Friday, September 25, 2009

What's New At The Farm? 9/23/09

What's new: the "F" word.

F is for Frost; among other things but I'm thinking about frost. We had a close call last weekend; Saturday night to be specific. All week and all weekend I tracked the weather trying to get an exact temperature for Saturday night. I got temps between 35 and 42 according to whom I listened to. There are several sources I rely on, most of the time being the National Weather Service out of Gray, Maine. Intellicast ( and the Weather Underground ( are also good bets.

There are a few guidelines I use when determining whether or not they'll be a frost or not. If the wind is blowing we won't have a frost, if the temperature at ten o'clock the night before is 40 degrees or above, we won't have a frost, or if it's raining we won't have a frost (of course not). The temperature at the house was 47 at ten o'clock Saturday night but had dropped fast to 34 degrees at 3:00 AM. And every hour when I checked the temp it was 34 degrees until it warmed up as the sun came up.

Monday morning I went for my usual tour of our fields and crops. Of the five different locations I checked, there was frost damage at only one. That field always gets frosted early; this year is no exception. We have winter squash at that field; it's a lot easier to see the fruits now. Not enough damage to be concerned about; the fruits will continue to ripen as the vines will continue to feed them. The fruits will be fine as long as they don't get a killing frost or freeze. Only after a killing frost will damage be more severe; a hard frost and the fruits won't keep.

There are some good things about a hard frost; for example a hard frost will kill Galinsoga. Galinsoga is extremely susceptible to cold temperatures so any temp below 32 will kill it; doesn't hurt my feelings. Other indicators of frost temps are basil, squash and pumpkins, millet, and Sudan grass; all easily damaged by cold temps.

Preventing frost damage at the farm is reserved for the peppers and tomatoes. We use overhead irrigation to prevent frost damage. I'm sure there's a scientific explanation for how it works but basically the energy released from the water freezing on the plants keeps the plants at 32 degrees and no colder. This works down to around 28 degrees or so. The biggest problem with this form of frost control, besides the labor to set it up, is putting a tremendous amount of water on the field. Several nights of frosts will saturate the field with water making field work all but impossible.

The leaves are turning quickly. It's easy to miss them as farming is usually confined to working beneath your feet so gawking around and looking off into space isn't something we do a lot of. I noticed the red maples in their full fall glory this morning whilst taking my dogs for their morning jaunt. I believe the correct name is red maple because their leaves turn red in the fall. The local name is white maple because their wood is white. Either way they are the first leaves to turn in the late summer. Stressful conditions, like drought and beaver damage, will make their leaves turn red pre-fall; sometimes in the summer even.

The fall migration continues; the swallows and hummingbirds are gone, the geese are flocking up; feeding heavily before their long trip. I haven't seen a lot of ducks this year; they'll probably be later in the season. Went to Jackman and Greenville two weeks ago Saturday and didn't see any partridge but did see some turkeys and a flock of guinea hens. Yes, guinea hens. Beside route 201 on the way to Jackman, just out and about, not seeming to know where they were going or where they'd been or where they belonged.

I assume all the rain we had this summer took its toll on the partridge population. Rainy, cool weather will take a heavy toll on the chicks. Speaking of hatching issues, our setting hens did poorly this year, with only two chicks that survived until adult hood; well, at least they're both hens. Fortunately the incubator I ordered worked out well and we've plenty of replacement laying hens and some roosters for soup to eat this winter. A couple of years ago Peggy wanted to make a chicken soup and was going to use breast meat. A 20 minute trip to the henhouse gave her lots of fresh chicken to make her soup. She hasn't mentioned making soup since; works for me.

