Harvest time will arrive sooner than we know. If you’re not ready to part with your plants at the end of summer, consider extending your garden into the fall and winter.
The biggest hindrances to a healthy, full garden are insects, wind, heat and frost. Autumn’s biggest threat is frost, but wind can also dehydrate plants. Several methods, including raised beds, tunnels and greenhouses, allow you to protect your fruits and vegetables and continue to grow them after summer’s end.
Gardening needs vary by region, gardener and plants, so several options are available for those wishing to continue gardening into the cooler months.
According to The Ohio State University Extension, raised bed gardening involves a portion of soil that is higher than the rest of the soil, and is in a place that will not be stepped on.
Raised beds are normally up to four feet wide and are raised six inches to several feet above the ground. The soil is warmed more quickly by this method.
The benefits of raised bed gardening include higher yields, ease of working and water conservation.
Hotbeds and cold frames
Purdue University Extension explains that hotbeds and cold frames, which are build the same, can be used both in the spring and in the fall.
Hotbeds get heat from the sun as well as another source, while cold frames get their heat solely from the sun. In the fall, hotbeds and cold frames can be used without heat but with proper insulation and ventilation.
A hotbed or cold frame should have full sun exposure, protection from the wind, a water source and good drainage. A hotbed or cold frame can be anywhere from a few inches to a few feet deep in the ground and four to six feet wide. The base can be built out of wood, concrete or concrete block.
Penn State University Extension explains that high tunnels are a fairly new method for extending the growing season. They can protect plants from excess precipitation and cool temperatures.
A high tunnel is made of a metal frame and a plastic covering, much like a greenhouse. Raised beds can be used inside high tunnels, as well as thermal blankets and cold frames.
Typically, there are fewer pests in high tunnels, so less pesticides need to be used. Also, ventilation and temperature can easily be controlled depending on the types of plants grown. Since the plants are always covered, they must be watered by hand or drip irrigation.
Advice for winter gardening
The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association offers advice for winter gardening, including notes about raised beds, high tunnels and other methods for extending the growing season, as well as the types of plants that have been known to grow well in the fall and winter.
Overall, trial and error must be used to determine when certain plants should be planted and how they should be protected from the elements once summer ends.
With a break in rain and a few cool nights most folks recouped from the tomato blight. Our yields in the raised bed plot suffered with first course harvest with our indeterminate varieties. Last week’s 3.5 inches of rain helped our dry fields but woke up the dreaded fungus. Very important to be preventative with fungicides, and my favorite is Serenade.
It’s an organic compound and works wonders. I gave our tomato plants a shot of Serenade on Wednesday night. Our chemical-free vegetables coming out of the fields at the Cooperrider farm are of the best quality. I am forbidden to use the word “organic” because of the field’s conventional past. Our greenhouses and raised plots are organic but not certified as of yet.
If I see another cucumber or zucchini this year, I’m going to have a nervous breakdown! What a year for those vegetables; the heavy rainfall and heat in the spring and early summer gave us a bountiful supply.
I have plenty of Dutch flathead cabbage for sale along with eggplants, and many varieties of peppers. A good friend gave me 12 fennel plants in May. I must say, they were one of the finest vegetables I picked this year. I ordered 2 cups of fennel from [the] Athens area for my recent farm-to-table dinner “Bounty on The Bricks.” The fennel I purchased could not come close to what we grew in Thornville in our raised beds.
I am keeping a daily log on this growing season and recording dates, feeding and spraying applications and harvest dates. Also critical are harvest amounts with current market pricing. To be successful, I am convinced that specialty crops, such as patty pan squash, Marzoni peppers, fennel, garlic, jumbo candy onions, parsley, lemon thyme, garlic chives and various other specialty items, are essential.
My recent presentation titled “Bridging the Gap between Chef and Farmer” is based on farmers growing what chefs want and need. Also, from a farmer’s perspective, do I want to grow zucchini for 40 cents per pound in return or fennel for $4 per pound? Do the math.
