Join Howard Prussack of High Meadows Farm, University of Vermont Agricultural Engineer Chris Callahan and Cornell Cooperative Extension Vegetable Specialist Crystal Stewart for a field walk discussing garlic and onion production and postharvest handling. The event will include a focus on Fusarium control practices, a hands-on demonstration of Allium Leaf Miner identification and discussion of control strategies, followed by a discussion of post-harvest handling best practices and ways to achieve these conditions at your farm.
High Meadows farm is a 65 Acre organic, diversified vegetable farm of rolling hills, fertile soils, surrounded by oak and maple woodlands. Situated just a short drive from the center of Putney, VT, it is Vermont’s oldest certified organic Farm. Howard Prussack and his team have been providing the community and greater New England with premium organic vegetables and potted plant plants since 1979.
UVM Extension helps individuals and communities put research-based knowledge to work. University of Vermont Extension, and U.S. Department of Agriculture, cooperating, offer education and employment to everyone without regard to race, color, national origin, gender, religion, age, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, and marital or familial status.
To request a disability-related accommodation to participate in this program, please contact Chris Callahan at 802-447-7582 x256 by July 5 so we may assist you.
This conference is filled with a variety of vendors at the trade show, presentations covering specific details of individual crops and varieties, and even talks on designing your farm with an eye on food safety. Another interesting activity that went on was the farmer to farmer sessions that are not presentations but a lead conversation to discuss what works and what doesn’t on your farm. A lot of tips, tricks, and common complaints are all brought up and shared during this literally circled up conversation.
If you’ve never been here are a few photos from the event, which was very snowy in mid-December.
Here is a short highlight video from the conference!
In December, UVM Ag Engineering ventured out to Grand Rapids, MI to attend the Great Lakes Expo.
This exposition was HUGE and full of a variety of seed companies, equipment suppliers, and machinery on display. There was a lot of technology targeted towards fruit growing which is big in that region which was neat to see.
The Vermont Agency of Agriculture and UVM Extension are co-sponsoring a VT-Style Produce Safety Alliance (PSA) Grower Training on Tue-Wed, November 7 & 8, 2017 (8:30am – 5:00pm) at the VYCC Monitor Barn in Richmond, VT. This is the official required training for FSMA covered farms (Click here to determine whether your farm may be covered or exempt).
The $30 heavily subsidized training fee includes the massive training manual, multiple meals, ample coffee, and the Association of Food and Drug Official (AFDO) certificate (a $130 value—not including space rental or instructor fees!). The AFDO training certificate satisfies FSMA Produce Safety Rule training requirement.
EVERYONE is invited: Regardless of scale, annual sales, or market outlets, all produce growers can benefit from learning about integrating practical produce safety practices on a working produce operation. Technical assistance providers, educators, and regulators are also invited and will benefit from this training. Whether you are a covered farm fully subject to Produce Safety Rule (PSR) regulations, or an exempt farm required to keep certain records related to your exemption, all aspects rule compliance will also be covered during this training.
The Training Schedule at a glance:
Day One (November 7, 8:30am–5:00pm) will provide an introduction to the FSMA Produce Safety Rule, employee health, hygiene and training requirements, and information about management of soil amendments as well as domesticated animals and wildlife. Includes on-farm exploration to apply concepts in the field.
Day Two (November 8, 8:30am–5:00pm) will cover agricultural water, postharvest handling and sanitation, and writing produce safety plans. Includes on-farm exploration to apply post-harvest concepts.
The University of Vermont Extension’s Northwest Crops & Soils Team along with Andrew Peterson of Peterson Quality Malt, on August 22, 2017 took a visit to the nearby barley fields at the Van De Weert Farm in Ferrisburgh and discussed barley harvesting and processing for malt production.We also toured the facility to learn about malting small grains and grain quality requirements necessary for producing high-quality malt at Peterson Quality Malt in Monkton, VT.
Thanks also to Rachel Shattman of Bella Farm for hosting a charrette walkthrough of her wash/pack and storage facilities. That provided a very real component to the course (and the Apple Crisp was excellent as well!)
The presentation slides are available at the VVBGA’s website. I’m still very grateful for the responses to the food storage survey, and we discussed these at the meeting. I also highlighted 5 things I think are critical considerations for VT growers storing vegetables and berries.
