Wednesday, July 28, 2010

USDA Grant creates opportunity for ecosystem-enhancing partnerships.

Through a partnership with National Wild Turkey Federation, The Forest Service, Tygarts Valley Conservation District, WVU Extension, and the Fish and Wildlife Service, WesMonTy will be working to implement conservation practices among farmers in the Gandy Creek, Laurel Fork and Dry creek watersheds in Randolph County.

The funds have been awarded for a three year program focusing on the improvement of natural resources on private agricultural and forested lands. The objectives are to control or eradicate the invasive plant species multiflora rosa, autumn olive, tyrol knapweed and other invasive species. These programs will also work to improve the soil quality and increase the diversity of plant species in the grazing lands. The program will partner with private farmers in addressing the goals of this program.

The methods used will include lime application, brush management, prescribed grazing, nutrient management, and forest stand improvement.

The photo is a good example of a hillside that is unevenly grazed.

Prescribed grazing is a concept that focuses more on natural, chemical free management of invasive species. It does this uniquely by using multi-species grazing on the pastures. It is a new concept that is thousands of years old.
By having several species of grazing animal in the pasture, this ensures a more even consumption of pasture plants. By using all these pasture plants more evenly, it helps to contribute to the overall health of the ecosystem.
Different animals have different preferences for plants. Cattle prefer grasses. In many instances when cattle exclusively graze a pasture, some species of plants will grow in abundance. By bringing in animals with different preferences, mainly a preference for the plants that cattle do not like, then it ensures equal consumption of the pasture. In North America two animals to bring in are sheep and goats. Sheep will eat more legumes, and some grasses that the cattle will not eat. The goats on the other hand will eat whatever the sheep and cattle do not eat. Another advantage of the sheep and goats is that they are more nimble than the cattle. They will be able access more of the hillsides that are common among the ranches in Randolph county.

An example of the hilly terrain common among farms in Randolph County.

By having an even consumption of the pasture land, the health of that system will be improved dramatically. The overall goal of the project is to increase the health of most lands in this area. After the initial three years, we hope similar programs will be encouraged throughout the state.

Keep coming back for more updates!

Friday, July 16, 2010

High Tunnel Projects in Michigan

We at WesMonTy came across an excellent article published by Michigan State University regarding some high-tunnel projects being done up there. They call them hoop-houses, but they are essentially the same thing.

Here is the link to the .pdf file.

The article concerns the building of a hoop-house in Michigan for a test. The high-tunnel project is being done by David Conner. He is an established farmer and assistant professor with MSU. He also has an established network of buyers including a local farmers market, and some restaurants. He has taken the time to outline a business model of sorts, investigating the costs of the high-tunnel and the potential rewards.
He discusses the increases to his production, and he has even investigated the openness of his buyers to purchase certain foods in the winter. I recommend this article to anyone who is interested in building a high-tunnel.

This link to the C.S. Mott Group for Sustainable Food Systems at MSU is a great resource for anyone looking for information relating to sustainable projects they are thinking of implementing.
They have several good resources on high-tunnels (hoop-houses), and some about raising animals, and growing certain crops.

This next link is for a document that has tips for people with high-tunnels.

This website is a great resource for any grower, and we highly recommend it to the small farmers of West Virginia.

Keep checking back for more updates!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Earlier this year, WesMonTy donated a high tunnel to a family in the Chestnut Ridge community, just outside of Philippi.
For all who don't know, a high tunnel is basically an unheated greenhouse. Well, it is heated, but it uses the energy of the sun, instead of fuels. The purpose of the high tunnel is to extend the growing season both in the spring and in the fall. With increased temperatures earlier, you can produce crops like tomatoes earlier in the season. With increases temperatures later, you can also produce crops like leafy greens later in the season.

This picture is of the high tunnel frame being assembled. It looks like an airplane hangar, and when it is finished, it will have a special UV treated plastic over the sides. Like this:

This creates more of an isolated environment in which to grow food. It can help eliminate pests and diseases so the crops are healthier than their open-air cousins. The sides roll up and down for temperature and airflow control.

In this particular high tunnel, they have planted tomatoes, green peppers, and green beans.
These plants have been in the high tunnel for a little over a month now. The peppers are ready to harvest now. Another row of green peppers were planted outside the high tunnel. There is a noticeable difference between the two, with the ones outside lagging by several weeks and not ready to pick yet.

This is an example of the typical pepper inside the high tunnel. As you can see, they are large and ready to pick. Yum!

This is an example of the typical pepper outside of the high tunnel. They are not as far along as the peppers inside, but they look like they will be delicious!

Most of the irrigation for the high tunnel is provided through a water catchment system attached to the owners home. This allows them to irrigate for free. A solar powered pump allows for the pumping needed. They also have the option of city water, so they are still able to water the plants even during the recent dry spell.
Here is a picture of the storage tank they use for the water:
A drip irrigation system is used to water the plants as well. Lines buried in the ground ensure that water goes where it is needed and it increases efficiency by reducing the amount of water that is lost to evaporation.
For fertilizing, a injector system is in place in which the water-solubol fertilizers are injected into the water lines and go directly to the plant roots.

This project has a great potential to extend the growing season in this area. The expansion of these high tunnels throughout the area will help to increase access to healthful foods for everyone.
This particular plot will also act as a demonstration area for extension agents and people of the community to come in and learn new gardening and food growing techniques.

Thanks for keeping in touch!

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Community Garden Market, Downtown Philippi

Greetings everyone!
The Community Garden Market in Downtown Philippi has been open for over a month now, and things are really beginning to pick up! As you can see, the new shelving that was installed allows for much more room to house and attractively display all of the produce that is available.

Over these last two or three weeks, people have begun to harvest their produce and the market is on the verge of overflowing some days! We are beginning to see peppers, green beans, and even the first sweet corn of the season has come in!

As always, there are homemade jams available as well as a variety of baked goods like pies and bread.

Small bags of herbs are available as well. A tall glass of mint flavored sweet-iced tea sounds great on a hot day!!

We even have some squash available and some leafy greens.

We all look forward to seeing you soon!