Exciting times at the beginning of a new season!

Just a few of our seed catalogs
Things are slowly ramping up at Cornercopia in preparation for the coming spring.  
Even though the cold still hurts my face, the days are getting longer and the birds
are singing at the welcome extra sunlight.  

Many people don’t think of farmers working until the bountiful summer days at farmers’ markets.
In fact, farmers start their work in the dead of winter.  January is the time to review last year’s records,
to see what was successful and what was not, to order seeds, and to start planning for the coming
growing season.
Bean seeds
Here at Cornercopia, we have been busy inventorying the seeds we have leftover from previous years,
and placing orders for new seeds.  There are lots of exciting things in store for this year, as we plan to
amplify our production with the use of tractor power and a fancy transplanter (an implement that allows
for quick planting of seedlings out into the field).

We have also been planting and harvesting microgreens.  Microgreens are the first leaves of seeds the
pop out of the ground.  Microgreens are very quick growing and highly nutritious, they contain many
beneficial vitamins and minerals.  It is possible to grow microgreens in the warm, moist environment of
the greenhouse during the winter months.  This is a great way to start a cash flow very early in the
season.  We are selling our microgreens to University Dining Services and the Campus Club.  Look for
our pea shoots, and a variety of other microgreens like Red Amaranth, Cabbage, Tatsoi, and many others,
in the salad bars around campus.     

Until next time, think spring!

2018 Cornercopia Apprenticeship Program is accepting applications.

Cornercopia Student Organic Farm Apprenticeship Program:
Do you want to learn about organic agriculture in depth through a season-long paid opportunity? We are excited to announce expanded funding for our apprenticeship program in 2018. This allows us to offer a season long experience that starts in January and spans the entire growing season. Our goal is for students to gain a comprehensive view of organic farm management, practice leadership and practical farming skills, and strengthen our organic agriculture program at the University of Minnesota through more continuous involvement with the student farm. 
Applicants have the option to participate in one or more seasons of work, with preference given to students opting for the full three seasons. Apprentices will participate in all aspects of the farm from helping create the crop plan, to implementing it throughout the growing season, and marketing the crops we grow. The apprenticeship also includes a 1 credit directed study class during spring semester, where students will dive deep into theory and practices behind organic growing before we move into the field at the end of spring semester. We will also have weekly meeting with all apprentices to create weekly and seasonal plans, work hours during spring semester will be fairly flexible options for M-F work. (HORT 3090 will be Fridays from 12-3pm and include our weekly meeting).
A sample seasonal schedule looks like this:
Spring: 5-10 (paid) hours per week. Activities include ordering seeds, growing microgreens, making soil blocks, planting seeds, preparing and planting greenhouse and high tunnels, record keeping, and supervising volunteers. Although a large sum of our work spring semester will take place in the greenhouse, by the end of the semester we will be working outside on the farm. 
Summer: Part time (20-30 hours/ week) or Full time (up to 40 hours/ week often includes executing a summer research project). Activities include marketing the farm’s produce, coordinating volunteers and outreach efforts, helping raise chickens, manage weeds, pests and diseases on the farm and /or carrying out on farm research, and more!
Fall: 10-15 hours per week. Activities will include harvesting and marketing (early fall is one of the busiest times of year on the farm!), and end of season wrap up.

The apprenticeship is available to students currently enrolled in a U of M degree program. Applicants interested in the Apprenticeship Program at Cornercopia should complete the application and submit it to Courtney Tchida either by email at tchi0003@umn.edu or to the MISA office (in person 413 Hayes Hall or by mail in to 411 Borlaug Hall 1991 Upper Buford Circle St. Paul, MN 55108). The Cornercopia Apprenticeship Program is funded in part by the Martha Anderson Fund for Organic and Sustainable Agriculture.
Applications received by Friday December 1st 2017 will receive top priority. The apprenticeship will start January 19th 2018.

