Hello y’all, I am Esther Young one of the Cornercopia apprentices and a Sophomore majoring in Food Systems. As I was thinking about what this post should be about this week I was interrupted by water leaking through my boots and soaking into my socks. Immediately, I knew what the topic would be for this week, it would be what showed up with all the rain: hope.
After all the snow and cold and waiting, spring is finally coming in and it is starting by clearing the drifts of snow with a deluge of rain. All the students you speak to will talk about the hope that spring is bringing for them in their most beloved holiday of Spring Break. Everyone hopes to finish strong. At Cornercopia, despite all the rain, chill, and students leaving for break, the apprentices are forming more and more dreams for the coming season. We have hope. The warmth of the greenhouse reminds me that spring is coming, so much so that I want to go, lay down next to the plants and take a nap. I actually could have done that last month or even last week, but not now. Now the greenhouses are not just filling up with the pounds upon pounds of pea shoots but they are now filling with trays and trays of onions, peppers, herbs, and the hope that every seed will germinate. Every time I come to work, our hallway planting space is somehow even busier than before with volunteers and apprentices planting more and more seeds. During planning meetings, we are able to look past the snow and decide where every plant will go or even when we want to put them out. We have hope. We have hope that our seeds will germinate, we will have enough volunteers, and that the snow will be fully washed away in time to plant our crops.
Something that really sparked hope in me this week was another assignment for Cornercopia: produce a report on the current relationship between the Nutritious U Food Pantry and Cornercopia. In case you are not aware, the Nutritious U Food Pantry is a great source of hope for students on campus throughout the year. Every month, the pantry opens for three days and students can come to grab fresh staples to fill out their pantries. The majority of the food at the pantry is supplied by the Food Group but two years ago Cornercopia started working with Nutritious U to grow fresh produce for the fall semester. This year, their efforts have increased and in conjunction with Cornercopia are starting their seeds in hopes of their best harvest yet. All the potatoes, squash, kale, onions, peppers, etc will be harvested in September to supply local, fresh produce to any student who enters the food pantry. They are always happy to have volunteers who would like to spend an hour running the food pantry or possibly planting, tending the garden, or harvesting in the fall. If you are interested in volunteering contact Rebecca Leighton by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or looking them up on facebook.
Yes, you read that title correctly. Even though as I write this it is snowing, spring is slowly creeping up on us. This means that there is a plethora of planning and prepping that is going on in the Plant Growth Facilities these days. The planning stages of the farm in late winter, early spring are a very important part of getting the farm off on a good foot! Planning means determining how much of each crop will be planted, what needs to be started when, and many other factors. This process means looking across many different spreadsheets and figuring out the final “crop plan” for 2019.
Without a crop plan, a farm is just a conceptual idea. A crop plan insures that you are planting all the right crops, and each crop will have enough room on the farm. Many crops require different planting methods, such as a hexagonal planter, or direct seeding with a jang seeder. Having these things written down, helps the process when it comes time to plant. Spring is a busy time for scrambling to get everything put in the ground in a timely manner, so you do not want any reason to be slowed down.
Believe it or not, there are already things that have been started in the greenhouse and are starting their growing season. The three crops that have already been planted are three varieties of lavender, pansies, and over 20 different varieties of onions. Looking forward to next week, there are another 13 crops that need to be planted, including tomatoes! Sometimes it feels like Minnesota is engulfed in an everlasting winter, so it gives me some hope for spring knowing that there are already things growing inside. I hope you all are as excited for the turn of seasons, and beginning of fresh produce season in Minnesota.
By Olivia Woker
UMN Environmental Science Policy and Management Major
Rootstock Radio: Sustainable Urban Beekeeping with Terry Oxford
Terry Oxford works with pollinators in San Francisco, doing her best to provide good food for her local pollinators. I learned some random bee info, like some things about hive dynamics, but the podcast was less about the actual act of beekeeping than I expected it to be. The one tidbit I picked up that was really interesting is that in some more industrial beekeeping, the males (the ‘drones’ of the hive) are totally removed from the hive, but in Terry’s system and other similar models they keep all elements.
