Welcome back to all my Tompkins Cortland colleagues. I hope you all had a great first week with the hustle and bustle of students back on campus. The new semester means a new “crop” of student interns on the farm. And if the first couple of classes are any indication, it looks like a terrific group that will be spending time with me on the farm. Most of the interns this semester are new students enrolled in the Sustainable Farming and Food Systems degree at the college but we always seem to attract students from other degree programs. This semester there are a few students from the Culinary Arts program. I’m always excited when there are students who care enough about where their food comes from and want to learn some aspects of agriculture. I get especially jazzed when Culinary Arts students are on the farm. I think that it can have a huge impact on their experience at Tompkins Cortland when they can have the hands on experience that ties in the production side of things with the food that ends up in the kitchen and eventually on our plates. I believe this is the fifth semester in a row that I have had at least one student from the Culinary Arts program.
We are inching our way to the midpoint of our CSA season. It’s hard to believe, but it is happening. These next couple of weeks on the farm is just treading water, spending most of the time harvesting for the CSA, our farm stand and restaurants. Anything else that gets done is just icing on the cake until the fall semester starts and my new “crop” of interns show up. I’ve been lucky this summer to hire a part-time worker and even better is that he is a graduate of the Sustainable Farming and Food Systems program at Tompkins Cortland. It’s been so nice to have someone here that is familiar with the farm and how we do things. In addition to all of last week’s harvest, we managed to get some field projects done and a little bit of transplanting. We were stopped in our tracks last Wednesday but that storm that rolled through. It was the first time all season that we got one of those really hard rains during the middle of the work day. It showed up while we were in the middle of planting some bok choi for the fall and just kept coming. We powered through finishing the bed but were soaked to the bone and shifted to inside work after that. I think we ended up with close to 1.75 inches of rain that day.
Ok, so it’s September 25th. Fall is officially here and we just had our best stretch of weather all season by a long shot. These are strange times, my friends. I am definitely not complaining but we sure could have used some of these dry, warm days back in July. Aah, the life of a farmer. Loves being outside but never truly content with the weather.
Last week was a big week of visitors to the TC3 Farm. There were 3 different classes from Tompkins Cortland (2 English and 1 Environmental Science) and a group from New Roots High School. All in all, it was around 50 students out for a visit. It’s always great to have folks out for a visit and expose them to what we do at the TC3 Farm and all the hard work that the Sustainable Farming and Food Systems do during their internship. In the very least, I hope that we get folks thinking about where their food comes from and how their food choices can impact the local food system.
Praying Mantis Student Video Post by Jake This video of a praying mantis was captured by Sustainable Farming and Food Systems Student Jake at the TC3 Farm. Jake describes some of the characteristics of this fascinating beneficial insect, and the video captures some of it’s interesting behaviors. Problems viewing the video? Visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8JkJnL_ssdA&feature=youtu.be Please follow and … Read more
Holy smokes, we made it through last week without any rain until Friday night. What a relief! That meant lots of busy work on the tractor. We were able to get a field mowed that has had standing water for most of the season. The next step is to get it plowed so we can … Read more
A Plant Identification Tour of the TC3 Farm – Learning Common “Weeds” – Student Post by Make
Today’s post is a plant identification tour of the TC3 Farm. All the species we will discuss today are potentially “weeds” on the farm. But what is a weed? A weed is simply a plant that is growing where it is not wanted (even a single tomato plant growing in a field of squash can be identified as a weed). The plants being discussed here are all things that grow on the TC3 Farm and can sometimes be found where we don’t want them. Gardeners and farmers alike know all too well the main problem with weeds: competition with their cultivated crops which reduces yields.
Here are some things to think about as you learn to identify your weeds. There are other attributes weeds possess that often get ignored. Weeds can be used for sustenance as mentioned in an earlier post (http://tc3farm.com/index.php/2017/06/19/harvesting-wild-plants-at-the-tc3-farm/). Weeds can be medicinal and are used in traditional medicine. Specific weeds under certain conditions can be used productively in a sustainable manner to properly manage your soil and environment (add organic matter, habitat for beneficial insects, encourage healthy soil biota). Other weeds need to be suppressed because they can harbor certain pests and ultimately leave you open to crop failures.
The first weed in our plant identification tour is known by the common name Horsenettle (Solanum carolinense). It is an herbaceous perennial flowering plant that belongs to the Solanaceae or Nightshade family. All parts of the plant are toxic to human health when ingested and can lead to death (its fruit which can resemble tomatoes are the most toxic). The most identifiable characteristic are its spines on the stem and underside of its larger leaves. Each fruit contains around 60 seeds. It flowers throughout the summer, from April to October. The plant can spread through seed and rhizomes (sexually and vegetatively). This plant can harbor and sustain Colorado Potato Beetles (Leptinotarsa decemlineata), Eggplant Flea Beetle (Epitrix fuscula), and Tobacco Hornworm (Manduca sexta) just to mention a few. Leaving the Horsenettle unchecked can lead to lower crop yields for Potatoes, Tomatoes, and Eggplants. Hint: The plant should be removed preferably with gloves as to avoid the stinging spines which can become embedded in your skin.