 Cornercopia U of M Student Farm Apprentice Application                             Date Received:
Applications received by December 1st 2017 will be given priority, drop off in 413 Hayes (MISA Office) or 411 Borlaug Hall 1991 Upper Buford Circle Saint Paul, MN 55108 (mailing address for MISA office) or email to tchi0003@umn.edu  

Position Seeking (check all that you are interested in)
 Year Round Apprentice (Jan- October) 1st preference will be given first to those who can commit to the whole season.
 Spring Apprentice (Jan-April)
 Summer Intern (May-October)
 Research Intern for Summer 2018 (additional application to either UROP or Johnson Internship program required)

Student Information

Your Name:______________________________________________________________
Degree Program & Year : (indicate if you are a non-degree student)_________________
Anticipated Date of Graduation: ____________________ Student ID: _______________
Email Address:  __________________________________________________________
Street Address:  __________________________________________________________
Phone Number: ________________________Is this a cell phone number?____________
Do you have other spring semester commitments that need to be considered (other jobs, lengthy vacations? ______________________________________________________________

1. Describe your previous garden or farm experience.

2. Describe any related course work you have previously taken.

3. Describe any previous record keeping experience you have.

4. In terms of your professional development, what are your expectations for this internship?

5. Describe any previous management experience you have.

6. The Spring & Season Long Apprenticeship includes a 1 credit class Spring Semester Hort 3090  & Weekly apprentice meeting that will take place on Fridays from 12-3pm (both the class and meeting). Are you able to attend this each week?

7. Do you have work study funds available for Spring 2018? Although by no means required utilizing work study funds allows us to stretch the funding we have for the apprenticeship program. 

Xinger Zeng's Brussels Sprout Variety Trial


 Obtaining dependable Brussels sprouts production in Minnesota
University of Minnesota

  Xinger Zeng
Local farmers and consumers want more dependable supply of locally grown vegetables. Production of Brussels sprouts (Brassica oleracea Var. Gemmifera), has become less reliable as the weather has become more erratic. Brussels sprouts need a long time to mature, usually 3-4 months, so they are usually grown in the midsummer to ensure harvest before the first frost. However, because Brussels sprouts require a long maturing time and narrow range of growing temperature, local farmers face problems producing it. When the heads of Brussels sprouts form in cool weather, the heads will be firm. But when the heads form in weather which is too warm, heads will be loose-leafed and poorly formed, making them unmarketable. Summer temperatures in Minnesota are relatively high, therefore in order to successfully grow Brussels sprouts in Minnesota, heat-tolerant or quickly-maturing varieties are needed. According to Johnson (1960), the yield and the vigor of hybrid Brussel sprouts are overall better than inbreeds he tested. Also, Gaye and Maurer (1991) stated that transplant date affects the total yield and the quality of Brussels sprouts. Understanding how variety and transplant date affect Brussels sprouts production will help local growers continue to successfully grow this product, diversify marketing power, and contribute to the sustainability of their enterprises.
Four varieties of Brussels sprouts were used, Early Marvel, Catskill, Tasty Nugget and Jade Cross. The seeds were sowed in flats of organic soil mix on April 10, April 25, and May 10 in order to accommodate different transplanting dates. The original transplanting dates were delayed for a month because of rains. Seedlings were transplanted to raised beds with drip irrigation and white on black plastic mulch on June 1, 15, and 30. Organic fertilizer, chickity doo doo, was added at about 12.5 g per seedling. The drip irrigation was run for about an hour 2-3 times per week. There were 3 replications of each transplanting date. (so three rows of plants transplanted on June 1, three rows of transplants planted on June 15, and three rows of plants transplanted on June 30) For each transplanting date, there were 4 varieties, and there were 10 seedlings of each variety per row. In order to randomize treatments and avoid border effects, the order of the varieties was randomized within a row, and data were collected primarily on the six plants in the middle of 10 plants of the varieties. Sprouts that were larger than 2 cm in diameter were harvested on August 28, two months from transplantation.
Results and discussion
Different germination rates among varieties were found -  43%, 36%, 91% and 62% for Catskill, Early Marvel, Jade Cross and Tasty Nuggets, respectively. However, these numbers only were collected once, so germination rates may not be representative of all cases. The seeds were from different seed companies, so may have been treated in different ways.
A soil test showed that the plot had a high level of organic matter (5.5% and 7% organic matter of two replicate samples). Levels of nitrate, phosphorus, and potassium of the replicate samples were 6.4 mg/kg soil and 9 mg/kg soil, 330 mg/kg soil and 320 mg/kg soil, and 470mg/kg soil and 620 mg/kg soil, respectively. Soil pH was 6.8. The pH and nutrients of soil therefore should not have been not limiting to plant growth.
Only marketable sprouts larger than 2 cm in diameter were harvested. Numbers of sprouts per plant and total sprout weight per plant were determined and analyzed. Catskill produced the least mean number of sprouts per plant, because sprouts produced at the time of harvest were too small or very loose. Tasty Nuggets produced more sprouts per plant, but Early Marvel and Jade Cross had the highest mean numbers of sprouts per plant. The p-value comparing mean numbers of sprouts of Early Marvel and Jade Cross was 0.84, which suggests no statistical difference between the yields of these two varieties. The same pattern was observed for average sprout weights per plant. The table below shows the average numbers of sprouts per plant and average total weight of sprouts per plant for the four varieties and three transplanting dates.
Transplant date
Average number of sprouts per plant
Average total sprout weight per plant (g)
June 1