Canning and Preserving
I am designing and building a canning and preserving workshop to be taught at Hocking College in the near future. We just purchased $5,000 worth of commercial pressure cookers, home canning supplies along with a dehydrator, pH meters, thermometers etc. I think it’s essential to take a few steps back and rekindle our family heritage and culture in relationship to food. Did you know you could easily feed a family of five year round from a 25’ x 25’ garden? The use of vertical trellises and planting with the inch by inch format. I spent some time in major food processing plants while in California. I developed 12 pasteurized sauces and 2 FZ proteins for a major manufacturing company. At that time I fell in love with food canning and the value added world.
I am looking forward to sharing my research with the folks of Central Ohio. For all you home canners, please feel free to contact me at my Hocking College office with any questions or comments. I will spend more time on this topic in September prior to first frost.
Bounty on the Bricks
Bounty on The bricks was a great success this past Saturday in Athens. We served 372 folks a four course meal along with three passed appetizers including 100 homestyle made-from-scratch country pies all made with locally grown and raised products within 30 miles of Athens. OK, I lied: the zucchini came from Deer Valley Farms along with the plum tomatoes and fresh herbs. But everything else was within 30 miles. I am happy to report we raised $75,000 for the Athens foundation which will use the funds for our local food pantries. Thanks to all who supported these venues and the volunteers who worked endless hours.
Thanks to Hocking College and our wonderful staff and administration, The Athens Foundation, Cheryl Sylvester, Susan Urano and Cindy Hayes. And finally, thanks to the city of Athens, Ohio.
Sept. 7, I will be cooking at Val Jorgensen’s organic farm in Westerville, Ohio. The proceeds from “The Farmers’ Table” event will support OEFFA, the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, of which I’m an active member and greatly support. Hope to see you there. If you need tickets, please contact me.
The Blue Barn at Deer Valley Farms
My phone rang at 2:50 in the morning last week. It was Dylan Cooperrider; Olivia, a registered Berk from the Shipley farm in Mt. Vernon, was having piglets. I arrived at the farm at 3:10 and the second was just born. In total, she had two males and seven gilts. Dylan knows his pigs; he has a barn full of sows and gilts behind Olivia. Olivia’s first born was the largest boar. We named him Alfonso. I have 50 # full-blooded Topline Yorkshire boar named Oliver at the farm, also.
I am building a pig barn with a farrowing room at Oliver farms this fall. I will raise show pigs and breeding stock for our soon to come Oliver farms all natural non GMO pork line. Olivette, our second registered Berk, is due on Sept 3.
I am currently gearing up for sauce and condiment production at the end of this month. I am going to share for the first time my eggplant caponata recipe. This sauce is multipurpose for a salad served cold or warm, a pasta sauce or a condiment on a sandwich. Please enjoy. Until next article, cook with your heart and soul! Alfonso.
1 1/2 Each eggplants, peeled and cut in to med. dice
2 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
1 Pound Italian sausage, loose, Perry County Blue Ribbon Brand
1 Each red onion, diced very fine.
1 1/2 Tablespoons garlic, peeled and finely minced
1/2 Cup golden raisins
1 Teaspoon ginger, peeled and freshly minced
3 Teaspoons capers, chopped fine
1 1/2 Cups tomato, concasse
1 Cup orange juice
3 Teaspoons curry powder
1/2 Teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 Teaspoon honey
1 Cup water
2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 Tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
2 Tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
2 Tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
1 1/2 Teaspoons fresh rosemary, de-stemmed and chopped
2 Tablespoons scallions, chopped
Sprinkle eggplant with salt. In large skillet heat up oil and saute eggplant on all sides until golden brown, about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove eggplant from pan and drain on paper towels.
Reheat pan and add sausage and cook over medium heat until golden brown and cook until done. Drain grease from sausage and discard. Chop sausage roughly when cool.
Reheat pan and add olive oil, saute garlic and onions until translucent add reserve sausage, eggplant, raisins, ginger, capers, tomatoes, orange juice, curry powder, pepper flakes, honey and water and the remaining salt and simmer for 3-5 minutes.
Pull from heat and stir in all fresh herbs.
