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Farm Fueled Friday 5/25

It’s Friday!  Another week has passed and our small farms continue to scramble to keep up with the growing season.  This Farm Fueled Friday is the last one before the annual celebration of Memorial Day to remember the great men and women who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for our country.  Our small farms honor their legacy as they continue to work hard and provide our community with fresh food products.

This Farm Fueled Friday is exciting as we continue to head full steam ahead for the hot northwest Florida summer.  Last week we introduced some of the different things going on with small farms in Santa Rosa County.  Plastic mulch was one of the things mentioned for growing fresh vegetables.  Plastic mulch can improve the weed pressure, moisture control, and also help bring an earlier crop in the spring.  The drawback to plastic mulch is the cost.  It requires specialized equipment to lay the plastic and drip tape irrigation.

Another problem that is encountered with plastic mulch is the reality of the difficulty of removing the plastic at the end of the season.  Although double cropping (example: grow squash April-July and collards July-October) can offset the operation cost of your vegetable production, it still needs to be taken up at the end of both growing seasons.  If the small farms operation is large enough and can justify the expense, it is a great tool to help grow vegetables.

There is another way of growing vegetables that may be a better option for small farms that do not have the equipment necessary for laying plastic.  The way to do this is to grow a cover crop and then roll it flat to form a natural weed barrier mat.  This method of growing vegetables has often been used for organic production but could also be utilized for small farmers in Santa Rosa County.

Farm Fueled Friday will show you in three simple steps how to utilize this system of production.

  1. Grow a cover crop.  There are many different types of cover crops to choose from.  Some winter cover crops that could be used are: rye, hairy vetch, and wheat.  For summer cover crops, sun hemp and sorghum-sudan could be used.  Fertilizer inputs and possible irrigation should be considered in order to achieve enough biomass to appropriately cover the ground.
  2. Before planting, run a roller or crimper over your field to force the cover crop to lie down and form a weed barrier mat.  The roller crimper is something that would have to be purchased (this again could get expensive) or one could possibly be custom built from an existing piece of farm equipment.  Run your drip tape for irrigation and fertigation.
  3. Once your field has been prepared you can either plant by hand or use a tractor attachment planter.

This method of addressing weed pressure and moisture control could save farmers thousands of dollars that are spent on specialized plastic laying equipment, materials, and labor to remove plastic.  Consider this option and leave a comment about any other alternatives to plastic that you have encountered.

Farm Fueled Friday would like to present this week’s highlighted farmer of the week, Robin White.  Robin White is the owner of Farm Girl Produce.  Farm Girl Produce has a lot of variety in their production from fresh vegetables, raw milk*, and fresh chicken eggs*.

*(For animal consumption)

Robin’s operation has now been up and running for three years and is growing quickly.  She is predominately selling at the Palafox Farmers Market in downtown Pensacola.  To learn more about her operation and see her updates, check out her facebook page here.

Permanent link to this article: http://santarosa.ifas.ufl.edu/hort/2012/05/25/farm-fueled-friday-525/