2012 Growing Season: Student Farm Perspective

As we close out the 2012 growing season, I’d like to take a chance to look back over the season and reflect.

In the student farm this year, we planted things earlier than ever before and started all our own seedlings.  We had a lot of successes and a lot of learning experiences.  This year we implemented a long term crop rotation plan including a continuous cover crop section.  We used more insect controls than ever before and irrigated (by hose in hand) more than ever before.

Some of notably successful crops included sweet corn, beets, sunflowers, basil, lettuce, kale, and peppers, but most of our crops did fairly well.

Despite attempts to control cabbage worms, our broccoli and cauliflower did not fare well against them.   Our tomato and pumpkin yields were also relatively small compared to past years.

Tomatoes with trellises

We tried a new trellis system for our tomatoes and peas and it worked pretty well.  We used fence stakes with three levels of wire between.  This worked well, although required maintenance to keep the wire taut and we could have used more posts in between.  Although the 5-ft posts cost around $5 a piece, they can be used year to year (unlike wood posts which can harbor disease).  We also used an insect barrier, an organic method to reduce insect feeding with various amounts of success.  We placed the mesh-like covering over plants right after seeding or transplanting and secured the edges.  This gives the plant some time to get established without insect pressure.  If the plant needs pollination, then it must be removed when the flowers arrive such as pumpkins, cucumbers, etc.  This worked well for our squashes, pumpkins, and cucumbers to deter cucumber beetles, but the cabbage worms seemed to find there way under for the broccoli and cauliflower.

Insect barriers on squashes and pumpkins: removed as plants mature

This year we are also focusing on planting cover crop to improve soil fertility.  We are unable to use traditional fertility methods such as manure and compost (because of regulations according to Dining Services), so we are focusing on cover crops as one of our primary methods of fertilization.  This year, we incorporated a cover crop section into our crop rotation.  So, during the entire season, one section was planted in common buckwheat and then in the fall, the entire farm is planted in a fall cover crop.  This year we are trying hairy vetch and rye mix.  Although the hairy vetch does best when planted in late August to get established, the rye can be planted until mid-October or so.

Common Buckwheat mid-summer

We are still harvesting today: carrots, beets, pumpkins, winter squash, kale, radishes, etc., but things are winding down.

How did your crops do this year?  What did you learn that worked and didn’t work for you?


Farmer Training Program Accepting Applicants, Emmaus PA.

The New Farmer Training Program and Agricultural Incubator at the Seed Farm in Emmaus Pennsylvania is now accepting applications for the 2013 season. This intensive organic vegetable training program includes 500 hours of on farm training and 100 hours of formal workshops and classes. Participants build skills and create their own production and business plans. Graduates of the training program qualify for the agricultural incubator where they can farm on county owned land with access to equipment, greenhouse/ cooler space and continued mentorship.

This is an exciting time to start farming. With five times more farmers over the age of 65 than under 35 we need new farmers like you. Local food is hot. The trend favoring local food and know your farmer is in your favor. We have come a long way since the word ‘locavore’ was invented in 2005 by Chef Jessica Prentice in San Francisco. Now everyone knows that local food means fresh, tasty, more sustainable and supporting local communities. They are asking for local food. Four out of five respondents to a 2006 national survey said they purchased fresh produce directly from growers either occasionally or always. These local saavy consumers are in your neighborhood. One in five US consumers live within a days drive of SE PA.

Sometimes making the leap from farm worker to farm owner is difficult, or seemingly impossible, without the land, equipment, and capital to get started. Farm ownership includes many pieces not always covered in a typical on-farm learning experience; such as how to piece together a marketing plan, manage crop plantings and rotations, and plan ahead for looming pest and disease problems. The Seed Farm program helps build a bridge from farm worker to farm owner by giving you experience in key areas including management, tractor/ equipment use, business planning, and marketing. The incubator portion of the program will then allow you to start your business, building your customer base, credit and skills with continued support among a community of farmers.

During the training program, apprentices build skills in greenhouse production, seeding, transplanting, irrigation, soils, cover crops, pest management, weed management, season extension, and post harvest handling. They also have a crop project in which they develop a comprehensive plan for a particular crop and manage it throughout the season. Trainees also rotate through five management areas: greenhouse, compost, farmers market, cover crop, and high tunnel where they make key decisions and delegate tasks with the support of the farm manager. Equipment training is an emphasis at the Seed Farm. We have a wide range of seeding, transplanting, cultivation, and soil tillage tools that are demonstrated and used at the farm. On-farm training is complemented by classroom activities including the following courses organized by Penn State Extension: Exploring the Small Farm Dream, Introduction to Organic Vegetable Production, and Vegetable Business Planner. In addition, farm visits are arranged through the local CRAFT (Collaborative Alliance for New Farmer Training) apprentice program and PASA (Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture).

Pennsylvania is a wonderful place to learn to farm. In addition to the Seed Farm there is a fabulous community of mentor farmers through the Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training (CRAFT) which the Seed Farm participates in; the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (PASA), the New Jersey Organic Farming Association (NOFA NJ), and Penn State Extension – Start Farming programs provide a wide assortment of workshops and resources in this area.

For more information and application materials visit www.theseedfarm.org or call Seed Farm Director Sara Runkel (610) 391-9583 ex.16. Applications are due October 15, 2012.


Time to start thinking about planting a cover crop this fall…

Hi gardeners,

Have you ever heard of cover crops? These are crops you plant with the intention of tilling back in to improve the conditions of your soil.  Cover crops are usually planted in fall and tilled in the spring.

