US (MT): A year at the SIFT Farm

"The SIFT demonstration farm had an exceptional year in regards to education and outreach efforts", according to John Wallace, SIFT Farm Manager. They held five workshops on various sustainable farming topics throughout the season, including composting, strawberry production, cover crops, diversity, and variety taste trials. They also led many tours of the farm to various groups, including: representatives of the Helena Community Gardens; Ukrainian environmental protection delegates; Prince Siboniso Zulu and his colleagues from Nongoma, South Africa; and participants of the annual Alternative Energy Resources Organization Expo.

"Production on the farm this year was restrained by high heat and drought, though succession planning allowed us to have a wide variety of produce supplied through the year. The season began later than usual due to a late hard frost June 12, which managed to affect some of our plant starts and damaged blossoms on the strawberries. Once the ground warmed up, things began to pick up but within two weeks the temperatures exceeded the comfort zone for cool crops meant for early spring. Bolting affected some radishes, Asian greens, and arugula.

"One specific variety of radish, Nero Tondo, did very well and had an exceptional wasabi-like flavor that impressed customers that were prepared for the spicy kick. The peas were scorched by the heat, but this was likely to do with compacted soil in a new area and the inability for the roots to grow down. The heat lasted all summer long with no relief, resulting in dense wildfire smoke being trapped in the valley. This distorted the light spectrum with a red-orange haze that likely influenced the plants in some way.

"In the middle of September, just as the tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant began fruiting heavily, we shifted back into the typical Montana weather cycle that brought snow and freezing temperatures. The season-extension tools protected the plants throughout the first few cold blasts, but inevitably our beans and squash, which were covered in a hoop house, had frozen. Last year, in comparison, we were able to grow into early November due to a warm fall."

Read the full report here.

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