A welcome from the farm

The purpose of our blog is to showcase the research that is going on, events/workshops taking place, offer insightful links, and recap conferences we attend. However, the main focus is on the Market Garden Project.

This is the first year that we will be growing vegetables on an acre to then sell on campus. Varieties will include (hopefully) cool and warm season crops starting in April and lasting till mid-August (Date and Time TBA). Tied with this project is our internship program. We are pleased to offer students the opportunity to come learn all facets of vegetable production which include the process of planning, planting, harvesting and then selling. We hope from this experience the students will gain a true knowledge on what it does take to “go back to the land” as well as inspire them to become advocates for local/sustainable food production and maybe, just maybe make farmers out of them.  As follows are our interns who represent a diverse background and concentrations.

2010 Interns

Jess Blackwell

Jess is a graduate student majoring in Extension Education in the department of Agriculture Leadership, Education and Communication. Her studies focus on environmental sustainability programs geared towards small communities within the U.S. and in South America. Jess earned her BA in Geography this past December from UTK. She is looking forward to gaining more experience in farming to help in her goal of growing 70% of her family’s yearly vegetables and also to spread the practice of gardening and small scale farming to other families to aid in their economic sustainability. Jess’s interests outside of school and gardening include hiking, backpacking, flat-water kayaking, crafting and belaying her rock climbing husband.

Kelly Corum

My name is Kelly Corum. I am originally from Knoxville and have lived my whole life here. I am a sophomore majoring in Plant Science with a concentration on Landscape Design and Construction. I wouldn’t mind doing Design for a living, but my dream is to farm, which has led me to the intership. My goal is to simply learn how to do it and then go from there. I enjoy being outside doing pretty much anything and riding my bicycle. I am looking forward to gaining knowledge on the farm and using it now and later in life.

Philip Moore

Philip is 22, a Junior, majoring in Food and Agriculture Business at UT.

I have always enjoyed working with food. My parents grew awesome produce in a small garden in our backyard. From an early age I could tell the difference between fresh foods and store bought. At 6 years I baked my first cake. I was always helping or experimenting in the kitchen as a child. Throughout my adult life I have consistently worked in restaurants. I enjoyed cooking so much I thought I would become a Chef. However, low pay and long hours caused me to rethink that decision. I am now pursing my dream to become a food or restaurant manager and some day own a restaurant. I came to the organic farm because I wanted to learn everything I can about the process of getting food from the farm to the table. Organics make sense to me because they don’t harm the environment or my own body. I plan to encourage ecological business initiatives throughout my career. With this hope, we can preserve our planet for future generations, while at the same time, profit from its resources.

Daniel Priddy

Daniel Priddy is a Sophomore at UT in Environmental Studies. His friends call him Daniel. Daniel is very enthusiastic about joining the team of interns for the season. He enjoys farming, rock climbing, dancing, and the Talking Heads. Daniel takes immense joy in agriculture and food in general. Historians would remember him as a pretty average guy.

Mechelle Kneidinger

Mechelle is a junior in Sociology with a concentration in environmental issues and globalization. She’s also attempting to get a minor in French.

With the UT organic farm internship, she plans to gain knowledge about sustainable food production and local markets in hopes of helping others to have a more sustainable way of living in the future. Her main goal with the Sociology major is to have a better understanding of people and their points of view, because collaboration is the only way to solve environmental issues. She’s looking forward to growing some food, meeting new people, and learning much more!

The Bosses

Mary Rogers

Mary grew up in Sioux Falls, South Dakota where as a young child she spent summers at her grandparent’s hobby farm. Her first job was selling sweet corn from this garden door to door to neighbors. Her interest in horticulture led her to jobs working at wholesale greenhouses in high school, where she took care of seasonal flowers and bedding plants. She left Sioux Falls to earn her degree at the University of Minnesota in 1998, where she studied horticulture with an emphasis in sustainable agriculture. Mary worked as a landscape gardener, organic vegetable gardener and WWOOFer in Italy before returning to the U of MN for her master’s degree in entomology. Arriving in Tennessee in 2008, Mary is coordinating a variety of research projects at the Organic Crops Unit of the University of Tennessee, working on a PhD, and supervising the market garden project.

Mary’s research interests include entomology and horticulture in general, specifically insect-plant interactions, biological control and sustainable vegetable production. Her thesis is on organic management of cucumber beetles in Tennessee. Mary lives in North Knoxville with her husband, Matt and two cats.