Most of this episode was actually dedicated to what you should be feeding your local pollinators. There was a lot of numbers thrown around that I don’t have enough pesticide knowledge to evaluate so I’ll take with a grain of salt for now, but the general idea was that there’s a category of pesticides called ‘systemic pesticides’ that get into the plant after application instead of just staying as a dust or film on the outside. This can apparently result in the affected plants becoming lower quality food sources for pollinator species, or possibly even be detrimental. Terry spends a fair amount of time talking about it can be really hard to know if plants you purchase have been treated, because you don’t know what happened all down the line; even if your nursery has a no-treat policy, the people they got their stock from might not. She talks about a particularly incredible ‘pollinator farm’ that supports an incredible community of bugs, birds and other organisms via their non-treated fieldstock, and about her mission to feed local pollinators by planting as many flowering trees in her urban area as she can. She does specify that she uses ornamentals, and I’m assuming that’s because public fruit trees can be tricky depending on the city but I don’t really know the reason.
One of my big takeaways from this episode was that even though honeybees are lovely and much-hyped, their performance isn’t the best indicator of how pollinators in your area are doing. For that kind of info, you need to pay attention to your native pollinator species, because they’re all important too, even if they’re less flashy.
Bugs are good! Give ‘em some love.
By Thor Solberg, Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering Undergraduate
Our Farms, Our Future: Bridging the Rural-Urban Divide with Becca Jablonski and Charlie Jackson
Our Farms, Our Future, is podcast in collaboration with SARE; the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program. This episode guided a conversation between Becca Jablonski; an assistant professor and food systems extension economist at Colorado State University and Charlie Jackson; the executive director of the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project in North Carolina. The majority of their conversation related to the idea of uniting urban and rural communities through agricultural marketing channels.
The basis of this podcast begins with the idea that people want to know where their food is coming from. Food transparency is an ever-demanding aspect to the food system that farmers have the ability and desire to provide. And while this ideal is creating a plethora of intricate markets, farmers are behind as this system lacks an infrastructure to keep farmers ahead of this ever evolving demand curve. Becca and Charlie both argue that is it not the farmers unwillingness to provide these services, but their lack of knowledge that these channels exist. And so, once there is a facilitator in place to connect the urban consumer to the rural producer to these desired niche markets, that is where the magic happens. Once the connection is made the benefits of this relationship cannot be stressed enough. They create a community that allows for an incredible wealth of knowledge sharing. The farmer is able to hear the exact consumers desires and match them through specific action. This connection also creates a community of support where food and people can meet, this sparks passion, curiosity and a cultural competency that is unmatched.
This episode goes on to address the multitude of market channels available today and how the producer can learn to match their products to the best channel. But what Becca and Charlie really emphasize is that while these interactions may be dollar based, the value received creates a resilient and connected community that is sure to withstand the test of time.
by Olivia Maynard (Sophomore, Food Systems Major)
Female Farmer Project: Farmers in Politics
This week I listened to a podcast about a subject that is near and dear to my heart, female farmers discussing their role in politics. As a freshman in college, I had no clue where the next four years would take me, but I knew that I was passionate about several things. The first being politics, I thrive off the idea of being politically active and being a voice for the greater community. I also found a love for agriculture, the connection to the land and striving to grow food that all people can enjoy. When I saw that this podcast was available, I jumped on the opportunity to listen to other women talk about two of my passions.The premises of the podcast is, a woman named Angie Provost talks with two women, who are farmers in rural areas who had decided to run for office. One was running for Mayor in Pennsylvania and one was running for congress in California.
I learned a lot from listening to these two incredible women talk about how they got to where they are today. They both discussed getting into politics after realizing a need for their voices to be heard within the system. They expressed concern for their rural communities being swallowed up in more coastal political ideas. This is something that really resonated with me, I think it is important that there is representation in politics at every level. The second big take away I had from the podcast is why female farmers are specifically making a bigger push in politics. They boiled it down to the fact that farming is something that takes hard work and determination, it is not an easy job to pursue. These women said that farming is also often a male dominated field, as is politics, so the navigation of both spaces took similar strategy and willpower.
Throughout the podcast I found myself inspired by what they had to say. They both conveyed such love for the land that they work on and for the country that we live in. I think it is important for our leaders to be devoted to their constituents needs and be able to follow through on their election platforms. There are still places where representation is needed, but I think there is also something to be said about the amazing work that so many women have engaged in before, and after the last election cycle. I can’t help but imagine myself in the future, possibly pursuing similar paths to these two women.
By: Olivia Woker, Junior
UMN Environmental Science Policy and Management (Minor in Sustainable Agriculture)