scale.

Ames Community Garden Coalition Seed Swap

Last year, we had Ames's first seed swap, and it got people informed about a lot of gardens (such as the one at right), and was a fun day of eating and sharing lots of fun seeds.

From Sue DeBliek, who's taking charge of the seed swap organizing this year:
The Ames Community Garden Coalition planning team has been collecting loads of seeds for the Seed Swap on Monday. Join us at 5:00PM in the basement of the Youth and Shelter Services Building (420 Kellogg) in downtown Ames. Bring your friends and some seeds you would like to share. You will meet other community gardeners, learn about the gardens of Ames, and take home some great seeds.

here's the information

Ames Community Garden Coalition
Seed Swap
Monday, Feb. 6th
Lowest level of Youth & Shelter Services Building, 420 Kellogg Ave.

Next Friday's Potluck: Human Trafficking

The next potluck will be on human trafficking
Feb 10, at 704 Duff Ave, Ames, IA
Teresa Downing will present on the state of the movement against human trafficking and lead a discussion on the contributors to and means of dealing with human trafficking. Note that this is not this Friday, but the next.
A potluck dinner will be at 6, followed by a discussion from 7 to 8.

This Friday's Potluck: Technology

The potluck will be this coming Friday, Jan 20 with dinner at 6 PM and discussion from 7 to 8 PM, bring some food to share for the dinner and ideas to share for the potluck.

The location will be 900 Idaho Ave, Ames, IA.

We'll have a discussion about technology: what it means, what is appropriate technology, and how we deal with the risks that technology presents. This potluck, we're making an explicit effort to move away from expert-driven discussion, so be sure to bring ideas, opinions, and examples about technology to the group.

To get ready for the discussion, perhaps you would like to read an essay by a German person:

or watch a video by some French people:

Sorry, I couldn't figure out how to embed either of these. Hope to see people there!

Potluck Today: Food aid and Food Justice

Guided by Shari Reilly, we'll talk about the ideas of charity, service, social justice, and the compatibility and conflict of these ideas, with a focus on food.
The potluck will occur on Dec 9th, at 6 PM, with a discussion to follow at 7PM.
The potluck will be at 320 Ash Ave, a few blocks south of Iowa state university.

Bring some food and ideas to share!

Harvest Data 2011: Specific Increases and Decreases in Yield

As noted before, most of our harvests increased this year. In terms of major crops, we had several that increased over 50% from the previous year, in terms of food exported from the farm:

Beets, edemame (immature soy), fennel, green beans, peas, largely because we did a better job of planting, fostering germination, and maintaining these crops.

The improved weather also helped the above crops, but definitely helped the leeks, onions, tomatoes, and greens which increased from last year largely because last year's plantings of these crops were severely hampered by water-related death and disease-onion harvest increased fivefold.

Berries and rhubarb increased from just a few pounds last year to about 80 lbs of berries and 60 lbs of rhubarb this year, as our plantings matured.

There were a few major crops that declined in yield:

Butternut squash, pumpkins, cucumbers, zucchini all dramatically declined in harvest from the previous year, some to zero, as insects, powdery mildew, and other plagues quickly killed off all of our plants, as seen in the picture at right. In response, we'll probably avoid growing most of these crops next year.

Eggplant, okra, and sweet peppers declined in yield somewhat. It's not clear why-perhaps we planted fewer, perhaps the soil where they were planted was less fertile, or nearby plantings shaded these crops.

Honey harvest was cut about in half, as our more productive hive from last year got diseased. Hopefully next year the hives do better and aren't already dead.

Leaf lettuce production dropped to zero as we decided not to grow it. Sweet potato harvests declined somewhat, again because we didn't plant quite as many as last year.

CSA Survey

If you got a box of vegetables from us this year, go to this site to fill out a survey about it: what you liked, what you didn't, etc.

Potluck next Friday: Food Aid and Food Justice

Guided by Shari Reilly, we'll talk about the ideas of charity, service, social justice, and the compatibility and conflict of these ideas, with a focus on food.
The potluck will occur on Dec 9th, at 6 PM, with a discussion to follow at 7PM.
The potluck will be at 320 Ash Ave, a few blocks south of Iowa state university.

Bring some food and ideas to share!

Potluck Today: Nov 11, 2011: The Baha'i faith

Guided by Hannah and Leif, we will learn about the Bahai' faith and perspective on community, sharing perspectives on community connections, commitments, and engagement.
The potluck will occur at 6 PM, followed by a discussion from 7 to 8 PM.
The location will be 322 N Russell Ave, to the south east of Brookside Park.

Total Harvests for 2011

The graph shows the cumulative harvests, such that the end of the graph is shows what the total harvest for the year were, in pounds. The blue line is vegetables that have been paid for, mainly our CSA shares. The red line is vegetables used by workers, including our working CSA shares and people that live or were living on the farm. The yellow line is vegetables used by people that generally didn't pay us or work on our farm.

There's still a few things that haven't been weighed, such as probably 20 or so pounds of dry beans and various brassicas that might have survived the frost on Thursday, but they won't really impact the final totals that much.

This graph obscures a lot of things, which are probably worth talking about further than I will here. Quickly, though, there's first the fact that a pound of potatoes isn't the same as a pound of kale or a pound of raspberries. We could approximate the value of each of these using their price, though this presents its own problems, a good example being the fact that stinging nettle is quite healthy, but most people wouldn't pay any money for it. We don't do much work to grow stinging nettle, but then the question becomes should we value nettle more because it's easy to produce, or less because it requires less labor. Beyond this, our mission isn't to produce the maximum amount of goods and then dump them somewhere, as this food aid strategy doesn't really work great at "creating a community in which everyone can participate in growing and eating delicious, healthy, locally produced food." So the actual pounds isn't the final measure, its whether we're helping to create that community. I think we're doing a pretty good job of distributing our food in a way that does that, though we'll be sure to talk about it at the roundtable discussion in December, seen below.

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