Until next week, enjoy the fall, Brian

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Pest of the Week - 9/22/09

Figure 1 Greenhouse Whitefly
Image from: University of California

Common name: Whitefly (Silverleaf, Greenhouse, Bandedwinged, Sweetpotato, and others)

Latin Name (in order of common names listed parenthetically above): Bemisia argentifolii Bellows & Perring, Trialeurodes vaporariorum (Westwood), Trialeurodes abutilonea (Haldeman), Bemisia tabaci (Gennadius)

Life Cycle: Overwinter in weeds and ornamental plants, multiple generations per year, adults lay eggs (10’s to 100’s at a time), four instars from egg to adult, first stage is crawler, remaining are stationary until adult stage, Greenhouse whitefly has circular pupae with flat top, resembling tuna fish can with filaments emerging from top of can, while Silverleaf and Sweetpotato pupae are convex and no flat top , use pupal or instar stages to ID species/strain , most species/strains of whitefly excrete and lay eggs in waxy residues left on leaf surfaces, entire generation can take as little as 16 days

Plants affected/Damage seen: Hundreds of different types to include but not limited to: Solanaceae, Cruciferae, Malvaceae, Luguminosae families; whitefly in the greenhouse will attack more plant species than if outside, stipule scarring seen, deformed leaf/blossom growth

Insect Habit: Piercing sucking mouthparts can transmit viruses readily, especially in a closed greenhouse, crawler stage moves to vein, inserts mouthparts and begins feeding, then stays immobile for the next three molts until emerging as adult

Control: Use yellow sticky cards and a hand lens to identify species or strain and to monitor populations, destroy heavily infested plants immediately, prune out heavily infested leaves or plant parts, dispose of vegetable plants as soon as harvest is over, inspect new transplants for infestations before planting in your garden, hoop house or greenhouse, encourage natural enemies (green lacewing, ladybeetle, big eyed bug, minute pirate bug, damsel bug), if infestation is severe, insecticides and introduced biological controls might be needed (PLEASE CHECK WITH YOUR LOCAL HORTICULTURAL EXTENSION AGENT REGARDING EFFECTIVE BIOLOGICAL AND CHEMICAL CONTROLS FOR YOUR AREA), resistance to insecticides has been found in whitefly populations due to multiple generations per growing season


Friday, September 18, 2009

Fleeting summer

The last fleeting weeks of summer fly by like swallows, skimming swiftly across the water. Before you know it, the nights are 40 degrees, the tomato plants are shivering and shriveling, and you spend your weekends alternatively at the beach, catching the last summer rays, or over a hot stove canning your garden spoils, before they spoil. Work picks up as people return from vacation, and you hardly have time to finish your everyday tasks, let alone write a little article to keep people posted on your garden's happenings.

So this was my garden a few weeks back, on August 28th. September pictures are to come!

The garden, probably at maximum growth.

The potatoes are still going strong, in late August!

I have picked about 20 pounds of pole beans so far this year. We've eaten many, I've shared many with relatives, I froze a few, and canned 15.25 pints of dilly beans. I've put my husband to work picking.

I will grow Fortex and Marvel of Venice again!

The Red Noodles are getting started - it seems that the ants have a symbiotic relationship with their flowers - they must be sweet.

Of course, the beans have had their share of pests. This is the Mexican Bean Beetle, sinister cousin of the familiar Ladybug. It feasts on bean leaves and beans, rather than the aphid pests enjoyed by red ladybugs.

The fuzzy larvae are bright yellow and easy to spot. They make a satisfying pop when you squeeze them between a folded bean leaf.

They do some damage to leaves and beans (the brown spots), but they aren't bad enough for me to bother spraying for them. I'm sure if I were selling my produce I would do more to prevent them, but instead I just kill them when I can, and throw any beans with brown spots into the compost bin.

And, speaking of pests, here's a weed pest: the insiduous Purslane. As Brian mentioned a few weeks back, pulling it and leaving it around won't help - it will self-seed because its succulent leaves will keep it alive, even when pulled up. So discard somewhere safe - or you could eat it; it is edible, but you'll want to read up on that first.

The cucumbers are doing fairly well - I have heirloom lemon cucumbers (named for size and color, not flavor) and a couple of varieties of pickling cucumbers growing.

My Baby Bear pumpkins are ripening!

I mixed up some seedlings - Honey Bear squash, a bush plant, is growing under the trellis. I have a couple of nearly ripe fruit - they are small, fist-sized acorn squash - a meal size of one per person.

