Friday, February 22, 2013

Hort 2334 Food Crops, 2-21-2013

As I walked from my car to class yesterday I hoped to myself that we wouldn't be going out to the plot.  It was bitter cold and I had forgotten my scarf and hat.
Class started and Eva said we were not going out to the plot!  I was relieved.  We then headed over to the green house, we were doing lab first.

Lab was such a hardship.  We were tasting berries!  I was a bit skeptical of berries out of season, but was pleasantly surprised. We tasted strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries, 13 types total.  Really such a hardship! My favorite raspberry was the Driscoll's conventionally grown, my favorite strawberry was Passion Farms Organic, and my favorite blueberry was the Puelche Organic. There was only one brand of blackberry, and I did like it too.  This did change my mind about out of season berries, but they fit the budget better in season.

We then braved the cold back to the class room to view "The Botany of Desire".  This is the second time I've seen this film and I find it very enjoyable.  I think the cinematography on this one sets it apart, the film makers really wanted you to look at the pollen, the resin droplets, the textures of the plants profiled. Its also a very interesting idea that we co-evolved with the plants, each serving each other.

Following the film we had our presentations   I gave mine on the Svalbard Seed bank.  I really rushed mine, I'm not good in front of people.  Groups, yes, up in front, no.  Also I must remember you can't see your notes in slideshow mode in power point, I must print them.  The cookies went over well, though.  Laura's presentation was on Mushrooms.  Its one of my favorite foods so I'm afraid there was little new information for me there.

Back to the greenhouse!  Oh, the wind, I can't wait for spring.  We transplanted beets and planted tomato seeds.  We planted the tomatoes into 6 packs since next week we are having a field trip and won't be able to transplant them.  I hope the peppers will be OK.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Hort 2334 Food Crops, 2-14-2013

cauliflower and lettuces 
For our valentine's day class, after a quick stop in the lecture room and head house, we went out to the garden.  Our task was to relay the boundaries of the garden. We roped-off the perimeter and used the rope to find the half and quarter points on each side.  After much rope wrangling we found that the plots really need sharpened up, but that is why we went though with all that work anyway.  With the garden divided into four plots each team picked a plot, we received plot two.  It has existing kale, asparagus  roses, and garlic.  I'm rather excited about the asparagus!  As the sun set we went over what we would be doing next class, if the weather cooperated, which would be to start edging and laying paths.

Once back in the green house it was time to transplant some of our plants.  We transplanted our cauliflower and lettuce into 6 pack trays.  We also planted our peppers. I out-ed myself as dyslexic during this class because I kept putting the tags on the wrong side of the tray.  Its not a big deal.  Since our team didn't have a ton to transplant we helped one of the other groups with their massive amount of Chamomile.  Truly overwhelming amounts of Chamomile.  I hope people like tea!  Also we went over the proper use of the watering system in the green house.  Remember to turn off the sprayer at the sprayer then the wall so that the next person to use it doesn't get sprayed when they turn it on at the wall.

Once the head house was cleaned up we went back to the lecture room for the two presentations of the day.
The first was about Potatoes.  I learned they are native of the Andes region and that they are members of the nightshade family.  Also that they need a pH of 6 for best health.  The warming cup of potato soup was very welcome after being outside! The second presentation was about tea.  I learned that it was discovered 5000 years ago, that it needs 50 inches of rain a year and that it could be propagated form cuttings or seed.  

Friday, February 15, 2013

Movie Review: King Corn

The Peabody-winning documentary from Mosaic Films Incorporated, King Corn, part of 2013 Pennypack Sustainability Series, came out in 2007.  The film opens with college friends, Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis rushing down a hall to have their hair analyzed in an Isotope geochemistry lab.  The result of the analysis is that most of the carbon that makes the two men up is has its origin in corn. 

How can that be?  With that question in mind and inspiration from Michael Pollan they head to Greene, Iowa to grow an acre of corn with the intent of following it into the food system.  They almost instantly have to face their misconceptions about farming.  First, family farms are nearly a thing of the past, farming corn is an industrialized process.  Second, planting corn is a loosing proposition without subsidies, if it weren't for the $28 the government pays per acre of corn they'd have lost money. Thirdly and possibly most shocking to them, this corn isn't "food" its raw material.

Though the season we are shown how little the corn farmer does personally. A quote form Ian "Planting 31,000 seeds was not exactly a hands-on experience. But then again, it only took us 18 minutes."">With time to kill they research the steps to come.  Speaking with the manager at the grain elevator they learn their corn is a drop in the bucket and will be next to impossible to follow.  They are left with the probabilities to work with. 30% is for uses other then food, 5% would be made in to sweeteners and the remaining would be used to feed cattle.  

They then head off to Colorado to learn about cattle farming and again have to face their misconceptions. They are faced with the distasteful practices of the concentrated animal feedlots, that cows eat corn not grass.  CAFs could not exist without cheep corn and antibiotics.  Later they attempt to learn about making high fructose corn syrup.  Only one person in manufacturing, out of all that they contacted, would see them and then they couldn't tour the plant.  They then attempted to make HFCS at home, it involved caustic chemicals and in the end was disgusting. 

