Meet the new interns for 2011!

Kathryn Allen is a double major in Soil Science and Spanish and plans to teach high school chemistry and environmental science after graduating. An interest in where food comes from sparked her interest in organic farming. She plans to share this interest with her future students through a school garden and composting program.

Kathryn Allan

Kirsten Eisele is a recent transplant from Nashville, here in East TN to learn how to grow things. She has experience working with biodynamic, organic, and sustainable small farms. One day shw would like to run a homestead-style small farm incorporating small scale livestock production, grains, dairy, and produce. ‘Little House on the Prairie’ may have influenced her a bit too much, as she is also interested in using draft horses and making soap out of lye.

Kirsten Eisele

Tiffany Morrison is a native of South Central Texas, and earned her B.A. in English Literature at Texas Tech University. Her general love of good food and healthy living has led her to pursue her passion for sustainable agriculture. Tiffany has a diverse professional background that includes journalism, marketing/advertising, corporate communications, education research and most recently environmental health and safety at the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture. She’s enthusiastic about her opportunity to participate in the UT organic farm-to-market internship.

Tiffany Kingston Morrison

Liz Newnam is a senior majoring in Food Science and Technology at the University of Tennessee. She is originally from Durham, NC, but came to Knoxville in pursuit of the adventure of new surroundings. Liz’s love of sharing and preparing food was inspired by her father’s fascination with different cultural dishes in the kitchen and her mother’s insistence on nightly family dinners. Food is not just something that nourishes the body—but something that nourishes the soul. Liz believes that food builds communities, and when we know where our food is coming from (our neighbors) and understand that they do not intend to neglect the great inheritance of the land, by growing organically, we trust in each other more and show each other a warm kindness.

Liz Newnam

Ann Ramsey is a graduate student in Anthropology where her research interests include food security, food sovereignty, and social justice.  A native Tennessean, Ann grew up working the backyard garden in her bare feet. Her love of the natural world drew her into sustainable agriculture. She is interested in the community-enhancing aspects of local food systems and sees organic farming as a way to shorten the food chain from field to table and acquaint consumers with producers.

Ann Ramsey

Last but not least, Daniel Priddy has stayed on with us and is working as the new intern coordinator for 2011.

Daniel Priddy

Spring is here! Is your soil ready?

The effects of winter are finally waning here in East Tennessee. The length of daylight stretching longer and the sun’s rays are burning warmer. This can only mean one thing. Spring is here! It’s time to buy seed! What do I want to grow this year? I need to sharpen my tools! The wheelbarrow has a flat tire. I need a new drip hose….and the list goes on and on! Time to slow  down, take a deep breath, and prioritize. Tennessee is notorious for a Spring tease and then a freeze that kills everything! So hang to your seeds and transplants for now.  The very first and single-most important factor to consider each and every Spring ( Fall is better to give nutrients time to breakdown) is the SOIL! The soil is the basis of all things garden. Without healthy, balanced, well-maintained soil, trying to grow ANYTHING is a roll of the dice. Yes, plants can and will do great for a time, perhaps even a full season. Rest assured that the “limiting factor” will eventually show and most of the time it is a soil and nutrient factor. The “killer” may be a pest, dry spell, or disease, but the origin of stress was most likely from poor soil and poor nutrient exchange.

Before you begin, you first need to determine what your organic soil is lacking. Most garden supply stores now carry a soil test. I highly recommend contacting the local Extension service to perform a soil test. The results are highly accurate vs a store bought version set-up for the average consumer.

Compost: Obvious no brainer here. Compost is a gardens multi-vitamin. Whether conventional, sustainable, or organic good compost is a must! Some immediate responses may be, “I do not have compost” or ” I tried to make compost but it did not work”. I totally understand the trials and tribulations of learning to compost and readily admit I have never really done the process correctly. The commercials on TV with “black gold” spilling of the $200 roto-composter “made in 30 days” only leads to more frustration. The process is tough to perfect and takes time. However, I will say that compost does not have to be perfect. It should not have ANY real obvious things like whole veggies, but does NOT have to be black as crude  oil and as fine as worm castings. BUT, in order to 100% guarantee pest,weed, and disease free compost, the guidelines of  reaching a temp of 130-170 degrees F.  MUST be followed. If you do not have  compost bins or compost items at the ready,  no worries. Rake the leaves in your yard and add in your own clippings and perhaps a neighbor’s grass clippings and leaves directly on your garden.Not only will the grass and leaf bits break down to provide essential soil nutrients, but they will work to loosen and aerate the soil as well.  ***Friendly neighbors are awesome! Can be a great source of extra compost, help, etc!…..just remember to always ASK permission 1st…and INQUIRE on past/present fertilizer/pesticide use before you put ANYTHING on your garden!!*** Just till in. Now you have an instant supply of organic matter to add to your soil. Do not forget to start saving kitchen scraps too! While it may not be “textbook”, the quick compost enhances the ability to retain/control moisture and add beneficial aeration. Remember: In order to achieve the recommended 130-170 degree temp for compost to be disease/weed free, the guidelines of composting MUST be followed.

Amendments: The results of the soil test will detail the exact nutrient deficiencies your garden may have. It will also give the exact amounts of nutrients with which to amend. READ, UNDERSTAND, AND FOLLOW ALL DIRECTIONS.  Otherwise, all additional nutrients/$ spent will unfortunately wash into the nearby streams and lakes causing even more problems. So Rule # 1, when fertilizing, amending, or using any chemicals of any kind, FOLLOW THE DIRECTIONS CAREFULLY!

Amending your soil will also help with healthy root development, drainage, and pest management. Some of the most commonly added and least expensive organic amendments for your organic garden soil are:

  • compost
  • sand
  • manure
  • lime
  • peat moss (growing debate on sustainability of use and harvest as peat bogs serve as Earth’s Carbon sinks)
  • leaf mold
  • sawdust(ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS know what wood you are using. Pressure treated and most any wood treatments are highly TOXIC!)

There are a million sites with tips  http://attra.ncat.org/  is a great source on composting,amending soil, and Spring “to-do” checklists. Just do a quick search! Now that we have the most important task knocked out, we can move on to: cleaning the tool shed, washing/sanitizing tools, sharpening tools, buying seed and transplants, tilling, tree trimming, planting cool weather crops, buying tomato stakes, cutting plant ties, getting mulch, mowing the grass, fixing the wheel barrow, building a cold frame………..