The Zephyr summer squash and a vining variety - probably spaghetti or butternut - are doing quite well. I've shared quite a few summer squash, along with the beans.

Pepper plants are coming along!

These are Islander peppers - they are purple and will eventually turn red, if we have enough summer.

The eggplants are blossoming at last!

Some of the onion tops have fallen over and are ready to harvest. These are Walla Walla Sweets.

This is fennel, not dill - and it seems to be doing quite nicely.

The sweet potato vines are growing like the dickens - I am looking forward to digging them up. I think I'll try to keep some vine cuttings alive in water over winter, for next year; they would be about the same as the slips I got this spring in the mail, but possibly more suited to my garden.

The tomato plants are coming along - not quite as large as I'd like them to be, but it could be worse - I could have late blight.

The Sungolds have been nicely productive all summer.

Early Girl tomatoes are reaching "breaker" stage - where they turn yellowish before they ripen to red. At this point, I could bring them indoors to ripen (in a paper bag or on the counter - the windowsill is actually not the best place to ripen tomatoes, I've read. That doesn't mean I don't put some there, anyway).

And the intrepid volunteer Wonder Light tomato plant is taking over the lawn.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

What's New On The Farm? 9/16/09

Harvesting tomatoes continues this week with three varieties to pick. This will mean by the end of the week we'll have completed first pick on all the tomatoes. Four tomatoes harvests have been completed along with the two melons we had.

We've been seeding down some fields and have several more to do this week. The month of September is prime time to seed cover crops before the cold weather settles in. This week we'll seed oilseed radishes, kale and probably some winter rye.

The "Good Idea" award goes to Jeff this week for developing a grinder for processing cherry tomatoes. Usually we use our vine crop harvester for doing tomatoes but we have one cherry that's really, really small. The grinding mechanism on the vine harvester won't close up tight enough to grind up the fruit, so he bought a used chipper/grinder that one would use in their yard. There are a couple of potential issues with using a chipper/shredder; one being they typically run too fast. I want to extract the seed not make paste out of it.

The other issue is cleaning the machine between harvests. The chipper/shredder he bought has a variable throttle on it slow we can slow it down considerably; problem one solved. Cleaning it between harvests is a critical step in producing clean seed. No one wants to buy and plant one variety and have other varieties in with it, so Jeff modified the machine so it can be easily cleaned in about a half hour with two people. Problem two solved.

We'll position the chipper over a barrel, feed the tomatoes into it and see what happens. We want to make sure this is going to work before we get out in the field to harvest our seed production. If everything goes according to plan we'll have a half barrel of ground up tomatoes we can sluice the next day. I want to make sure the seed gets separated from the tomatoes but that also no damage occurs to the seed. It should be fine as we have used chipper/shredders in the past for the same process.

Although the fall weather is right around the corner, it seems more like summer has been extended this year. Any summer weather is fine; we'll take it. September is such a nice month; the cool days and cooler nights; perfect working weather. The swallows must have left by now and the hummingbirds should be on their way too. I've seen lots of blackbirds flocking up now; they must be getting ready to raid the area cornfields.

Until next week, enjoy the late summer weather, Brian

Friday, September 11, 2009

Julie... er... Rob & Julia

With the recent resurgence of interest in Julia Child resulting from the movie "Julie & Julia", we thought you all would enjoy seeing a bit of correspondence from 1980 between Julia and Rob Johnston, Jr., our founder. Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

What's New At The Farm? 9/9/09

We continue to harvest tomatoes; both for fresh eating and for seed. The Late Blight has come and gone and now we begin a seed savers finest time of year. We'll harvest eating tomatoes today and Friday, and seed tomatoes each day this week.

We're getting some fields seeded down for the season. Last week we seeded an acre of purple top turnips and a half acre of kale. This week we're working on a field that we've used for many years; well, let me expand on this.

