UVM Extension Ag Engineering

Lisa MacDougall has led Mighty Food Farm through start-up, relocation from rented land to owned land, and now through the construction of a brand-new 60 ft x 90 ft wash and pack shed. She’s done this all while producing a diverse mix of organic vegetables, tree fruit and berries on fourteen acres, now, in Shaftsbury.

We’ve already posted a write-up about this case study here, but we just released videos that go along with it! In the playlist below there is an intro video, followed by a video showing the washing process in the new space (2min), the use of a Grindstone Barrel Washer on carrots and beets (2min) as well as the full-length interview (11min) with Lisa about the project. Enjoy!

 

Mighty Clean and Comfortable (Video Series)

Lisa MacDougall has led Mighty Food Farm through start-up, relocation from rented land to owned land, and now through the construction of a brand-new 60 ft x 90 ft wash and pack shed. She’s done this all while producing a diverse mix of organic vegetables, tree fruit and berries on fourteen acres, now, in Shaftsbury.

We’ve already posted a write-up about this case study here, but we just released videos that go along with it! In the playlist below there is an intro video, followed by a video showing the washing process in the new space (2min), the use of a Grindstone Barrel Washer on carrots and beets (2min) as well as the full-length interview (11min) with Lisa about the project. Enjoy!

 

The BarnHouse: Optimized for Modern Day Vegetable Farming at Footprint Farm

 Download the PDF Fact Sheet of this Post Harvest Case Study Here!

Taylor Hutchison and Jake Mendel own and operate Footprint Farm in Starksboro, VT. Starting their own farm in 2013, they now produce pretty much everything except storage potatoes and storage squash with 66 different kinds of vegetables grown in both fields and high-tunnels.

The new barn features everything needed for their diversified vegetable farm. In fact, it’s so efficient they live on the 2nd floor!

Continue reading “The BarnHouse: Optimized for Modern Day Vegetable Farming at Footprint Farm”

Podcasts For Agricultural Education and Insights

Podcasts! A radio talk show that you can listen to when you want to. When you subscribe to them, they automatically downloaded to your phone and go with you in the car or to the field. Podcasts are a great way to keep your mind busy while doing daily tasks like making breakfast, stacking wood, weeding or harvesting. There is a wide range of genres to choose from, but Andy has highlighted a few farming related podcasts that are particularly relevant to the small and mid-sized farm community. The following podcasts are entertaining, educational, and motivating and we encourage you to check them out.

Farmer to Farmer Podcast
The Farmer to Farmer Podcast hosted by Chris Blanchard was one of the largest podcasts for the farming community. Interviewing farmers across the nation to learn the challenges, and successes of growing vegetables. Unfortunately, this series has come to an end after 176 episodes but is available to listen to, and be enjoyed by many.

Farm Small Farm Smart

Farm Small Farm Smart is a podcast produced by Diego Footer. Andy has been listening to this podcast for a couple of years. Similarly to the Farmer to Farmer podcast, he interviews small-scale farmers making a go of it. In addition, he produces a series with leaders in the small ag space like Curtis Stone, Conor Crickmore, and he just announced a new series with Ben Hartman to discuss lean principals on the farm.

Aside from vegetable production he also produces a show called Grass Fed Life “Where it’s all about raising cows, chickens, and pigs profitably on pasture, with farmer Darby Simpson.”

Our Farms, Our Future
This series is from the USDA’s Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) Program. “The Our Farms, Our Future podcast series brings together the sustainable agriculture community for thought-provoking conversations about the state of agriculture, how we got here, and where we’re headed. With each episode, we hope to share different perspectives within the sustainable agriculture community while tackling such topics as building resilient farming systems, farm profitability, and fostering community through local food systems.”

Thriving Farmer Podcast 

Michael Kilpatrick is the host of the Thriving Farmer Podcast. “In the interviews, we focus on building farms that last, setting up your systems, knowing your customers, building your team, and treading that ever challenging work/family/life balance.”

Growing Farms Podcast 

“Whether you have been farming for years, you are a Homegrown Greenhorn, or you are starting to consider a career in agriculture… …there is something we can all do to Grow Our Farms.” Join John Suscovich and John Bishopp who discuss the personal, challenging, side of operating a farm business getting into the topics all farms think about, but dont always talk about.


Do you listen to another farming podcast that you’d like to recommend? Shoot us an e-mail to tell us about it!

Expanding Your Tunnel Vision, Manchester NH

Andy ventured down to the high tunnel conference hosted in Manchester, NH on December 4th to expand his knowledge on protected culture. This program was co-sponsored by the Universities of Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont and the Maine Organic Farmers’ and Gardeners’ Association, and was supported by Northeast SARE project LNE 15-343. His notes follow.

I wasn’t able to attend day one which was mostly pest and diseases. I did attend the second day which included more practice-specific information. The conference was filled with farmers and detailed information about growing under high tunnels. It was great to see many familiar faces, mostly cheery now that things have mostly slowed down and seed catalogs are arriving in the mail full of hopes and dreams.

The day started off with Vern Grubinger (UVM Extension and VVBGA) talking about the history of high tunnels, followed by every single different type or construction practice he’s seen. The list is long, and it covers everything as simple as a DIY caterpillar tunnel to a fully automated and digitally monitored greenhouse system. It was pretty nice to see many different features and options collated and presented together.