June 15

June 30
Early Marvel
June 1

June 15

June 30
Jade Cross
June 1

June 15

June 30
Tasty Nuggets
June 1

June 15

June 30

Although the earliest transplanting date in the experiment had the greatest sprouts production, the results could have been affected by the plant growth length, an aphid infestation in plants of the last transplanting date, or grower inexperience.
All plants from 4 varieties continued to produce sprouts into Fall. Overall, plants of the Early Marvel and Jade Cross produced good yield of sprouts by the end of August. Plants that were transplanted earlier produced more sprouts than those transplanted later.  However, because the data was collected only on one year, from one location, it is hard to conclude that the Early Marvel and Jade Cross varieties are the best among those four and will perform the same ways under other growing conditions.
M. M. Gaye & A. R. Maurer (1991). Modified transplant production techniques to increase yield and improve earliness of Brussels Sprouts, Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science, 116(2), 210–214.
A. G. Johnson (1960). Assessment of vigour and uniformity, Euphytica, 9(3), 338–350.
Vegetable Varieties for Gardeners. Retrieved from Cornell University: http://vegvariety.cce.cornell.edu/main/showVarieties.php?searchCriteria=brussels+sprout&searchIn=1&crop_id=0&sortBy=overallrating&order=DESC&sideSearch=Search
My Learning experience:
            During the experiment, I have learned many things such as pest management, soil testing, practical on-farm skills, such as installing an irrigation system. Also, working on the Student Farm provided opportunities to develop friendships with other people and learn different knowledge from them. After the Brussels sprouts harvest, I also learned how to organize and analyze data. This was a great chance that made me connect with people, apply classroom knowledge, and learn some new ideas. 

Xinger's Brussels Sprout Variety Trial was funded by the Johnson Research Internship

Over the course of the semester, I have had the opportunity to volunteer at Cornercopia, and I have to say: It was pretty amazing. Even though the work I did there was not related to my major and future aspirations, I had a lot of fun learning how to plant different types of seeds (lettuce, tomatoes, onions, you name it), how to water plants, how to make soil blocks,  how to check the germination of seeds, and even how to prune tree limbs. Prior to this experience, I had no idea how much work went into successfully running an organic farm, and I'm glad I had a chance to witness some of the amazing things Courtney and her apprentices have been doing. One of the things that caught my eye was how meticulously records are kept: every type of seeds is carefully counted, stored, tracked and cultivated; it is a fascinating and intricate process, and I'm happy I had a chance to help. I would definitely recommend volunteering at Cornercopia to anyone interested in organic farming, as Courtney and her apprentices are very knowledgeable, extremely welcoming, and give great tips.
-Bernard Garvey Sindjoun.

The Greenhouse Might Burst

Our greenhouse is currently crammed with plants, including 90+ types of tomato just waiting to get in the dirt so you can eat them come August. The weather has been too fickle for us to get much planting done so far, but our fields are getting cleaned up, harrowed, and ready for Veg. Hopefully the sun stays out this week, and we can really get growing. Until then, we'll be digging burdock roots and snipping dandelion greens and sorrel.