Probably fifteen years ago I rented a five acre field a couple of miles from the Albion farm. This five acre plot is located in the midst of a much larger field of approximately fifty acres. I rented it the year of the drought and was impressed that I could drive right to it, never giving it a thought as to the field conditions in a wet year; I was just so excited to rent this field! Anyways, this field was owned by a man named Jack so we called it Jack's field; pretty original huh? We started out using the lower parts of the field and as time moved on it became apparent that, in all but an extremely dry year, we would have to move up the hill to avoid the mud issues. Over the years we continued to move up the hill so now we're on the top of the hill.

The field has many advantages: the two biggest ones are the isolation and water availability. Isolation is important as we grow many squashes and pumpkins for seed and don't want them outcrossing with plants from people's gardens or from local growers. This isolation is at least ¾ of a mile from anyone's garden. The other is water availability. Well, this year we didn't need water to irrigate Jack's field but many years we have used the pond water for irrigation. We usually run drip tape under the poly but overhead is fairly easy and we usually only have to do it once a season.

Well, to continue my story, every year or two we move up the hill a bit. Three or four years ago the land changed hands and now we (or we should; old habits die hard) call it Dave's field. Dave harvests hay to sell and he and I discussed seeding down the part of the field we didn't use anymore. After plowing and harrowing and seeding down with grass seed and red clover, we waited. We got a pretty even stand but got a gully washer thundershower before the grass was firmly established. They call them gully washers because that's what they do; they make gullies. We now had gullies running through our newly seeded field and no real good ways of fixing them as the ground was too wet to get on.

At the time we decided not to do anything further with the field as we had much already invested and a poor stand of grass. He's been mowing it for hay or mulch is a better term for it. This year it had a great crop of some daisy-like weed; not much value for hay. The field has been worked over the years and has gotten progressively rougher. Trust me it's rough; I felt like I was bronco riding while plowing it.

If you've been following my column this summer you know we've had a large sprayer spraying our tomato productions for the control of Late Blight. In order to get to our tomatoes at Dave's field, he had to drive his rig through the hayfield and it was pretty wet; I'm sure you know where I'm going with this. Even though we had permission from Dave, I think the ruts were deeper than he imagined they would be. So I got a call the other day asking what we were going to do about the ruts. I went down, and yep, those ruts were pretty deep, and there was standing water in them and they were preventing the water from draining off the field.

Nick went down to the field with me on Tuesday this week. I suggested we plow, harrow, rotovate and reseed. He disagreed. He rotovated it yesterday and we'll be ready for reseeding tomorrow. I plowed the big field - probably around five acres or so. Nick is harrowing it today for seeding on Thursday; it looks like we might get rain for Friday so we'll want to get it done before then. We'll seed it down with Beef Bank which is mostly perennial ryegrass and we'll throw some oats in there for a nurse crop. Hopefully it'll take off and we'll get a good stand finally, and be done with that field.

Until next week, enjoy the weather, Brian.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Pest of the Week, 9/08/09

Common name: Onion Thrips

Latin Name: Thrips tabaci

Life Cycle: All stages overwinter, mainly winged, yellowish-brown female populations (males are rare), eggs laid and hatch 5-10 days later, nymph, pupae, then adult -> entire life cycle is complete in 14-30 days, dependent upon temperature; the warmer the temperature, the shorter the life cycle. Thrips thrive in hot, dry weather.

Plants effected: Onion, garlic, and their relatives, crucifer crops - can cause enough damage to decrease yield or deem crops not harvestable; pest has chewing sucking mouthparts, rasping the plant tissue cell by cell and sucking up the juices; feed deep in leaf axils. Insects are small and hard to see, damage is commonly seen before pest.

Insect Habit: Overwinters as an adult in weed edges or crop leaf residues; populations can explode on crops when weed edges or alfalfa plantings nearby are mowed

Control: Good crop rotation, Entrust (be sure it is applied and runs into the bases of the leaves), sticky traps to monitor (thrips are attracted to yellow and white), irrigate crops, mixing carrots and onions in the same planting may help decrease numbers, grow onions that have resistance (onions with open leaf habit rather than tight-growing leaves), remove volunteer onion plants; because of short life cycle, resistance to chemicals is prevalent; try to reduce chemical control measures

Thursday, September 3, 2009

What's New At The Farm? 9/2/09

An inch of rain over the weekend and I guess we won't have to irrigate at all this year. Not that we mind, but one less thing we have to do. We've plenty to keep us busy this time of year anyways.