To learn more about cover crops, check out this Penn State Extension publication…. http://extension.psu.edu/start-farming/news/2012/get-ready-for-cover-crop-seeding?utm_campaign=Start+Farming+Blog&utm_medium=email&utm_source=newsletter

It’s time to start thinking about this so you have time to purchase your cover crops and plan when and how to plant them. We will planting a mix of hairy vetch and rye in the student farm in September!

Part Time Positions Available

Are you a student who lives nearby campus and/or is on campus this summer?

Consider getting a job as a part-time Student Farmer at the Lafayette College Community Garden and Student Farm! Position will start ASAP and last the duration of the summer. Hours are flexible around other jobs/obligations. Activities include, but not limited to:  weeding, watering, planting, tilling, maintenance of grounds and equipment, set up and selling at weekly Campus Farm Stands, and much more!  No experience necessary.

Email me at bellj@lafayette.edu ASAP if you are interested!!

You are also encouraged to participate in field trips to local farms and apprentice days!


Updated Resources Pages

Hi folks!

We have updated our “Resources” tab on our website to include a more complete list of books, blogs, organizations, and films.  Thanks to Professor Ben Cohen for all the help!

Hope you are all having a good Spring and planting away!

Community Outreach Events Summary Spring 2012

This semester we’ve been busy! Now it’s time for students to focus on Finals and the last couple weeks of the semester.

We’ve had a lot of great events this semester including events for Lafayette students, but also local school kids as well! Here’s a brief summary of some of our events this Spring…

1) Lafayette College Student Farm Weed N Feed Events
This semester we had a total of three “Weed N Feed” events for Lafayette students to get involved in helping out at the student farm. On March 23, April 1, and April 13, students came to the garden and helped weed, water, and plant crops. Afterwards, we headed to Sicilly II, a local pizza place in Forks Township for dinner or lunch. The number of students involved in these events increased at each event. We had 20+ at the final event. Thanks to all the enthusiastic students who helped out!!!









2) Bike to the Garden
On April 29 (postponed from April 22) we had our first annual Bike to the Garden Event where students rode their bikes to the garden, had a picnic, worked at the garden, and then rode back to campus. It was a great event with yummy food and a free PASA water bottle for students!

3)Moravian Academy Middle School
On April 18th, 16 students from Moravian Academy Middle School came out the farm for a Day of Service. They were 6th, 7th, and 8th graders and were a wonderful help!!!!!!! First, they got a quick lesson from Professor Art Kney and Emily Crossette ’15 about watersheds, landscapes, and pollution and then worked at the farm building fence and planting potatoes and peas. Thanks to all the wonderful students for your help!!!

4) Kids in the Community (KIC), A Landis Program
On both April 30 and May 1, two large groups of elementary students from Easton along with many Lafayette Landis student volunteers visited the farm to take a quick tour and learn about sustainability and local food. After seeing the sites, they planted some organic green bean plants to take home with them.

Community Garden Gazebo: Under Construction

This gazebo is the first project undertaken by the new Lafayette student chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council. This group was founded in the fall of 2010 to help promote green architecture and sustainable structural design at Lafayette and in the Easton community. The concept for the gazebo grew out of discussions with Jenn Bell and its goal is to provide a recreational and community gathering point for workers and visitors at Lafayette’s Organic Garden.

The original plans (created by Lafayette students) for the gazebo went through several iterations, with the final design chosen in Spring of 2011. Construction began in Fall, 2011, with the gazebo composed predominately of recycled and reclaimed materials. The majority of lumber used for the wood was taken with the permission of Lafayette’s Plant Operations from ramps used during construction at Acopian Engineering Center and Pardee Hall. The gazebo’s four columns are supported by a foundation of pervious concrete, using a mix developed in the thesis research of senior Civil and Environmental Engineering students. The roof is a sustainable Pergola canvas, selected for its lightweight, environmentally-friendly material.

The gazebo is due to be completed prior to Earth Day, 2012. The final layout will include a berm of raised soil and native plants around the exterior, and benches inside the gazebo also made from reclaimed lumber.

This gazebo has been constructed solely by student members of the Lafayette College U.S. Green Building Council Student Group and supported financially in large part through the generosity of Turner Construction.

By Sarah Welsh-Huggins `12


Philly Farm and Food Fest was GREAT!

Happy Monday, folks!

Just a local/regional food update here. This past Sunday at the Philadelphia Convention Center was the first ever Philly Farm and Food Fest. Over a hundred exhibitors came together to showcase their local foods, farms, products, and food-related services. The event was sponsored by Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (PASA, which we are a member farm) and Fair Food Philly.

Here is an article summing up the event at philly.com: http://www.philly.com/philly/food/20120402_Farm_and_Food_Fest_highlights_local_producers.html

Many of our regions farmers were there with cheeses, produce, honey, soaps, apples, cookies, hummus, ice cream, jams, breads, seedlings and seeds, locally grown and milled flours, and much more.  Not only did we get to sample foods and meet many wonderful people, we were also able to take some classes/seminars.  I attended two: an intro to beekeeping, and a second on the importance of seed saving.  Both were very educational, entertaining, and led by great speakers.

Hopefully this will be an annual event to celebrate and sample our growing local food movement here in eastern PA.

Weed N Feed: Volunteer Day changed to SUNDAY!!

Hi everyone!

Want to help out at the community garden and student farm?! Come to our second Weed N Feed event on Sunday, April 1 from 10:30 to 2:30. No experience necessary… any one can lend a hand. We’ll be weeding and prepping.

Pizza will be provided. Please RSVP to bellj@lafayette.edu for a head count.

Julia and Emily plant peas at the first Weed N Feed 2012