They began to conclude that corn was a bad idea, that there may just be to much corn in the world and they found corn farmers, scientists, and others who agreed with them. So in the end, they converted their corn field to grass and played baseball.

Having lived in a farming community some of their revelations were not new to me. It was a good documentary in that it was entertaining and it will inspire viewers to question what they eat and how it got to their plate.  But the Omnivores Dilemma was much more informative and showed alternatives to this view on farming.  Either way inspiring questions is always the first step in changing the status quo and I feel this will movie will aid in that.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Hort 2334 Food Crops, 2-07-2013

This weeks class started with a chilly walk out to the garden.  We were introduced to the four plots and the existing perennials. Which are purple passion asparagus, strawberries, rhubarb and roses.  We learned a little about the history of the garden as well, it had once been a trial garden for Burpee seeds.  Some of the "rules" for the garden are, don't work alone, don't leave the gate open and never leave tools out.

After warming up a bit we had the first two presentations of the semester.  Adam opened with a presentation about the Kiwi fruit.  I learned that they were originally from China and had been called Chinese gooseberries.  The name was changed to avoid a berry tax and to inform people they were being grown in New Zealand. We were also informed that Hayward is the most popular cultivar. In closing his presentation he asked that we try the kiwi with the skin, which I had never done. It wasn't bad.

Carlo's presentation was on a tropical fruit, the papayas.  They originated in South America and were transported all over the (tropical) world by Spanish explorers.  I learned that India grows the most papaya and that it is the third most popular tropical fruit.  Also that Sunrise is the most popular cultivar.  Sunrise is resistant to papaya ring virus.  Carlo brought dried papaya in for us to sample.

Lecture finished with a review of the siting part of the text.  We went over the number of people needed to feed 100 people.  2.5 acres.  We reviewed the importance of microclimates. Water, source, quality and delivery to site.

After lecture we went to the green house to check on our seedlings and for lab.  Our cauliflower looks very encouraging as does the lettuce but as of the 7th there were only 2 leek seedlings up in the whole tray.

For lab this week we had the tasty, yet sticky task of tasting 13 different orange citrus. I got to try my first Cara Cara, and it was very good but my favorite was the California mandarin "cutie".

Friday, February 1, 2013

Hort 2334 Food Crops, 1-31-2013

Our second class opened with a movie.  The Silence of the Bees, a Nature production (2007).  The topic was Colony Collapse Disorder. Colony Collapse Disorder is a phenomenon in which worker bees from a beehive or European honey bee colony abruptly disappear. While such disappearances have occurred throughout the history of apiculture, the term colony collapse disorder was first applied to a drastic rise in the number of disappearances of Western honey bee colonies in North America in late 2006.[1]  This wasn't the first time I had heard about CCD, the movie painted a dire picture for our current food ways if the challenge of aiding the bees was not met.  It first outlined the possible causes for CCD and then illustrated though antidotes or interviews with scientist which were plausible; parasites, virus, starvation, poison, and which were not; cell phone interference.
Although, at the time, there was no concrete conclusions most signs were pointing at a virus that was weakening the bees and their resistance to parasites, virus, starvation, and poisons. 
The second part of class we sorted a collection of donated seed for various purposes   The class will be helping out with the local food pantry, Philabundance, Urban Creators, Cheltenham high school, temple medical herb garden, and greek related plant sales. After the sort our groups got to choose plants for our plots. It took all the strength I had not to just fill my pockets and run. Such temptation. After much deliberation this is our crop list:

Carrot Carnival Blend Organic SeedsCarrot- Carnival Blend
Lettuce-mesclun "valentine"
Sunflower-lemon queen
Pepper- jewel-toned bells
Edamame-butter bean
Cauliflower- chef's choice blend
Leek-king richard
Beet-Detroit dark red
Cuke-west Indian gherkin
Tomato-John baer
Very colorful but not to "weird" for the food pantry
Lab today was an introduction to the tool shed and seed starting protocol.  Also, apple cake, but more on that later.  I learned that what I'd call a pitch fork could also be a cultivator.  Standing there listening her talk about pitch forks, all I could think was that one good thing about losing the farm was I didn't have to hay ever again if I didn't want to.  Being the shortest in my family meant I had to be up in the hot, dusty, hay loft.  I don't miss that one bit. After our trip to the tool shed we went back to the green house.  Eva presented us we apple cake made from the apples from the previous lab.  It was dairy free, heavy on the cinnamon and very good.  Following that we started our seeds.  Adam and I filled a whole tray with leeks, while Carlo, Tina, and our newest member Joe splitting a tray between cauliflower and lettuce. Other groups were planting their beets, I'm worried now that we should have started ours too, but I think we'll have time.  Next month we'll start the peppers and in the weeks following that we'll do the tomatoes.