We harvested two tomato seed productions this week, Washington Cherry and Gold Nugget. We'll harvest Moskvich and Valencia tomatoes this week and a couple of small melon increases as well. We'll be picking tomatoes for much of the month of September. We didn't have nearly the yields we would have gotten in a normal year; between the poor weather and the Late Blight our yields were considerably reduced. Still, they'll be some.

The Late Blight seems to be in a state of arrest right now and I don't expect it will continue to be much of a problem. When we first discovered it on the 29th of July it spread fast and hard and killed many of our tomatoes. After instituting an aggressive spraying program coupled with a heavy leaf and stem pruning we seem to have contained it. This is the first time we have seen Late Blight in the past 30 years or so and I hope it's the last time. Next year we plan on putting spray rows in so we can spray proactively throughout the season. Typically we stop spraying tomatoes once the plants become so large that we will do too much damage driving through them with the tractor mounted sprayer.

Spray rows are simply a row that's left unplanted so we can drive the tractor down through the field without running over any plants. The sprayer can do three rows at once so that's one on each side of the tractor. With some light modification we can spray two rows per side. By planting four rows, skipping one and planting four more we can spray the entire field without damaging anything. Having spray rows also makes harvesting easier as we can run the harvester down the middle of the field and not just on one edge.

We do have a hose on the sprayer with an application gun but it'd very time consuming and labor intensive to drag a hose all through the field to spray, especially when you have acres to spray.

Spraying is about done for the season. Mike Bowman has done all the spraying this year. I always enjoyed spraying as most results were immediate. The list of crops and pests we spray is quite extensive even though we use a great deal of row covers for insect protection. Springtime insects include lots of flea beetles, aphids and thrips. The summer pest control focuses on diseases, cucumber beetles, potato beetles, Japanese beetles and Mexican bean beetles. Spraying in late summer/early fall is mostly for cabbage moths, tomato hornworms and tarnished plant bugs. There are others but these are the most serious ones.

Well, I've got some seed extraction to do today so I guess I'd better get out there and do it. Until next week, enjoy the crisp and dry weather.


Tuesday, September 1, 2009

JSS Advantage - September 2009

     Johnny's Selected Seeds is pleased to introduce the JSS Advantage, an electronic newsletter for our commercial customers. Our goal is to provide you with timely articles each month that will help you be successful on your farm or market garden. To that end, we will be featuring articles adapted from Growing for Market, a well-respected journal of news and ideas about growing and selling food and flowers. To start a subscription, or learn more about GFM's extensive archive of practical, how-to articles, visit

Fall planting

     In most places, August is the busiest month on the farm or in the garden. Most growers are picking tomatoes, peppers, sweet corn, melons, and other summer crops this month. Winter squash may be starting to mature, and onions and garlic may be drying for winter storage. And, of course, it's time to plant fall crops.
     Many vegetables can be sown now to mature during the next two months, when the cooler weather of autumn will improve their flavor and quality. These include beets, carrots, escarole, endive, greens, kale and collards, kohlrabi, lettuce, bunching onions, peas, radishes, spinach, Swiss chard, and turnips.
The success of the fall garden depends on two key factors:
  1. Getting those cool-loving plants to germinate and grow during the hot days of late summer;

