What’s Growing 2017
What’s Growing at the Farm Hub?
The 2017 growing season marks the continuation of the Farm Hub’s ProFarmer Training Program, and this year’s crop plan is reflective of our newest educational initiatives and our commitment to demonstrating ecological farming practices. Many of this year’s activities, from soil restoration and weed control to vegetable wholesale training and market research, will provide opportunities for farmers to visit, engage in our work, and learn about organic growing methods and land management tools being implemented at the Farm Hub.
Building on projects initiated over the past few years, our 2017 crop plan takes the Farm Hub’s work into exciting new areas. With the launch of our ProFarmer training program and a full series of farmer outreach events scheduled for the season, 2017 promises to be a bountiful, and educational, year.
Click here to see the 2017 growing season map.
Click here to see the 2016 growing season map.
Click here to see the 2015 growing season map.
Click here to see 2014 growing season map.
Vegetable Enterprises and the Market Garden
The Farm Hub’s ongoing crop planning process includes both market research and a review of our production objectives. For our vegetable crops, we began by speaking with more than a dozen wholesale food buyers around the region to learn what types are in demand but difficult to source locally. By tracking in detail the costs associated with growing these crops organically and at scale, we can assess their viability as promising areas of expansion for Hudson Valley farmers. In this way, we hope to increase the diversity of food available locally and provide growers with information that can help strengthen their capacity in the wholesale market.
Some of the vegetables that have been grown at the Farm Hub since 2014 include:
Broccoli & Cauliflower – Many buyers in the Hudson Valley have told us they have trouble locating large quantities of locally grown broccoli. In addition, we understand that it can be difficult to meet the desired head size for cauliflower in wholesale markets. Through demonstrating reliable organic growing practices and consistent supply, we are exploring wholesale opportunities in the regional market for area farmers.
Root Crops: Carrots and parsnips were grown on the Farm Hub in 2015 and 2016 as part of a variety trial with Cornell Cooperative Extension Eastern New York Commercial Horticulture Program (ENYCHP). Because they grow late into the fall and store well, these root crops can allow farmers to extend their growing season and generate income in winter months. Crops like these can also expand options for farm workers who wish to work a longer season or remain in place year-round.
Edamame & Green Beans: Because these two legumes use the same harvesting and sorting machinery, they make a logical pair for farmers with access to the right equipment. Edamame is growing in popularity across the country, and yet few domestic farms currently grow these particular soybeans. That is not without reason – edamame seeds can be finicky. If planted too deep, or if there is too much rain after planting, the seeds will rot instead of germinate. In fact, this was the case with some of the 2015 edamame planting at the Farm Hub. By experimenting with this difficult crop, we will be gaining the expertise Hudson Valley farmers will need to grow edamame successfully. In particular, we will be testing two different varieties of edamame and mechanically harvesting them to test whether we can lower production costs. We then will explore opportunities for freezing the finished product and testing it with regional buyers for quality, flavor, and price.
Sweet corn: Gill Farms was well known throughout New York State for its sweet corn, and this crop is an important part of the Farm Hub’s history and our local heritage. As the Farm Hub transitions to organic growing practices, our approach to growing sweet corn is evolving as well. This year we started plants in the greenhouse in the spring and transplanted them to fields in May. This technique allows for better weed control and an earlier start to the season.
Cover Crops, Soybeans, and Grains
Cover cropping is an important tool in ecological farming, helping to build organic matter in the soil and improve soil structure. Cover crops are planted and then worked into the ground before they set seed. By leaving the organic matter in the field, the soil builds carbon, which allows it to retain water much more efficiently. This means it is less likely to be washed away in extreme weather events and is more resilient during dry periods. Carbon-rich soils are also an excellent tool for adapting to and mitigating climate change.
Cover crops on the farm this season include phacelia, red clover, crimson clover, rye, triticale, vetch, alfalfa, and timothy. Triticale and rye will once again play a role in the Farm Hub’s no-till organic soybean production. Having grown back after this mild winter, the triticale and rye will be rolled and crimped, after which non-GMO soybeans will be planted in the same field. The cover crop, left in the field as mulch, will create a straw mat to suppress weeds and return organic matter to the soil as the soybeans grow.
Small Grains Research
Our small grains field trials enter their fourth year in 2017. We are working in conjunction with Cornell University and Cornell Cooperative Extension of Ulster County to evaluate small grain varieties. These include barley, rye, oats, and wheat. End-user testing with our partners at Wild Hive Grain Mill and Bread Alone Bakery over the winter provided important initial feedback for evaluating the quality of each variety for milling and baking. We hosted the Fifth Annual Hudson Valley Small Grains Day in June.
Ecological Land Management
Since the 2015 season we have working to identify potential synergies between the Farm Hub and its surrounding natural environment. This season we will be collaborating with partners to develop a comprehensive plan focused specifically on flood risk on the farm. To protect against erosion and loss of topsoil, flood-prone areas will be planted with cover crops like oats, clover, alfalfa, and phacelia during the 2016 season, or in some cases left fallow. In 2017 we launched native meadow trials in collaboration with the Hawthrone Valley Farmscape Ecology Program. In coming years we will continue to explore a variety of approaches to managing riparian zones on the farm while monitoring costs and benefits of these and other natural systems land management solutions.