Cool and store in refrigerator covered until needed. Or serve hot over pasta, or place in mason jars and put in canner and seal for the winter months. Enjoy!
WESTERVILLE, Ohio – With an increasing interest in local foods, some Ohio growers and producers are using agritourism to help people connect with the land and learn how the food they eat is grown. Tours, weddings, and farm-to-table dinners are among the events regularly held across the state, showcasing Ohio’s agricultural tradition and the fresh, seasonal offerings of area farms.
Val Jorgensen, the owner of Jorgensen Farms in Westerville, says opening her gates provides an opportunity for people to learn about the role of local foods in building a sustainable food system.
“A lot of the consumers I meet at farmers markets are committed to buying local food, but sometimes they don’t have the opportunity to really visualize or understand where that food is coming from,” says Jorgensen. “This gets them one step closer.”
Agritourism also allows farming operations to diversify their income. Jorgensen is hosting a benefit dinner Sunday, Sept. 7th called The Farmers Table, where diners can tour her organic farm and enjoy an evening of local food and drinks prepared by top area chefs. Farms throughout the state also offer ‘you-pick’ fruit, fall festivals, and educational activities.
While the majority of Jorgensen’s operation is used for growing and production, she says she enjoys holding events to give consumers a glimpse of what happens on the farm.
“The biggest reward for me is being able to stand back, either just before or during an event, and watch the enjoyment of others,” says Jorgensen. “That gives me a sense of making a difference in people’s lives where they can really connect.”
She adds events like The Farmers Table also allow farmers and producers to share the beauty and bounty of Ohio agriculture.
“It’s going to be something where they can experience the ultimate in seasonal food right here at the farm,” says Jorgensen. “The exciting part is we’re able to pull together not only the growers, but the chefs and the community.”
We couldn’t be more excited for the OEFFA’s gathering on September 7th to celebrate Ohio farms and flavors. The dinner is being held at Jorgensen Farms, one of central Ohio’s most beautiful certified organic farms and, as we all know, our friend Val Jorgensen is a passionate steward of her land and a leader in Ohio’s sustainable agriculture community.
Val’s farm-produced ingredients will be featured in the menu, and guests will be able to tour the farm to see how the food was grown. The OEFFA is working with central Ohio’s finest chefs to create hors d’oeuvres and a four-course dinner that sources ingredients from farms across Ohio. The cocktail hour will feature locally distilled spirits and microbrews. Even the decorations will feature locally grown flower arrangements from the beautiful Sunny Meadows Flower Farm.
Carol Goland, Ph.D., Executive Director, Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, said, ”[OEFFA's] mission is to ‘help farmers and consumers reconnect and together build a sustainable food system, one meal at time,’ and this dinner is a natural extension of that work, designed to showcase the amazing farmers and chefs that make up Ohio’s flourishing local foods system and the fresh, flavorful, seasonal ingredients of Ohio’s farms. It also give us all a chance to celebrate our farmers, our food, and the successful work that we’ve all done to help cultivate an agricultural future that protects the environment and nourishes our bodies and our communities.”
The event promises to be a special night celebrating the local farms and flavors we know and love, so we hope to see you seated at the table! Get your ticket here.
Ohio farmers new to sustainable agriculture can get a leg up on the learning curve with the help of the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA).
The non-profit organization, established in 1979, works to promote and support the sustainable agriculture community in Ohio from producers to consumers including those new to farming. OEFFA assists new farmers through a variety of networking events, an apprenticeship program, and an investment fund created to encourage the expansion of sustainable farming practices.
Renee Hunt, Education Program Director at OEFFA, has seen an increase in the number of farmers who choose to manage their farms sustainably in the past several years, and has expanded educational programming to meet this need.
“It’s great when newer farmers don’t have to go through the learning curve,” says Hunt. “I recently overheard a workshop presenter comment, ‘It took me ten years to figure this out.’ He’s sharing his knowledge, so the people learning from him don’t have to wait those ten years.”
