This week is National Farmer’s Market week. It’s wonderful that there is a week to recognize all the hard work and dedication it takes to be a small-scale farmer and bring your goods to the masses!
Farming on a small scale is more challenging than running a large acreage of rotational crops like field corn and beans. Small diversified crop farms can be so much more complicated. A small-scale farmer may have to be knowledgeable about 10-30 plant types, their specific cultivation, insect issues, disease issues, planting, harvesting etc. Many of their plants are started in hoop houses and greenhouses starting in February.
Watering and weeding are likely the two biggest field chores. Avoid either one and your rewards diminish quickly as the weeds flourish with neglect. Many small farms/large gardens are cared for without equipment and the continuous work can be intensive. Many growers also work other jobs as it is difficult to make a living on this alone when our season is only half of the year.
Smaller livestock and poultry farmers tend to be more organic in practices. Local meat choices are abundant and of high quality. This is not a 9-5 job, and weekends are just another day to work!
Markets may also consist of a variety of vendors selling art, textiles, soaps, plants and bakery goods! So the next time you shop a market you may see a $5 melon on the table, but that farmer sees the results of three months of growing, weeding, cultivating, watering etc. It’s a great connection that is available to us — to meet your farmers and sellers face to face and know where your food is coming from.
In addition to being a grower or producer, small-scale farmers also need sales and marketing skills, they need transportation, they need to set-up their booth. The list goes on.
Hats off to all of you that do the hard work to make produce, meats and other hand-crafted products so readily available to markets locally and across the country.
Feelin’ HOT HOT HOT
Container plants can start to decline this time of year, just when you are expecting volume and wow! Usually the culprit is simple: water.
There is no exact answer to when and how much as there are many variables. Heavier potting soil will retain moisture better than a lightweight media. Is the plant in full sun all day? How well drained is the container? How many plants are in the pot competing for moisture? Most containers dry out everyday or every other day in full sun, and should receive enough water to wet the entire root ball.
If the plants are drying out twice a day, either your pots are too small or your plants are too big or they need to be relocated to another spot. Plants that are on decks or up near your exterior walls are also getting a lot of reflective heat and sun off of the surrounding materials. If you wonder how the plant feels, stand next to it for a few minutes when it’s sunny and see if there is excessive heat you may not have noticed before.
If you find a neglected or overlooked plant that is very wilted, move it to the shade if possible and water well. In this situation, you may allow it to stand in a dish/tray of water for several hours, then remove it. Containers should not normally be setting in dishes that won’t allow free drainage, but sometimes a good soaking is needed.
When container plants become extremely dry the soil shrinks up and away from the edge of the container. So, when you water, even though it’s dry, the water may just run directly through. Sometimes scruffing up the top layer of soil back to normal will improve the ability to take up water. Container mixes are often soil-less and contain large amounts of peat moss. Once dried out, peat moss can be very impervious to water, like trying to soak plastic!
Another shout out to the Minnesota River Valley Master Gardeners that presented round two of iris demos and plant away Saturday at the Mankato Farmer’s Market. Thanks Barb, Barb and Joyce and other Master Gardeners who helped to get people planting!
The Mankato Farmers’ Market is now open for 2019, 8 a.m. to noon Saturdays in the Best Buy parking lot in Mankato. The Tuesday market is held 3:30-6 p.m. at Best Buy. The Thursday market will be held 3:30-6 p.m. at the Food Hub in Old Town, 512 N. Riverfront Drive.