Whole Foods Sets the Bar High

As retail grocers wait for states to decide how, or if, to label foods, Whole Foods is taking it upon themselves to make those decisions. Last year Whole Foods announced they would label all foods containing genetically engineered ingredients by 2018 in the United States and United Kingdom. This week, they also announced they will be labeling fresh produce and flowers it sells with ratings based on the impact those products have on workers, soil, water, and human health.

This is what so many consumers have been asking for and it’s great to see a company take initiative and make the effort to become transparent regarding food production. Hopefully this will encourage other retailers to follow suit.

The full article can be found here: http://www.takepart.com/article/2014/10/16/wait-till-you-hear-about-whole-foods-newest-food-label?cmpid=tpdaily-eml-2014-10-16

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High Tunnel May-Madness!

Look at what a month in a high tunnel can do to squash and cucumbers!

The first picture shows 3 rows of yellow squash (far right), 3 rows of green zucchini (middle), and 3 rows of cucumber (far left). All were transplanted April 16.

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The picture below was taken May 15!

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The squash and zucchini plants are a bush type while the cucumbers have a trellis to climb to maximize space.  We will begin harvesting squash and zucchini next week! The high tunnel increases the soil and air temperature causing growth to occur more quickly than if they were in the open field. We close the high tunnel at night to retain heat and open the high tunnel on warm days to allow for ventilation.

Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group

I recently attended the 23rd annual SSAWG conference held in Mobile, AL. This conference is a great networking and educational tool for beginning and seasoned farmers. Topics range from starting a small farm, understanding farm policies, how to maximize yields and profits, creating farm to school programs, high tunnel production, cattle management, insect identification and control, and understanding the biodynamics of a farm system. The University of TN was well represented and many colleges and universities were very interested in our internship program, and how we help to grow young farmers while feeding the Knoxville community.

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At the end of every conference, a dinner is held to acknowledge the accomplishments of the sustainable movement and areas of improvement.

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I am already looking forward to next year’s conference which will again be held in Mobile, AL. Hope to see you there!

Life in the dead of Winter

I still can’t believe the single digit temperatures we received earlier this week. Although it would seem that all plants would be dead or dormant this time of year, there are some plants that continue to grow, slowly. While walking around the Market Garden today, I removed some of the straw mulch covering the garlic.  Since garlic is a biennial, you must plant the individual bulbs in the fall in order to harvest in early summer. We planted our garlic in mid-November and I was worried we were too late. Ideally, I would have planted the garlic bulbs in mid-October but as most of you know, plans constantly change when gardening.  Fortunately, garlic shoots were poking out of the soil! I was relieved and excited.

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As temperatures begin to warm in late February and early March, we will begin to remove the mulch to allow the garlic shoots to take in all the available sunlight. This time of year can feel like an eternity as you prepare for spring planting, but you must wait for the cold blanket of winter to be removed. This is also a great time to attend state and/or regional conferences, and to do as much crop research as possible. Bulk up on all the information you can handle to prepare yourself for another growing season.

-Jeff

 

Happy New Year!

We are busy preparing for another season in East TN. We have about all the seed for the spring season and are eager to begin planting in the greenhouse in the coming weeks.

I have taken the reigns from the previous Manager, Mary Rogers.  She did an excellent job forming this program and I am excited to continue to grow this program.

2014 marks our 5th year of our Market Garden Project! The Farmer’s Market has continued to grow and we ran our first CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program in 2013. We look forward to growing our CSA and have received great feedback from our previous members.

There are five new interns this season and I am looking forward to working and learning with them throughout the season. Their diverse backgrounds and knowledge should be a great asset this year.

-Jeff