  2. Protecting them from occasional light frosts in fall for a long season of harvest.
     Here are some details about how to meet both requirements for a productive fall garden.
Getting fall plants started
     Many plants that thrive in cool weather will nevertheless germinate just fine in hot weather. Beets, carrots, chard, lettuce, onions, radishes, and turnips will all germinate at soil temperatures of 85°-95°F/29.4°-35°C (though their optimum germination temperatures are about 10° cooler). Those that require 80°F/27° for germination include escarole, endive, kale and kohlrabi. Spinach germinates best at 45°-75°F/7.2°-24°C, and grows best with temperatures in the 60s.
     Because of these different requirements, varieties should be grouped according to their germination requirements. The first group, which will germinate in the heat, can be planted together with no special precautions. Beets, carrots, peas, radishes, and turnips can be direct-seeded in the garden. Swiss chard, lettuce, and onions can be direct-seeded or started in plug trays for transplanting later.
     The plants that need cooler temperatures should get some extra attention. One strategy is to cool the soil by watering it thoroughly in the evening, and then hanging shade cloth on hoops over the bed the next morning. The shade cloth will cool the soil and after a few days, seeds can be sown in the evening, then watered again. Another strategy is to pre-sprout the seeds: soak overnight in a jar of water, then put the jar in the refrigerator for a few days, turning it daily. The germinated seeds require careful handling during planting, and frequent watering after that to keep them from drying out.
     Spinach can be the trickiest crop of all to get established outside in fall. Even if you can get the seed to germinate, spinach is susceptible to bolting during hot weather if it gets stressed by dry soil or crowding. Thin seedlings and keep the spinach bed well-weeded and watered. The sweet flavor and crisp texture of fall spinach will be your reward.
     For all fall crops, daytime watering is essential for the first month. Plan to drip irrigate, sprinkle or mist the fall crops every day that it doesn't rain.

Keeping them going
     If you can get fall crops up and thriving by the end of September, you're well on the way to a bountiful harvest. Don't let a surprise early frost take out your plants. As soon as the weather turns cool, put hoops over your beds and be ready to pull row cover over the hoops whenever the forecast is for temperatures in the 30s.
     Row cover is available in different weights, and you'll find a good explanation of the differences in the Tools and Supplies section of Johnny's catalog. There's also a video about using row cover on Johnny's website, If your weather in autumn tends to swing from hot to cool for several weeks, you may want to anchor row cover with sandbags or T-posts so you more easily remove it during hot spells. If your weather cools down and stays cool, you can bury the edges of the row cover in soil and leave it over the plants.

Fall in the hoophouse
     All the fall crops mentioned above can be grown in an unheated hoophouse for several months longer than in the field. Succession plant these crops for several weeks or plant a larger quantity that can be harvested into the winter. Depending on where you live, you may also be able to grow additional crops in fall in the unheated hoophouse. Beans, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and pac choi may reach maturity if you start them soon. A hoophouse planted now can supply a great selection of vegetables all the way till Thanksgiving.
Some cold-hardy crops can even be harvested all winter. For more information about growing in winter, see Eliot Coleman's new book The Winter Harvest Handbook.

Update your market display

     An axiom of retail merchandising is that after September 1, it's autumn. It doesn't matter if the weather is still hot and leaves won't change color for another month. Nor does it matter that the start of autumn is officially three weeks away. Once the kids are back in school, and the days get noticeably shorter, people want to celebrate the change of seasons.
     For growers who sell at a farm stand or farmers market, September is a good time to revitalize your display and emphasize the transition from summer into fall. That doesn't mean your product selection is going to change overnight; you'll still have summer vegetables, and people will still want to buy them. But, you can change the overall appearance of your stand just by adding a few new items, and placing them front and center to attract attention. Here are some ideas for giving your displays an autumnal theme that will appeal to customers ready to welcome the new season. 

  • Bring in some straw or hay bales. Nothing says "fall harvest" like bales, plus they make handy risers for displaying produce and plants.

  • Put pumpkins around the stand (even if just a few at this point), and put winter squash and pie pumpkins in a prominent position, perhaps spilling out of an overturned basket.

  • After your sweet corn is harvested, cut the plants and gather them into a few shocks simply for decoration. You may find that people want to buy them for their own front yards.

  • If you have onions and garlic, make some braids to hang from your canopy. Again, people may want to buy the braids; you can either get busy braiding, or sell the ingredients along with instructions. Here's a well-illustrated website and a good video.

  • If you sell flowers, make some big, autumnal bouquets in colors of gold, orange, and bronze. A big bucket of sunflowers will look seasonal, too.

