Friday, May 22, 2009

Frost Event- Vegetable Transplants and Strawberries

Monday night we had some very cold temperatures. Asheville Airport reported a record low of 35 degrees F and the Mountain Research Station in Waynesville reported 31 degrees F. That is pretty cold for the third week in May!

Vegetables/ Vegetable Transplants:
Most commercial growers were out in their fields early Tuesday morning taking precautionary measures to protect their young vegetable transplants. Some growers sprayed water, while others lit fires in drive rows.

Because most vegetables are planted on plastic, they remain somewhat warmer than air temperature. But, I did see some tomato transplants that had some minor frost damage. In the pictures below, notice the tips of the leaves looked burned. Also, we saw some speckling on the leaflets (bottom picture). Luckily, these plants didn't suffer severe damage and will be able to grow out of the damage. Pepper plants and cucumber plants in the same field didn't exhibit symptoms of frost damage.

Most strawberry growers were able to put on row covers to protect blooms.

Did you know? Just 10-15 minutes of ice crystals on strawberry blossoms can cause serious damage, such as irregular shaped fruit, resulting in economic injury. Temperatures don't need to fall below 32-33 degrees F to result in damage.

Revisit my blog entry "Cold Damage Strawberries" for more information and videos on assessing damage.

I want to hear from you:
Did you experience any frost damage this week?
Have you experienced any damage this season?

Use the comment feature to post a comment.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Proud of My Roots

Most of you know that I am from the littlest state in the US, Rhode Island (RI). But, many people aren't aware that there is actual farming in RI. Well, there certainly is.

Every year of my life, my family would visit the apple orchards - and nearly every single one of them because I would NOT go home until I found the absolutely, most perfect round and orange pumpkin. I also would not let my family rest, or get warm and dry, in my search for the perfect Christmas tree, which we would chose and cut every year. We had a knack for picking the coldest and snowiest days to search for the perfect tree.

With the economic crisis causing dramatic job losses in RI, the bright spot in the state is agriculture. In a recent article published in the Providence Journal, "Rhode Island-Grown Produce Stimulates Market - And Taste Buds - For More", the strength of the industry and the importance of locally grown was emphasized.

"After a century of constant and dramatic decline, the number of farms in Rhode Island has grown in the last several years with nearly 300 new, small farms. (National trends are up to, but only by 4 percent; Rhode Island is up 42 percent.)"

That is amazing because RI is small! RI is a mere
1,545 square miles (smaller than Henderson (375 sq mi), Haywood (555 sq mi) and Buncombe County (660 sq mi) combined).

RI also has an excellent website that helps consumers locate farms and farm products,

Not bad for the smallest state in the US, huh?

Organic Farming Practices Eligible for Cost-Share

RALEIGH,—Organic farming conservation practices will now be eligible for Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) cost-share funds. Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan announced $50 Million for a new initiative to meet the Obama Administration’s promise to encourage more organic agriculture production. North Carolina will receive $1,021,496 under the new initiative.

The 2009 Organic Initiative is a nationwide special initiative to provide financial assistance to National Organic Program (NOP) certified organic producers as well as producers in the process of transitioning to organic production. Organic producers may also apply for assistance under general EQIP.

Under the Organic Initiative required minimum core conservation practices will be determined by specific resource concerns. The practices include: Conservation Crop Rotation; Cover Crop; Nutrient Management; Pest Management; Prescribed Grazing; and Forage Harvest Management.

North Carolina will include other conservation practices that address the resource concerns found on farms in the state.

Applications received from organic producers or producers in transition to organic farming will be accepted under this initiative between May 11 and May 29. Applications will be ranked at that time.

The 2009 Organic Initiative will be administered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Interested producers should visit their nearest USDA Service Center to determine eligibility. Additional information on the 2009 EQIP Organic Initiative is available at:

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Changes in Pesticide Record Keeping Rule

MONDAY, MAY 4, 2009

CONTACT: Jim Burnette, Jr., director
NCDA&CS Structural Pest Control and Pesticides Division
(919) 733-3556
N.C. Pesticide Board adopts pesticide record-keeping rule changes for growers and aerial applicators

RALEIGH — Several new pesticide record-keeping rules went into effect May 1 following approval by the N.C. Pesticide Board. The new rules involve recording the ending time of applications, the recording of daily applications and how long growers must maintain records.

The changes reflect recommendations of the 2008 Governor’s Task Force on Preventing Agricultural Pesticide Exposure and implement the requirements of Senate Bill 847.

Growers making applications that fall under the scope of the federal Worker Protection Standard must now add the actual “end time” of application to the records under the change. This is in addition to the “time of the application” that is required to be posted before the application takes place under the current WPS regulations.

Also each day of application must be recorded as a separate application record. After application information has been displayed for the appropriate time (30 days after the restricted-entry period expires), the application information must now be maintained for a period of two years. This coincides with the USDA Requirements for Restricted-Use Pesticides.

Also effective May 1, aerial applicators must record the year, month, date and time of day when each pesticide application was completed for every pesticide application. Additionally, each day of aerial applications must be recorded as a separate record. The commercial ground applicators regulation addressing the same issues for restricted-use pesticides became effective April 1.

Revised record keeping forms may be downloaded from the Structural Pest Control and Pesticides Division’s Web page,, or from your local Cooperative Extension Service. Applicators requiring assistance with these or any pesticide regulation, may contact the NCDA&CS Pesticide Section at (919) 733-3556 for help.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Using the Internet to Market Your Agri-Business

Last week I attended a training for agents on "The Business Side of Agri-Toursim". It was an excellent training and ranged from topics on liability insurance to collaboration to website design.

You all know my feeling about technology and the use of the internet and social media, so of course I was most intrigued by the section of the training entitled "Making Your Website Work for You" presented by Scott Cagle of Safe and Sound Solutions.

Here are a few tips that I gathered from the session.

  • You need to be found! You can have the most beautiful website out there, but if search engines can't find you no one will ever see it. Search engines (like Google or Altavista) find text in a webpage and read it. They can't find pictures. Use key words in text often and also put key word into the URL. Ask your clients what they searched to find you on the internet.
  • Make your contact information readily available and easy to get to. How often have you wanted to contact someone from a webpage, but not been able to find out where or how to do that? It is pretty frustrating.
  • Make Your Website Look Fresh. You can easily tell a dated picture by hairstyles and clothes, so make sure you are current. Also, this will keep a visitor coming back. A good way to do this is by having a photo contest that your customers participate in. Customers love this and they supply you with current the photos!
  • Keep Your Site Updated. Make sure that your site is updated with current events and current prices.
  • "3 Clicks In" Rule. If a visitor can't find what they are looking for in 3 clicks into your website, they will leave. Also, if you have external links in your site, make sure they open in a new window- you don't want your visitors navigating away from your page.
  • Static Pages Rank Better Than Anything You Can Build. Make your homepage static and place the key words often on this page. Combining your blog into your static pages on your website is even better for search engine optimization!
  • Let Someone Who Knows Nothing About the Internet Navigate Your Site. Not everyone is savvy when it comes to the internet. Put a list of items you would like a visitor to find and have a friend or family member who is not versed in the web navigate your site- without your help. If they can't find it, neither can your customers.

Here are some excellent examples of websites and blogs that were featured in the training.

Patterson Farm
- Easily navigated, easily updated by business owner.
Cagle's Dairy Farm - Easily navigated site
The Farmhouse Inn - Beautiful site developed by Scott Cagle
Vollmer Farm - Blog that uses pictures and video

There are other businesses out there that use websites and social media to advertise. Can you share your favorites? Use the comment option.
Thanks and Good Luck!