With only a few days left in the semester, my internship at the Howdy Farm has come to an end. I am no longer an intern at the farm and will be giving my final presentation on Monday. I am sad for my experiences to be coming to a stop but so grateful for what the farm has given me. Interning at the farm has taught me more than I would have ever imagined. It was great to be able to put all the knowledge I have learned in the classroom to test, and see how much I actually know when applying it to real life. On top of that, I learned so much that I didn't know before from just hands on experience! I am now way more familiar with growing plants in Texas' environment, and I have learned many useful skills while at the farm. Working at the farm has taught me many different germination and propagation techniques, how to harvest, and even how to install irrigation! It has been an amazing internship, with tons of experiential learning involved.
Thursdays are my favorite day of the week to go to the Howdy Farm because we get to just sit on the porch at the farm and sale veggies to the community all afternoon. It's great to see all the people who come on out to the farm, and the support we get from the community is amazing. This past Thursday we had over a hundred heads of lettuce to sale. Our romaine lettuce was a huge hit, with the butterhead and bronze beauty varieties not being too far behind.
On Wednesday the majority of our field was full of huge, beautiful heads of lettuce. During volunteer hours we harvested all the heads into bins. We then carefully washed every head by hand, and stored the produce in our walk in cooler inside of the Horticulture building. Then, on Thursday we set up a table and sell our yummy, organic produce right on the front porch of our building! This is the protocol pretty much every week, and it is always a hit.
Most weeks we have a small variety of the different fruits or vegetables that we grew on the farm. Unfortunately this week we only had lettuces to sale, but soon the farm should be expecting a wider mix of produce. We have dozens of carrots that will soon be harvested, beats and radishes will follow soon after, and we should even have some broccoli available soon! The Howdy Farm is an amazing place and I love that we get to invite the community out to buy our fresh produce every week.
Thanksgiving is a special time of year, and it is important to remember those who are less fortunate than most. So, since the holiday was approaching and we would not be attending the farmers market this week, the Howdy Farm harvested and donated a fresh supply of leafy greens to our local food bank. Around 80 pounds of butterhead lettuce, romaine lettuce, and cabbage were donated to the Brazos Valley Food Bank. On Monday a group of Howdy Farm members harvested all the greens that were ready, then washed all the heads by hand and recorded the weights from the harvest. Our group then personally donated the veggies to the food bank, and helped them box up the veggies for delivery.
Overall, donating the vegetables we personally grew at the farm was an amazing experience. Its great to be able to provide the less fortunate with healthy, fresh foods that they probably do not get often. I cannot wait to be able to join the Howdy Farm in their next fresh veggie donation.
Yesterday, Saturday November 14th, I attended the weekly Saturday Farmers Market in Bryan, Texas. I have been to the market once before as a customer over the summer, but this time I came with the Howdy Farm selling our produce! It was incredibly interesting viewing the market from a different perspective. At the market we were selling romaine lettuce, butter head lettuce, basil, cilantro, chives, and lemongrass. All very green produce! The lettuce was a huge hit, and the cilantro smelled fantastic.
I loved seeing all the different vendors coming together to sell create, local products to the community. There were many vendors present, including a couple of ladies selling grass fed beef, a local aquaponics farm selling their produce, and even some people selling hand made soaps! Many of the costumers were familiar with the Howdy Farm and so happy to by our produce, others became excited when first learning about the farm. It was so amazing seeing the community come together to support local businesses and farms with so much love. Despite waking up before 8am on a Saturday, I had a great morning at the farmers market and cannot wait to attend many more.
Working at the farm has taught me to be a problem solver. In agriculture, and just life in general you are going to come across problems and issues that need to be solve. At the farm this last week we had a problem occur, an underground pipe burst! Water flooded the farm, and we had to turn off all water access to the farm. Immediately I thought we have a huge issue here and needed to get a plumber out. But, Corey, our farm director, disagreed and said we were going to fix it ourselves.
One of the things that I love most about spending time at the Howdy Farm is that I get to watch plants grow from seed all the way until they are ready to be harvested. I find it so interesting to see the processes our everyday foods go through before they are ready for the table. The majority of the produce we have growing I have never actually seen growing before, so I am so excited to be able to have experience growing such a large variety of plants.
We also have several plants growing that are not producing vegetables yet that I am really excited for. Recently we planted some small broccoli plants into one of our raised beds, and we also planted many carrot and beats seeds that should be ready for harvest this winter!
Out at the farm, it isn't rare for us to come across some problems with our plants. Pest are a huge problem that organic farmers come across because we do not want to put chemicals on our plants to control the insects. Another problem we sometimes come across is our produce get eaten by wildlife like rats, rabbits, and skunks. One constant battle we have to fight out at the farm is working around the extremely high pH soils we have here in College Station.
At the beginning of the semester we noticed one of our small pear trees had developed a yellowing of the leaves. This yellowing is called interveinal chlorosis, and we also noticed that it had only developed on the new leaves. Because the older leaves are not effected, we know that the tree is suffering from an immobile nutrient deficiency. So, we concluded that the pear tree was experiencing an iron deficiency due to the basic soil it is growing in.
In order to help the plant, the alkalinity of the surrounding soil needed to substantially decrease. Danielle and I have applied a soil acidfier containing iron to tree weekly for about the past six weeks. The results (depicted below) were amazing! The leaves greened up nearly right before our eyes. We applied the acidfier similar to how a fertilizer is applied. We used a fertilizer proportioner to distribute the treatment at the right rate while watering the tree each week. It is so great to see the plants appreciate and respond to all the hard work we put into them! This was another great hands on learning experience I gained here at the Howdy Farm!
For about the past month Danielle and I have been working on a very exciting intern project regarding strawberries! Everybody loves strawberries, and we felt as though they would be a huge hit here at the farm. Unfortunately, strawberries can often become difficult to grow, because they are very susceptible to rot when growing on soil. A lot of people like to grow their strawberries over hay to avoid that problem, but we wanted our garden to be even more effective than that. So, our original idea was to have a vertical gutter hanging wall to grow our berries in, so that the berries will just hang over and grow in the air verses growing on the ground. But, after working with the materials we have and doing some planning, we found out making a nice raised bed for the gutters, made just as nice and effective of a growing space as the hanging wall.
It is finally fall!! And, while we are still taking a beating from the Texas heat at the farm, we all hope for cooler weather soon! So many exciting things have been happening over the last few weeks, and I am enjoying every minute of it. A lot of plants have been in and out of the greenhouse lately and I am so amazed and thrilled at how quickly we are seeing things grow.
I also learned a new technique for germinating seeds in the greenhouse! Some seeds actually require light in order to germinate and can often be difficult to grow. Different lettuces actually require their seeds to receive light before they will germinate. So, in order for us to have a successful germination rate of our varieties of lettuces we actually just sprinkle the seeds over wet vermiculite. We do not cover the seeds up, and then just wait for germination. The picture below shows one of our trays of vermiculite. Slowly the seeds have started to germinate, and currently the romaine lettuce has the best and quickest rate. Hopefully the leeks and shallots just need a little more time before they also germinate. Once all the little seedlings get a little bigger, they will be transplanted into seedling trays so they can be easily fertilized and watered in the greenhouse. Eventually the plants will be transplanted into the ground to produce delicious crops for us!
Howdy! We are only two weeks into the fall semester, and so many awesome things are already happening here at the farm! I feel like I have learned so much in such a short amount of time, and have already had some great experiences. My personal project for this semester is to be the greenhouse manager for the farm, and some great things are already in the works!