Sustainable and organic farmers in the Buckeye state connect annually at OEFFA’s two-day conference, which features keynote speakers, educational tracks and workshops, and a large trade show. The 2014 conference will take place February 15-16 in Granville, Ohio.
Ohio farmers also network through a dozen OEFFA-sponsored farm tours throughout the year.
“We tap different types of farming operations—urban, grain growers, product growers, value-added, livestock, and dairy,” Hunt said. “The farm tours are a great way for farmers of all experience levels to see and learn how others are approaching their particular farm, as well as to talk directly with other farmers.”
Ben and Emily Jackle, owners of Mile Creek Farm in New Lebanon, Ohio, appreciate the networking opportunities OEFFA has provided them. Their farm was established in 2007 and became certified organic through the OEFFA in 2010.
“Our farm has benefited most from our association with OEFFA and the opportunities to see other farmers’ operations,” says Ben Jackle. “We’ve learned more through OEFFA-sponsored farm tours and workshops than we have through any other means.”
Networking among farmers often leads to collaboration. To facilitate on-site learning and hands-on experience in farming techniques, OEFFA founded an apprentice program that Hunt describes as “a bit like a dating service” for farmers. Prospective apprentices and host farmers both fill out applications on the OEFFA website. The applications are approved, and then posted online where both apprentices and host farmers can view them. Either party can make the first contact. Membership in OEFFA is not necessary, but there are added fees for non-members.
Hunt hopes that more established farmers join the program and pass on their know-how to the next generation. “We currently have more apprentices than host farms,” she notes.
Learning to farm is one thing; finding the financing to get started is another. In 2012, a group of local Ohio investors created the OEFFA Investment Fund to support the growth of sustainable agriculture in Ohio and provide needed capital to farmers. The fund provides an additional avenue for those who are having trouble getting financing through traditional sources. Farmers must be certified in sustainable and organic practices and a member of OEFFA to apply for funding. Funds can be used to improve or expand their business, make repairs to equipment or property, pay for short-term operating needs, or cope with an emergency such as a fire or natural disaster.
Hunt observes that farmers with an ecological bent are often resistant to the idea of taking out loans, especially if they are just beginning.
“A lot of sustainable and organic farmers are hesitant to take on debt,” she says. “Many new farmers don’t have the business background to understand how to build in expenses or make capital investments.”
Part of OEFFA’s mission is to help new farmers overcome such barriers, she says.
“We have evolved as an organization to be more supportive of young farmers,” says Hunt. “But we are here to advocate for the needs of all sustainable and organic farmers in our state.”
Every Tuesday, Sylvania resident Amy Ormsey picks up her bushel bag of mixed vegetables form the Gust Brother’s Farm stand at the Sylvania’s downtown market.
For $375, her family receive various in-season vegetables, picked that morning. For $31.25 a week, the Ormsey family has enough vegetables from kale to squash to feed the five-member family.
This week’s supply brought them broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, yellow zucchini, summer squash, and green beans, just to name a few.
The arrangement is called community supported agriculture, where people subscribe for the right to buy fresh produce and other products from nearby farmers.
Part of the exchange of dealing directly with the brothers of Gust Farms in Ottawa Lake, Mich., which has been in the Gust family for 100 years, is building a strong relationship with her farmer and food producer.
“Jake Gust has knowledge about the vegetables and also gives me recipe ideas,” she said.
Participating in a monthly or seasonal subscription for the seasonal crops of a local farm has economic benefits for the farm and patrons. Such community support agriculture has a “we’re in this together” attitude, said Lauren Ketcham, communications coordinator for the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association.
She explained that it helps out local farmers because they receive a payment early in the growing season when they make a bulk of their farm investments and because they have a guaranteed market for some of their products.
Subscribers for the produce feel connected to the farmer and aware of how the season’s region, weather, and soil can impact food production, she said. There are 94 such community supported agriculture programs in Ohio, she said.
There are 22 participants in the Bust Farms’ community supported agriculture program, and more than half are from Sylvania. The 12-week program began in June with customers receiving the ripe vegetables of the week. Past weeks were kale, Swiss chard, and broccoli.