If you’d like to take a peek at the presentations they are posted here: https://extension.unh.edu/blog/2018-high-tunnel-conference-presentations-available

There were quick lightning rounds with short presentations sharing new research projects like saffron, scouting, and soil moisture. A couple takeaways:

  • Using shade cloth in the doorway is a useful curtain to keep birds out
  • Potted plants actually need less water than they probably are provided
  • Wrapping baseboard rigid insulation in roofing flashing makes it durable for rodent pressure or weedwhackers!
  • A presentation on water usage shared that many farms have no idea how much water they use and “pulse irrigation” (shorter more frequent watering) may be better for the plants, the soil, and the systems. This is a take away that I will put into practice, especially having a well with low flow it would be better to water smaller amounts more frequently than flooding hundreds of gallons in the evening that can wash away nutrients and promote diseases while the soil and plants sit saturated overnight.

The afternoon included a grower panel which is always fun. The panel discussed topics like mulch practices and most profitable crops. The top crops were noted as #1 Tomatoes and #2 Winter Greens! If you keep good records of the time you put into the crops, the prices you ask for them, and the number of successions planted you can analyze the highest value crops for your farm.

It’s rare that I go someplace without a camera, so here are a few shots I shot at the conference.

-Andy Continue reading “Expanding Your Tunnel Vision, Manchester NH”

Briquetting a Better, Burnable Cow Patty

The Biomass Beast, Rose Marie Belforti’s creation motivated by her interest in finding an on-farm use for excess manure and bedding. A mixture of manure and bedding are fed into the red hopper from above and the hydraulic press compresses the mixture to form a briquette. The briquette is solar dried and burns well in a wood stove.

Chris recently served as a technical advisor to Rose Marie Belforti on her recent NE-SARE funded project to demonstrate a hydraulic press used to make fuel briquettes from manure and bedding.  The machine, dubbed the “Biomass Beast” by Rose, was built for $5,766 and Rose demonstrated production of briquettes at a rate of 90 dry pounds per hour for 3 cents per dry pound.  The briquettes were found to have 6,481 BTU/lb (at 10.5% moisture content) which compared favorably to dry cord wood (e.g. 5,649 BTU/lb for sugar maple at 10% moisture). They burned easily and well. All in all, the cost of production and the heating value suggests that these briquettes deliver energy at a cost of about $4.4 per million BTU (roughly the equivalent of $105 per cord of firewood or $0.60 per gallon of fuel oil).

Continue reading “Briquetting a Better, Burnable Cow Patty”

Footprint Farm: Post Harvest Case Study – Video Series

Looking to upgrade your wash-pack space? Check out this interview with Taylor Hutchison from Footprint Farm talking about their motivations for building a new barn (house!) and including all the features they implemented to make it food safe and efficient. Stay tuned for a written case study, and a downloadable pdf coming soon. The playlist below features a 2.5min promo, an interview explaining the features of the wash-pack space (6min), more in-depth experiences and challenges from the build process (12min) and the last video showcases washing a batch of greens through their system (2min). Enjoy the videos!

Hanging Hoses

Having water when and where you need it can make a big difference in vegetable wash station efficiency. Planning for multiple “drops” or spigots around the wash area can make it more convenient to access water where it is needed. It can be helpful to consider the routing of the supply lines to avoid condensation on people and produce.  Cold water flowing through the lines on a warm humid day can result in condensation of water that can drop from the lines.  Running the lines away from walkways and produce areas can avoid this being a problem.  Running the lines down low in wash areas can also help keep any condensation exposure at a minimum.

Also, investing in a hose hanger, hose reel or a trolley can help keep the hose off the ground, resulting in a cleaner and more safe work environment. Continue reading “Hanging Hoses”

Bins, Buckets, Baskets & Totes

Many diversified farms have a variety of containers to best handle individual crops.

So you’re starting to farm, or scaling up your production. You hear talk about food safety, and cleanability.  You are checking out what other farms are doing and are looking for harvest crates and storage bins.

You probably noticed lots of people use many different things. Some use 5-gallon pails, milk crates, muck buckets, some use totes found at the box stores, yet others use what seem to be specific, grey, flip top totes. Does it matter what you use? Not really, but you should have some sort of method to the madness on your farm to help minimize contamination, reduce mix-ups and wasted time. Consistency is key to organization and efficiency.

I commonly hear “Ok, I like this style of totes/bins/crates, where do I find them?” Well, hopefully, this blog post will have a few suggestions to point you in the right direction with user reviews, distributor information, and pictures of features.  Continue reading “Bins, Buckets, Baskets & Totes”

Mighty Clean and Comfortable – A New Wash and Pack Shed at Mighty Food Farm

 Download this Postharvest Case Study as a PDF Here!

Lisa MacDougall has led Mighty Food Farm through start-up, relocation from rented land to owned land, and now through the construction of a brand-new 60 ft x 90 ft wash and pack shed. She’s done this all while producing a diverse mix of organic vegetables, tree fruit and berries on fourteen acres, now, in Shaftsbury.

The packshed has become the central “hub” of the farm boasting new, slab on grade construction with a large overhead door on the east side for receiving from field and packing out for market, person-door for crew access on the northeast corner, and a second person-door for retail and CSA access on the northwest corner.

One of Lisa’s primary goals in her new location was “a proper P-shed”; a pack shed where she and her crew could comfortably and safely wash, store, and pack produce for delivery to her customers year-round.  Mighty Food Farm serves retail farm stand, farmers market, CSA, and wholesale customers.

Continue reading “Mighty Clean and Comfortable – A New Wash and Pack Shed at Mighty Food Farm”

Lessons in Ergonomics from My Grandmother

I recently had the opportunity to record a public service announcement (PSA) for WDEV.  This is part of a series of PSA’s the UVM Extension colleagues contribute to. I decided to focus on ergonomics and shared some lessons from my grandmother and other sources. Click below to listen.

The text and additional resources are available below.

Continue reading “Lessons in Ergonomics from My Grandmother”

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