by Joe Rowland, CFSA Organic Initiatives Coordinator

There are so many factors to manage in the greenhouse. From light, heat, water, nutrition, and soil, the list is exhaustive and, at times, overwhelming. A lot rides on good quality transplants, and learning to produce them consistently takes time and patience. This article will help you identify key areas and avoid common mistakes.

Below, I’ll cover potting soil, nutrition, tray types and sizes, planting seeds and filling flats, timing, irrigation, as well as heat and light.

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Potato cleaning at Open Door Farm in Cedar Grove, NC. From the CFSA workshop, Scale-Appropriate Equipment for Increased Efficiency & Mechanization on Small Farms. Credit: Stacey Sprenz

Have you ever heard the word audit and thought that it sounds exciting? More than likely not. Going through any inspection, especially related to your farm, feels overwhelming and invasive. But, if you are a produce grower, you may have heard of the term “GAP Audit.” A Good Agricultural Practices audit is a certification offered to the fruit and vegetable industry to verify an operation’s efforts to minimize the risk of contamination of fresh fruits, vegetables, and nuts by microbial pathogens and other foodborne hazards. In short, how do we ensure the product we buy is safe?

Buyers are looking for growers like yourself; many will want to verify you are a reputable supplier. GAP certification helps them ensure that. But how do you prepare to take your farm business to the next level? This article will cover some highlights to get you started and provide additional resources to explore.

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by Angie Lavezzo, CFSA Communications Coordinator | Monday, Nov. 1, 2021 –

Pink Oyster Mushrooms in Grow Bag

There are so many great reasons to grow mushrooms for yourself, your family, and your customers that it’s hard to choose just five. Mushrooms are relatively easy to grow. So much so that mushroom farms exist in all 50 states. While you don’t have to become a full-fledged mushroom farm, they can be an excellent addition to diversify your garden crops or farm income.

Growing enough mushrooms to feed your family and extra to sell at a farmers market or to restaurants will take very little of your time. In fact, after the initial setup, mushrooms may end up being your best-yielding crop when you compare the time spent caring for your logs and bags to the amount of food you get in return.

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by Gena Moore, CFSA Organic Research Coordinator, and Mark Dempsey, CFSA Farm Services Manager | Thursday, Apr. 29, 2021 – 

Side-by-side comparison of grafted and un-grafted tomato fruits


RESEARCH OVERVIEW

  • Yield from three grafted heirloom tomato varieties with the same un-grafted varieties grown under plastic was compared at the Elma C. Lomax Research and Education Farm.
  • Increased cost associated with grafted tomato production in high tunnels was evaluated to determine if yields justified costs.

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by Chris Smith, The Utopian Seed Project | Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020 – 

As the executive director of The Utopian Seed Project, I’ve been working with Seed Savers Exchange, Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, and Working Food on a project to build a coalition of seed stewards, gardeners, farmers, chefs, and seed companies to preserve heirloom collard varieties and their culinary and cultural heritage.

Grid of 20 collard varieties

There’s lots to love about The Heirloom Collard Project. Two highlights include:

  • A Collard Week (Dec.14-17, 2020) of fantastic collard-focused presentations from people like Michael Twitty, Chef Ashleigh Shanti, and Ira Wallace.
  • A 20-variety collard trial happening right now, which includes more than 230 gardeners across the nation and eight farm trial sites growing all 20 varieties. (I’m one of the lucky eight to have all those collards in my field!)

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by Gena Moore, CFSA Organic Research Coordinator | Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020 —

Picking peppers at Lomax Farm

Above: Picking peppers in the high tunnel at Lomax Farm

We all know variety selection is a key factor in crop success. Here in the Southeast, we face issues like excessive summer heat, high humidity, and insect pest pressure—just to name a few. Choosing the right variety to fit your farm and market is more exciting than ever before with an expansive collection of cultivars to choose from. For example, there are thousands of tomato varieties grown around the world; however, there are certain types that carry resistance to our common diseases in the Southeast U.S. Even further, there are varieties that respond best to various trellising or that yield in flushes as opposed to consistent harvesting to suit different markets.

In this article, we will dive into some results of a recent variety demonstration conducted at CFSA’s research and education Farm in Concord, NC (Lomax Farm), as well as some favorite varieties from Carolina farmers. We hope this information helps you plan for big harvests next year! We want to give a big thank you to Vitalis Organic Seeds for donating seed for our variety demonstration and to our local food pantries for accepting and distributing the produce to our communities in need.

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By Kiki Hubbard, Organic Seed Alliance  | Monday, Mar. 25, 2019 –

Farmers looking for disease-resistant cucurbits now have more choices thanks to the release of new cucumber and melon varieties by Cornell University—the result of years of research by public plant breeders and organic farmers. These varieties are a result of participatory breeding efforts focused on cucurbits most in need of improvement and exhibit exceptional resistance to evolving diseases as well as production and culinary characteristics important to organic farmers.

“Our approach to plant breeding involves a close collaboration with farmers, regional seed companies, and other researchers to test varieties in the environment of their intended use,” says Michael Mazourek with the Department of Plant Breeding and Genetics at Cornell University. “In the case of these cucurbit varieties, they were all bred with the needs of organic farmers in mind.”

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by Gena Moore, CFSA Organic Research Coordinator | Monday, May 20, 2019 –

Cover photo fore trellis solutions

Trellising is standard on most farms for a variety of reasons. Providing plant support can decrease disease, keep plants and fruit clean, increase efficient use of space and even maximize yields. Organic standards encourage farmers to use preventative measures, like trellising, to mitigate disease and pests. Crops commonly trellised are tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, small melons, pole beans, snap peas, and flowers.

It’s important to choose the right trellising system for your crop and farm. Some factors to consider are:

  • Installation costs
  • Maintenance requirements
  • Constraints on plant growth
  • Type of production

Keep reading to find out more about different trellising methods and which ones are right for you.

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In anticipation of the 2018 Piedmont Farm Tour at the end of the month, we caught up with a few farmers that will open their barn doors come April 28-29th to give folks a sneak peek into what a day in the life at their farm is like.

In today’s post, we’ll share our interview with Ben Shields of In Good Heart Farm, a small, un-certified organic vegetable farm in Pittsboro, NC. Ben, and his partner, Patricia Parker, along with their two young children, have four acres in production, including a fruit orchard.

Nine years ago, the two started the farm on rented land in Clayton, NC, and later relocated their operation to Bill Dow‘s old property in Chatham County.

With two hearts geared toward social justice, food access, and environmental stewardship, Ben and Patricia have aptly named their farm.

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Tomatoes are an integral part of many farms in North and South Carolina. Although field production of tomatoes is common, there are many benefits of growing tomatoes in high tunnels including higher marketable yields, lower disease pressure and season extension. To achieve these benefits, proper and efficient production methods must be used. Some production details to consider include variety selection, planting dates, bed preparation, irrigation, and harvest methods.

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