The five members of the Ormsey family spend Tuesday nights learning about the latest batch of vegetables, and preparing them together. The Ormseys supplement grocery story items with locally grown food.
“It’s amazing to have my children see the plants after they’ve been pulled out of the ground,” Mrs. Ormsey said. She grew up in the country so was familiar with the origins of the food she ate. But for her children, who live in Sylvania and Toledo, had never seen a celery stalk in all its leafy splendor before, she said.
“Now they know where celery comes from and that peas don’t come from a can.” she said. For her son Adam, 14, the family ritual of cleaning and cooking the fresh food together has turned him onto produce. “He is the picky one, but since we have been in the CSA, he said the food has more flavor than what’s in the store. He’s eating more vegetables.”
The Bust Farm allows customers to come to their stand and fill either a bushel for $375 or a half-bushel for $200 with that weeks vegetables. Mr. Gust expects eggplant, onions, potatoes, and lettuce to be ripe in the next weeks.
Because each program is run different and includes different types of produce, it is hard to the cost of buying such food through the program versus going to a grocery store, Ms. Ketcham said.
Mr. Gust harvests the vegetables, which are sprayed once to save the crop from invasive insects and animals the day they are sold.
This is the first year the Gust brothers, Joe, Nate, Dave and Jake have dedicated about 1.5 acres of land on a farm that was once the home of their late grandma Marian to the food given to subscriber vegetables.
Also on the land, are two pregnant Berkshire pigs, a rare prized breed, which after they give birth will be humanely-slaughtered for pork that will be added as a meat option in the fall to the Community Supported Agriculture, Joe Gust said. Cows also are being raised for the same purpose.
For more information about Gust Farms and the Community Supported Agriculture program, visit www.gustbrothers.com
Watch this highlight video featuring OEFFA Executive Director, Carol Goland, and Mike Laughlin of Northridge Organic Farm. They joined Jack Lessenberry on WGTE’s Deadline Now on August 16, 2013 to talk about organic food and farming issues. The full 30 minute interview is available here.
You’ll find plenty of sweet corn in local markets this summer. You may even find some Ohio-grown corn on local farm stands as early as this week.
Just don’t hang your hat on finding it everywhere, or at windfall prices.
It’s a bit early to solidly predict the 2012 harvest of local sweet corn. Extended periods of high heat can be beneficial to corn crops. But low rainfall could prove destructive.
“We are thinking it may be one of the earliest seasons on record,” says Paula Szalay, whose family operates Szalay’s Farm in Peninsula.
Corn likes heat, Szalay says. Coupled with the higher water levels available on her family farm on Riverview Road in the Cuyahoga Valley, “the corn is using [both] to its advantage,” she says.
But if the recent dry weather persists, it could herald big problems, farmers agree.
Statewide, according to the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association in Columbus, this year’s sweet corn crop could end up being “only 50 or 60 percent of normal yields,” according to spokeswoman Lauren Ketcham.
“The hot, dry weather really affects pollination, but it is sometimes hard to forecast yields until farmers start picking and see the condition of the ears,” wrote Ketcham in an email.
Conditions are less than desirable east of Cleveland, says Craig Sirna, owner of Sirna’s Farm & Market in Auburn.
“As far as I know, everyone out in these parts is behind because of the drought,” says Sirna.
“We haven’t had ANY rain to speak of,” he says. “I think I’ve had less than a quarter-inch of rain over the past three weeks — and other [growers] are measuring by the tenths of inches.
“I don’t even know how my corn is growing,” Sirna adds.
According to OEFFA, a membership-based, grass-roots organization whose mission is “promoting and supporting sustainable, ecological and healthful food systems,” early plantings of corn generally fare better than later plantings. Residual water in the ground from winter snowfall and spring rains is a boon to initial seedlings, but it must be replaced by seasonal rains.
“But [corn crops are] all under stress right now,” Ketcham writes. “Those farmers who can irrigate their crops are spending a lot of time and money to get water to them.”
