Changing with the season

If you’ve passed by Cornercopia this spring, you may have been wondering what’s going on with the farm. Why is the field on Cleveland and Larpenteur a weedy mess? Why are there no interns out there?

With the early warm spring a couple of things happened.
Students from the spring class were able to get out and plant a few things early, namely peas and some of the brassica family plantings. At the same time the weeds really took off early. So much so that by the time we would normally be tilling things under, we needed to mow before we could till.

Cornercopia Student Organic Farm has been located on the corner of Cleveland and Larpenteur since we started in 2005. Last year we were offered a different, bigger space to start transitioning to organic certification. To that end, two fields over in front of the Equine Center, also on the St. Paul campus, were planted in alfalfa last summer to start the transition process. The two fields combined are close to 3 acres, which is a little more than double the space we have now.

Last year ¼ of one of the fields was ready for organic certification, which was planted with the heirloom tomato grafting project about 600 celebrity tomatoes on 30 different rootstocks. This year an additional ¼ of an acre is also ready for organic certification. We started planting succession plots over there early in the class. Succession plantings are short season crops that you can plant multiple times per season and then have a continuous harvest of that crop. We’re doing this with spinach, lettuce, various greens and most of the root crops this year.

The new field is so nice. The alfalfa that was planted last year kept the weeds down and made for a very nice field to plant into this year. It is so nice that I finally realized that we needed to stop trying to plant into the old weedy field and just plant all of this season’s crops into the new field—which is what we’ve starting doing.
As appealing as this change has been, it will mean that about half our crops this year will be transitional organic instead of certified organic. It also means that we’ll be fighting a lot less weeds to start out and will allow us to really take care of the crops were growing.

In the meantime, we still have a number of crops in the old field: mostly perennials like herbs, strawberries, raspberries and the few crops that got in early—peas, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, etc. We also have a student intern working on a thistle control project in the weediest parts of the field. The rest will be planted to cover crops. This will help control the weeds and add soil fertility.

So feel free to come walk by the new fields and see what we’re up to on Dudley Ave between Lindig Avenue and Field Rd N. Or, better yet, come volunteer with us or join our June 12th Crop Mob to help us start this new chapter for our farm!

Courtney Tchida
Student Program Coordinator

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