In her spare time, Mary enjoys camping in the GSMNP, working on her lasagna garden at home, cooking, reading (both fiction and non-fiction), listening to music, doing crossword puzzles, playing Scrabble and cribbage, learning about local Knoxville history and dreaming of foreign lands.

Grant McCarty

Grant McCarty is the intern coordinator for the Market Garden Project. Hailing from Kodak, Tennessee, he received his BA in Sociology from Maryville College in 2008, and through an internship at an eco-village in Corvallis, Montana, found his passion and vocation in sustainable agriculture. After a year as a Research Assistant in UT’s Biofuels Intiative, he came to the program in Aug 2009 and has been blessed since then. His long term goal includes Extension Work/Research. He is currently taking Plant Science classes and deciding on grad programs.

His interests include spinach, being outside as much as possible, pretentious movies/books, his truck, running/working out, going downtown/concerts, and traveling.

These are who you will be mostly hearing from during the next couple of months although we may sneak in other things here and there. But we invite you to follow our progress, become our fan on Facebook, attend our workshops, hound our website (organics.utk.edu), ask us questions, and come to our market (most importantly).

Grant McCarty

Intern Coordinator, 2010


SSAWG Conference

Last week, Sarah, Dr. Wszelaki, and I attended the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Workers Group (SSAWG) Conference in Chattanooga, TN. It is a conference that pulls together agriculture workers (traditional, nontraditional, young, old, conservative, liberal) from an 11 state region and brings them together to attend workshops, meetings,  and to connect with one another. Dr. Wszelaki and Sarah attended a CSA workshop on Wednesday and Thursday morning while I was working on other things related to the internship program/exploring much of downtown Chattanooga.

Chattanooga itself is in a great location for sustainable/local food movement. The city’s restaurants use local vegetables, meat, and other products in much of their cooking and support this in the local taste buds movement  (http://tastebudsguide.org/) tied with Crabtree Farms of Chattanooga. This guide, that anyone can pick up for free, shows what restaurants buy from certain farms. We were fortunate enough to eat at a handful of restaurants that are in the guide Lupi’s Pizza, Greenlife Grocery, and Southern Star, and were quite pleased with the food (maybe its because it was local….).

Thursday though was the big day for a farm tour, and even with the chance of rain (and it did rain), we went on farm tours. Sarah and I went to Sequatchie Cove Farm (http://sequatchiecovefarm.com/). Sequatchie is going through somewhat of a transition, moving away from vegetable production/CSA to creamery/meat production. They also have a vibrant berry production and shiitake mushroom enterprise.

I think one interesting thing to point out is the diversification Sequatchie Cove has, and that this allows them to get involved in niche markets. It also means that say if the vegetables did not do well, they have other enterprises to fall back on. The movement toward a creamery will be hard but all transitions to new enterprises on farms are hard.

Friday began the workshop blitz. I ventured to Drip-Tape for Beginners (I should have done Intermediates because I’m just a natural with drip-tape), Post Harvest-Handling Workshop by NC State (shout out to their site www.ncmarketready.org), and my favorite workshop: the Farm to College.

At this workshop, Emory University spoke about their sustainability movement that has a goal of getting 75% of the food in their food services local/sustainable/organic by 2015. Its one thing to have this goal and this idea, but how do you get it off the ground? In  came Destiny Organics, which acts as distributer/go-between of farmers and Emory. This allows for food to not only get to the college but also includes 2nd rate produce that the farmer may not be able to sell. The best thing from this is that there is more demand then supply, that so many universities/organizations want this food that they cannot meet demand. In addition, pictures of the farmers are placed beside their produce so you know your farmer,  one of the farms sponsors a whole day of their own food in a cafeteria including their meat, and this program is growing and expanding gaining ground all over the state of GA and will begin in hospitals shortly. Destiny Organics also get milk products, meat, vegetables, local roasted coffee, breads, etc, to be sent to these colleges so it isn’t strictly vegetables. Needless to say, I was impressed and inspired. For more information on their program, follow the link http://sustainability.emory.edu/page/1008/Sustainable-Food

One of the things that I enjoyed from the conference though was the interaction in the trade show. As part of the Production Unit, we set up a both to advertise who we are and what we are doing. Needless to say it also turned into consultation work a la Extension, and I quite enjoyed getting questions that I could/couldn’t answer. Luckily no question was too difficult and I wasn’t given a diseased tomato to identify the condition of, but it let me see how exactly we serve and what outreach we are capable of doing.

All in all, a very good conference, and if you are interested in going next year, its in Chattanooga yet again. For more information, ssawg.org


Intern Coordinator