  • Brussels sprouts make a big impact when you sell some as whole stems. To get the sprouts to be uniform for whole-stem harvest, you should "top" or pinch out the growing point at the top of the plant when the lower sprouts are 1/2"-3/4" in diameter. A full stem will develop in four weeks. You can treat some of your plants this way, and leave some untopped to provide a longer harvest period.

  • Stimulate summer vegetable sales with recipe cards featuring hearty autumn dishes such as soups and roasted vegetables. Encourage customers to buy larger amounts for freezing, and give them advice on how to do it. For example, provide a pesto recipe and suggest freezing it in an ice-cube tray for flavoring soups and stews in winter.

  • Start seeds now for plants to sell in a few weeks, including arugula, lettuces, salad greens, kale, parsley, and cilantro.

Value-added products

     Too many tomatoes? Maybe you should make salsa. Beautiful herbs? Herbal oils and vinegars might sell well. The bumper crop of peppers? Perhaps you can sell them roasted. Value-added products such as these are popular items at farmer's markets and local stores, and they can increase revenue and extend the selling season for many farms.
     Getting into value-added products takes research, planning and, in some cases, specialized training and certification. It all depends on what kind of product you want to make. 
     Most processed foods have to be made in a commercial kitchen that has been inspected and certified by a state or local health department. Some states may make an exception for farmer's market vendors, though, so the first place to check on requirements is with your farmer's market manager. Even if you don't need to use a commercial kitchen, you might prefer to rent one because the work will go faster with appropriate equipment. Many churches, restaurants, and other small food processors are willing to rent their kitchens, so check around locally. Renting a kitchen is also a good way to test market a product. If it flies, and you enjoy the work, you can think about building your own commercial kitchen later.
The next step is to learn recommended food safety practices for making your product. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition publishes Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) for food processors. Those recommendations can be found on the FDA website.
     Another resource is your state Cooperative Extension Service, which may be able to provide you with specific instructions for making a product, as well as help you meet labeling requirements.
     If you are considering low-acid foods such as soups, you need to attend the Better Processing Control School, which is held several times a year. Again, Extension can help you find the training.
     As for peppers, chile roasters are appearing at farmers markets everywhere. The price of a propane-fired chile roaster ranges from about $300 for a small, tabletop hand-cranked model to $3,000 for a large model on wheels with an electric motor. Although they can increase the value of peppers significantly, they usually need an extra employee to tend them at market, and they have to be thoroughly cleaned before and after use. They may need special licenses because of the open flame, and roasted chiles may even be banned in some places because of food contamination concerns. Check with your local health department for any regulations that may apply.

Product Spotlight: Spectrum Greens Mix and Agribon Row Covers - 9/2009

Spectrum Greens Mix

JSS Product Managers are talking about season extension opportunities and bringing greens to market right through the Fall. A variety that will perform exceptionally well for Growers, that can be planted now and that will survive through light frost is Spectrum Greens Mix, catalog #650. Cover this variety with Agribon and you’d be able to extend the harvest season well past frost. Spectrum Greens Mix grows in a habit that is well suited to be cut with the Greens Harvester for maximum efficiency.

Agribon Row Covers

There are many tools and supplies that will help the Grower extend the season. Adding a protective cover is one of the quickest ways to increase the growing cycle. Here at Johnny's were are particularly excited about Agribon, a row cover material, that depending upon its weight and grade can be used for insect control, warming,
overwintering and heavy freeze protection.

Row covers are lightweight blankets made of spun-bonded polypropylene and are an economical and easy to use. Row covers capture warmth resulting in healthier plantsand earlier yields. They also insulate plants from damaging winds and are the most effective-least toxic-form of insect control.

How to Use: Cover your crops immediately after planting to keep insects out and provide warmth. Apply the cover loosely so plants can lift as they grow, and secure edges with row cover tacks or soil. In some instances, a hoop loop is necessary to protect fragile crops under the row cover or for use with heavier weights.

Supplies Available at Johnny's:

Using the Greens Harvester

Using Row Covers