Irrigation is a salvation of sorts for Pochedly Farms in Mantua, says family member Jeff Pochedly. But it costs significant money to move water to fields, he adds.
“So far this year we’ve spent about $2,000 on diesel fuel, just on irrigation alone,” Pochedly says. “And you have all the wear-and-tear on the irrigation equipment.
“But still you can’t cover everything — and it’s not like having natural rain,” he adds.
Critical stages of development, such as when the corn starts to tassel and when the ears begin to fill with enlarging kernels, are when significant rainfall matters most.
But rain also has to span several, staggered plantings. Most farmers plant sweet corn in phases to ensure a steady supply of the crop through a season that extends into early fall. Those “critical stages” repeat several times each season for subsequent plantings.
Which means forecasting this year’s harvest involves equal parts agricultural expertise, hope and guesswork.
The Pochedlys, who sell corn to the Heinen’s supermarket chain, are several days from picking the 80-acre spread the family cultivates in Portage County. They just wrapped up their eighth and final planting of the season. For now, it’s a matter of sitting back and hoping for a few stretches of good rainfall.
“There won’t be a lot of volume until the first week of August,” says Pochedly. If all goes well, he adds, the days surrounding Labor Day will be a big weekend.
Szalay of the Peninsula family farm remains philosophical.
“The best-laid plans don’t always come through,” she says. “But right now, we’re hopeful.”
It’s not easy to start a farm, especially if you’re young and money is tight.
On Monday night, Granville High School Environmental classes, in conjunction with the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association’s Heart of Ohio Chapter, presented a meal, a movie called “GROW!” and a panel discussion of half a dozen local young farmers to showcase the challenges young farmers face in getting started in the business.
Shopping at local farmers markets, joining community-supported agriculture food subscription suppliers and urging local and national legislators to support policies and programs supporting beginning farmers were suggested as ways to help them.
“Also, if people have land they aren’t using, there are farm programs they can lease or property out to young farmers,” said Bryn Bird, of Bird’s Haven Farm near Granville.
The movie “GROW!” showed the rewards and the challenges of farming. It was a look at the new generation of sustainable farming though the eyes of 20 “passionate, idealistic and fiercely independent young growers.”
In the movie, young farmers from various parts of the country made comments like, “I feel like it’s doing something real” and “Real jobs are hard to come by these days, and I feel like this is the realest job of all.”
Another concluded: “I can only imagine a world where farmers are upheld like doctors and where every fourth person is a farmer again.”
Jim Reding, the environmental science teacher at GHS and the person in charge of the school’s organic garden, echoed that thought afterward.
“One of the things we discuss in class is if we’re going to feed the world, we need to get more people involved,” he said. “Whether that means you’re a farmer or you’re gardening in your backyard, both of those are going to be necessary.”
“We need to go back to where most of the population grows food,” Reding said. “Whether it’s something they consume themselves or put out there on the market, it doesn’t really matter.”
The panel members all were local young farmers. When asked about the biggest challenge to young farmers, Anton Sarossy-Christon, owner of Terravita Farm, said, “A lack of mentors. We read a lot of books, we read a lot of blogs, and we make a lot of mistakes.”
Ches Stewart, an apprentice at Bird’s Haven Farm, said, “I’m broke. I think that’s the best way to describe a young farmer.”
Bird described how she dealt with a corporate food supplier who was reluctant to start a local food line, calling it a “trend.” Bird, recalling that her mother remembered a day when grocery stores were not the dominant food source in society, said, “This isn’t a trend. The trend is the grocery store.”
The Birds, she said, just were accepted into the National Farmer’s Union Beginning Farmer’s Institute, one of 10 chosen nationally to travel around country to learn from other farmers.
Monday night’s event was attended by about 100 people in the high school cafeteria area.
“We wanted to interest young people to farm,” said Chuck Dilbone, the business manager for Granville schools and, most recently, a farmer. He and his family started Sunbeam Family Farm in Alexandria.
“I think also one of my main reasons is to get the community to support young farmers, maybe open up somebody’s land where people can farm, or to mentor young people. I think that’s my number one goal,” Dilbone said.