I have learned so much working on Grand Oak Farm.
Camille is a very experienced farmer and has taught me many different aspects of farming that I didn’t know before. Dana is very knowledgeable about finding and using different resources to grow the farming business. I have enjoyed the yin and yang of working with these two.
Now that the season is in full swing, I start harvesting first thing when I arrive. We usually start off by harvesting lettuce mix. Camille is such a good farmer that she is growing lettuce mix in the summer using shade cloth, and she is still learning and sharing new techniques. Definitely something I would like to strive for in the future. I have learned the most in the washing station and with post-harvest handling. Up to this point, my technique has been to harvest and immediately sell or donate the veggies, because I have no cold storage. Grand Oak has both cool (~60 degrees) and cold (~40 degrees) walk-in coolers. And now I know where to get packaging and storage materials. I really enjoy using their 3-bay sink (which is needed to become certified organic) with an overhead sprayer. Working in their wash station really has me thinking about how I would like to set up a washing station on my farm someday.
Camille and Dana are doing some exciting stuff with planting this year. They are conducting a trial for the University of Tennessee, using a paper landscape fabric. It has already shown good results reducing flea beetles on the eggplants and can be tilled in after the season. They are also experimenting with flowers. Also, for bed preparation, Dana is using a tiller attached to a small tractor, as opposed to a 2-wheel tractor used by most market gardeners.
The weeds at Grand Oak haven’t been very bad so far this season, due to the use of landscape fabric and planting immediately after tilling. We’ve weeded primarily by hand so far. I have also used a wheel hoe and a scuffle hoe around the irrigation line (another lesson learned). The biggest issue on Grand Oak has been dodder – a parasitic plant that can take over the garden. They think it was tilled up when they prepped the fields in the fall. Fortunately, if they stay on top of the dodder issue this year, it will not be a problem in the future.
Dana has shared a lot of knowledge with me, as she has spent her career working for NRCS. She knows so much about where to find answers to questions I have and different sources of funding farmers can apply for. I am so glad to be working with her and to have her guidance, as my wife and I prepare to buy a farm of our own. I have learned where to get my water source tested (for free! Thanks, Dana!), where to go for assistance with farm planning, and how to apply for funding assistance for the next 9 years.
I am thrilled to be working with Camille and Dana this season on Grand Oak Farm. Thank you ASD and Appalachian RC&D for this opportunity!