Expert Tips

Preparing for Spring High Tunnel Tomato Production

by Gena Moore, CFSA Organic Research Coordinator

Tomatoes are one of the leading crops grown in high tunnels throughout the Carolinas. With the capability for season extension, tomato transplant dates for high tunnels are already quickly approaching.

Targeting an early market with tomatoes can mean higher profits for many farmers.

While most production plans are set for our upcoming growing season, there are some critical decisions to be made in regards to the implementation of a production plan.

Early spring grafted and un-grafted heirloom tomatoes in a high tunnel at Lomax Farm.

Early spring grafted and un-grafted heirloom tomatoes in a high tunnel at Lomax Farm.

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Benefits of Utilizing Drip Irrigation for Food Safety

by: Tay Fatke, CFSA’s Local Produce Safety Coordinator

Efficient water-use, decreased labor and operating costs, reduced disease pressure, decreased runoff and erosion are a few of the benefits of using drip irrigation widely known throughout the produce industry. However, a lesser-known benefit of implementing drip irrigation on your farm deals directly with minimizing your food safety risks and may contribute to passing your GAP Audit.

When it comes to on-farm food safety, irrigation water is and always will be a main concern. An important aspect of an on-farm food safety plan includes a water system risk assessment for irrigation water that takes into consideration the historical testing results of the water source, characteristics of the crop, stage of the crop and the method of application.

Drip irrigation and food safety

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Constructing a High Tunnel on Your Farm

High Tunnel Bows

Constructed high tunnel bows

CFSA’s Lomax Farm was awarded an NRCS-EQIP contract for a high tunnel through the High Tunnel Systems Initiative. Construction began during CFSA’s High Tunnel Construction Field Day at Lomax Farm on October 3, 2017.

The Lomax Farm staff documented the process, from applying for the NRCS grant to beginning construction of the high tunnel. If you are thinking about applying for funding for an NRCS-EQIP high tunnel, here is what you need to know.

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Scouting Your Vegetable Crops for Pests and Disease

pests on produce

As you are transitioning from summer to fall crops it is a good time to scout your fields for pests and disease. This also applies to transplants that might not yet be planted in the field. The last thing you want to do is to introduce disease to your field through infected seed. Scouting is an integrated pest management (IPM) strategy that systematically assesses the health of your crops and the threat of pest outbreak without having to inspect every plant in the field. By monitoring and scouting your plants routinely you are better able to detect early threats from either pests or disease and implement proper management strategies.

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Tips for Growing a Bumper Fall Brassica Crop

by Mark Dempsey, CFSA’s Farm Services Coordinator
Broccoli Field

Photos by Jeanine Davis

With August now upon us, many growers across the Carolinas are preparing for fall crops – if they haven’t already started them in the greenhouse in the western parts of both states. Brassicas, a.k.a. cole crops, are staple fall crops among many vegetable growers because they generally command a good price at market and are popular for their nutrient density, impressive crop diversity, and culinary flexibility. Brassicas grown in the Carolinas include crops with flowering heads (broccoli & cauliflower), fattened stems and/or leaves (cabbage, Brussels sprouts & kohlrabi), leafy greens (kale, collards, choi & mustard), and roots (turnip & rutabaga). Fall-grown brassicas are especially popular because the end-of-season cold weather can sweeten them up and reduce insect pressure, making them tastier and sometimes easier to manage. But nailing down their management isn’t always easy. Below are several tips for growing a bumper fall brassica crop:

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How and Why to Conduct a Mock Recall in Preparation for a GAP Audit

by Patricia Tripp, CFSA’s Local Produce Safety Manager

 

Mock Recall

Growers that do everything right may still find themselves in a recall situation. Be ready with a Mock Recall.

The process of conducting a mock recall in preparation for a GAP audit is one of the of the requirements for GAP certification, but many growers feel that performing a mock recall may be misunderstood by buyers. The fear is that buyers will mistake a mock recall for a true recall. Fortunately, this is an industry standard and the majority of wholesale buyers are accustomed to assisting growers with this exercise.

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Managing Perennial Weeds in Organic Fields

by Mark Dempsey, CFSA Farm Services Coordinator

Mugwort through cover crop

Mugwort emerging through a rolled cover crop in late summer. Suppression from a rolled cover crop lasts several months, but a bad perennial weed infestation will eventually push through, requiring further treatment. Photo by Mark Dempsey.

Staying ahead of weeds this time of year is one of the organic farmer’s biggest challenges and a big drain on labor. In the Grower’s Toolbox last June, we addressed the management of annual weeds by focusing on preventing weeds from setting seed and on drawing down the weed seedbank. While annual weeds are generally the most common weed problem, if you have a perennial weed problem, you’ll probably dread it even more. In fact, since last year, we’ve gotten feedback from many farmers expressing the same sentiment: “I’ve got my annual weeds under control, but my perennial weeds just won’t die!”

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Reducing Disease in Field Tomatoes

by Gena Moore, CFSA’s Organic Research Coordinator

Pruners being used to remove a sucker. Photo by Gena Moore.

Pruners being used to remove a sucker. Photo by Gena Moore.

 

Tomato field production comes with many challenges.  Tomato plants are susceptible to many seasonal diseases and conditions that impact plant health and reduce marketable yields.  Although many challenges exist, there are some strategies you can take to mitigate disease risk and improve yield.  Strategies include both pre-plant and post-plant steps, so if you already have plants in the ground, consider implementing post-plant strategies this year and plan to incorporate pre-plant strategies later this year and in the next growing season.  Soil borne diseases have different impacts and control methods are different then what we’ll cover here.

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Reduce Post Harvest Losses by Implementing a Food Safety Program

by Patricia Tripp, CFSA’s Local Produce Safety Manager

 

Dylan Alexander of Alexander Acres, one of the Farmers in Training at Lomax Incubator Farm, washes greens post-harvest.

Dylan Alexander of Alexander Acres, one of the Farmers in Training at Lomax Incubator Farm, washes produce post-harvest.

 

Growers can produce large quantities of fruits and vegetables all day long, but without the proper systems in place you could miss out on the critical window of time when your produce is fresh and high-quality enough for market. Miss the window and product losses could be extensive. Taking every measure to improve product quality through the implementation of a food safety program will help to open up new market opportunities, reduce losses and improve the overall viability of your business.

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Bad Weather Ahead? NAP Could Have Your Farm Covered

by Rochelle Sparko, CFSA’s Policy Director

bad weatherCatastrophic flooding hit NC last year and SC the year before, damaging many farmers’ crops. These widespread disasters got me wondering whether CFSA’s member-farmers are aware of the different ways they can protect themselves from the financial consequences of natural disasters. To that end, I’ve put together some basic information about NAP. Take a look, and if you have questions, contact your local FSA office.

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