Zoned Storage – While many are zoning (or grouping) their stored products based on optimal temperature and relative humidity (RH), it is also important to consider a zone for pre-cooling product as it comes into storage. The sudden addition of product with field heat and elevated respiration can contribute significantly to the cooling load in the room and could lead to slightly warming other crops already in storage. Additionally, we talked about the need to consider ethylene production of crops and also their sensitivity to it; sometimes requiring outside air exchange to remove the ethylene. Most are familiar with ethylene production from apples, but even common vegetable crops also produce some. Storage conditions for main crops as well as respiration rates and ethylene emission rates can all be found in USDA Handbook 66.
Measurement and Monitoring – It is understandable that one should expect a cooler to be at the temperature you set on the thermostat. But I’m a believer in secondary, accurate measurement to confirm storage conditions. This means both temperature and RH. I urge growers to check it regularly (daily), and to keep track in some sort of log so that trends are captured. This can take the form of an advanced remote data monitoring system, but it can also take the form of a simple clipboard or notebook. The important thing is that the conditions are actually measured with an accurate device such as a certified and calibrated thermohygrometer or sling psychrometer and be recorded. Here’s a video showing how to use a sling psychrometer (equally useful in a greenhouse or cooler, although I recommend “slinging” for 1 minute or more, taking 3 readings to check for stability, and using a psychrometric calculator to determine RH as the slide calculator on the device is not terribly accurate.)
Scouting – Despite all the best intentions; zoning your storage and confirming the conditions, sometimes you still run into problems. There are varietal differences in storage and many other factors that will influence how the crops keep in storage. So it is important to “scout” the storage as well. This can be daunting with bins and boxes piled high, but catching a problem early could help prevent a major loss. It is possible, as well, that you have to deviate from the published references for storage conditions for a certain crop. The verification of the storage conditions is the measurement step above, but the validation is the crop quality. The proof is always in the pudding.
Cooler Audits – It is hard to make time to stop and smell the roses, and it is hard to take time to stop and audit your cooler. But there are things you can do on a routine basis that take little to no additional time.
Check Door Seals – Walk inside the cooler, shut off the lights and look around the door for daylight. If you find spots with light shining through look more closely at the seal in that area, it may need repair or replacement. Look also for frost (on freezers) or condensation (on coolers) which can also be signs of air leakage.
Door Closure Tightness – Even if your seals are in good condition, the door must shut snugly to have them work. Most commercial cooler doors have adjustable latches. Make sure there is no play in the latch when the door is closed, and adjust as needed so it closes tightly.
Mold, Condensation – Keep an eye out for mold and/or water condensation, this may point to air circulation issues or dead spots of air flow that need to be addressed.
Noise – Noise is energy, and if you get to know the typical “hum” of your compressor and fans, you’ll be able to tell when something is amiss. New noises or more frequent operation of the compressor can signal a significant change in the refrigeration system (a higher than normal load, or heavier work than normal.) Keep an ear out for new noises and do a complete walk around on a regular basis to catch maintenance issues early.
Coil Cleaning – The air coils are the lungs of the system, and they need to be clear of debris. Regular coil cleaning should be added to any preventative maintenance or seasonal job list. If your system can’t reject heat (either inside the box or outside the box), you’re not cooling as effectively as you could. This definitely means reduced efficiency and increased energy use, but it could also mean reduced storage efficacy and premature spoilage.
Mechanical Maintenance – A trained mechanical contractor should inspect your system on a regular basis (yearly prior to your main storage season). This will help minimize the chances of system failures and (worse) crop loss.
Technical Resources – There are several excellent resources available on crop storage. The New England Vegetable Guide is an excellent overall crop guide that includes basic storage information. To dive a bit deeper, look at the USDA Handbook 66, note that the online edition has increased detail than the last print edition. I also recommend the UC Davis Postharvest Technology site which has a wide array of searchable resources, many of which are crop specific. If you get real deeply involved in environmental control (temperature and humidity), you might want to learn more about psychrometric charts and calculators. These allow you to very accurately understand the relationship of water vapor and air and are especially useful when used with a sling psychrometer.