Below is my semester project for my internship at the Howdy Farm. I decided to make a recipe book to promote consumer education and farm marketing. I chose 10 unique vegetables we grew on the farm this season and researched recipes for those vegetables. All are vegetarian options, which appeals to a specific target group the Howdy Farm encounters when selling its products.
I hope you enjoy!
The spring semester always flies by. Spring 2017 was no different, and I would say it has gone in the blink of an eye.
My semester at the Howdy Farm provided me with a hands-on educational experience in which I was able to grow my technical knowledge of horticultural production, but also taught me a lot of life lessons. I tend to be a list person, so here are a few things I took away from my experience at the Howdy Farm this semester:
4. A mutual goal makes for an instant connection. Pulling weeds, planting seeds and spreading mulch are tasks that provide ample time to have great conversations and get to know someone on a deep level. I had countless conversations with volunteers, some that were very small-talk oriented and others that caused me to leave the farm knowing I had made a new friend. Conversations ranged from family to school to life struggles, but I cannot count the times I laughed until my stomach hurt. I think having a common goal to complete a given task is what forms a friendship. We shared in our current experience, and made it more fun by sharing stories about our lives. I did not use my Howdy Farm experience as social hour, but I am thankful for the friendships I made through this experience.
This semester was pivotal in my education here at Texas A&M, and I think The Howdy Farm has a huge part in that. I have a renewed faith in my area of study, that it directly fits my skills and passions. I am thankful for this invaluable experience, and I look forward to being involved with the Howdy Farm in the future.
Thanks and Gig 'Em.
All good things must come to an end, but they also open up the doors for a new beginning. In our case, a field has been cleared for another season.
Harvest has finished in some areas of the farm, and we were left with empty soil, aside from the residues left over from the previous crop. The preparation for the next season began immediately after clearing the produce.
It is always exciting to see the end product of any project.
At the Howdy Farm, our end product is the produce, and we sell most of it at the Brazos Valley Farmers' Market in Downtown Bryan on Saturday mornings.
Our product line for this particular morning included Yukon Gold potatoes, Red Pontiac potatoes, red butterhead lettuce heads, red leaf lettuce, Napa cabbage, green magic broccoli and Texas Legend sweet onions. The customers selected what they wanted, and we weighed their potatoes and broccoli to determine the price. The lettuce, cabbage and onions were sold by quantity, rather than by weight.
I was able to walk around and have conversations with a few other vendors. I met the "Jammin' Granny" who raises produce specifically to make specialty jams and jellies. I bought a few jars from her to take home as gifts for two of my roommates. I also bought a jar of bread and butter pickles for my other roommate.
The other vendors showed great pride in their products and had incredible stories to tell about how they became interested in their particular business.
I have decided to visit the farmers' market more often. I love the wide variety of farm fresh product and the atmosphere was incredibly friendly..
I learned that as the weather starts to warm up, cold crops like lettuce, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower and brussels sprouts start to get bitter and rotten more quickly. Mature lettuce gets woody, and goes bad quickly, so immediately after washing, we shook of the excess water and placed them in coolers for storage in the refrigerator. The lettuce could stay in there for up to ten days without going bad.
I cannot express how rewarding it feels to finally be able to harvest. It truly makes me feel accomplished, even though the fragile lettuce frustrated me how easily it came apart and the discovery of a few cutworms was a little discouraging. Despite all of that, I love being able to produce something that others will enjoy.
The farm is finally in full bloom!
After spring break, the farm welcomed us back with bright colors, full ____ and ripe produce. The warmer temperatures and sunlight definitely did the whole farm a favor, and the farm looks so lush and beautiful after a rough winter.
After the pea harvest, we moved on to harvest brussels sprouts. Most of the plant went to compost, and some of the nodules were rotten from the rain and excessive humidity a few days before. I got to take home a few brussels sprouts. I plan to eat them next week for dinner. I found a great recipe online for Honey Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts at: keviniscooking.com/roasted-brussels-sprouts-balsamic-vinegar-honey/. I love getting to bring home produce from the farm and make my own delicious creations!
Harvesting will continue periodically, and I'm excited to (literally) see the fruits of our labor this semester. I am looking forward to going to farmers markets in the coming weeks and selling the produce we have.
Mulching and composting are two essential practices at the Howdy Farm. These practices were new to me, but throughout the semester, I have learned how beneficial they are to production.
This week we hosted our first group volunteer session at the farm. Shoutout to the Aggie Gentlemen of Integrity for all of their hard work!
It was exciting and overwhelming at the same time. There were a lot of people to direct and manage, but I was thankful the group was so responsive and willing to help with the various activities we had on our agenda for the day.
We spent the day weeding the beds at the entrance of the farm, and laid mulch in other permanent beds throughout the farm. It was another much-needed cleaning day, and we needed all the hands we could get in order to cover the ground.
When I decided to do this internship, I did not realize how great of an opportunity it would be to develop my own leadership skills. When volunteers come to the farm, they look to Corey and the interns for direction. Just a few short weeks ago, I was the one constantly seeking direction and appearing clueless when it came to understanding what was going on. Now, I feel more comfortable working on the farm and I am able to give directions clearly and effectively.
Our first wave of group volunteers taught me just how important experience is to learning. Without the prior experience of the first two weeks, I would not have learned as quickly. I probably would not have been able to give directions as well.
I have also learned the meaning of strength in numbers. Keep the volunteers coming!
The beginning of any season is full of unknowns.
What I know right now is the trellises for the peas make the farm look really neat. We planted three different pea varieties along the newly erected trellises. Snow peas are flat and tender, are typically used for stir fry meals, and are harvested before they have matured completely. Sugar snap peas are crisp and full, grown with the intention to consume the seeds and pods. Garden peas are produced for the seeds only. I am eager to watch the peas climb the trellises as they grow.
I also know that turnip seeds are extremely small and unassuming. We planted the turnip seeds after spreading mushroom compost. We used a planting method similar to a "broadcast" method. Since the seeds are so small, we sprinkled four to five seeds in each spot about two to three inches from each other. When the turnips emerge, we will thin out the plants that appear to be less viable than the others.
Another thing I know is the salvia and sage cuttings are off to a great start. We took the sage cuttings from existing plants, dipped them in a rooting powder, and placed them in perlite to start out. Once the cuttings start growing their own roots, we will removed them from the medium to continue growing elsewhere.
With all of these known facts, the unknowns still lurked in the back of my mind. What if a storm ruins all of our crop? What if an untimely freeze damages everything we have planted? What if the crops suffer from unseasonable heat stress?
As these thoughts raced through my mind, I came to a brick on the farm with a sweet reminder etched in stone.
"Gardening is a way of showing that you believe in tomorrow."
I took that in for a moment, and looked at the farm, all of the life surrounding me. Gardening requires faith, hope and determination. Each season brings new challenges, but it helps to believe that tomorrow will be a better day. We don't know what challenges will be thrown our way. but we put seeds in the ground, fight the doubt, and begin new season.
This week was full of rewarding activities and wonderful conversations. I formed new friendships, and found a greater appreciation for the work we are doing on the farm. With the seeds in the ground, hopes are high.