Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Strawberries, mushrooms, and honey, oh my!

The 2013 growing season is drawing to a close here at Juniper Gardens, but that doesn't mean that there’s no work to be done! Farmers are working hard to prepare for the winter, harvest what remains in their fields, while also thinking ahead to next year. With the help and generosity of a researcher, a baker, and local pastor, New Roots farmers will be starting three projects completely new to Juniper Gardens next year.

Two current New Roots farmers and several graduates of the program have recently planted strawberries in their gardens as part of a pilot project aiming to improve strawberry yields in the Great Plains. Cary Rivard- Associate Professor at Kansas State University and fruit and vegetable specialist with the K-State Research and Extension office in Olathe- has been working with our farmers over last few months on his project, which aims to provide a more stable income stream for producers and encourage new growers to enter the industry.*

*For more information on Cary Rivard’s strawberry pilot project: http://www.ksre.ksu.edu/news/story/strawberry_production060513.aspx

First-year Nepali farmer Tula Regmi and his wife, Menuka, are one of two couples starting strawberries this year.
Last week at our end-of-season meeting, our farmers got to hear from Chad Russell, a mushroom enthusiast and baker at Fervere, an artisan bread bakery in downtown KCMO. He talked about the process of growing mushrooms on logs and what kinds of mushrooms have an established market for demand in Kansas City. There was a lot of interest, both from graduates and current New Roots farmers, so keep your fingers crossed and you may just find mushrooms at our markets in 2014!

Chad Russell (standing, back right) presents a powerpoint to current New Roots and graduate farmers with pictures of different mushroom varieties.
Last but certainly not least is the new addition of beekeeping to our farmers’ repertoire. A local pastor has graciously offered to donate the necessary equipment to teach a few of our farmers how to keep bees and sell honey!  We’re talking with a handful of farmers about it and hope to pick a location to keep the bees in the next month, and then we just have to wait until the temperature is right in the spring! If the weather cooperates, there might be enough honey to start selling in September or October of next year. 

Other Firsts
In addition to these new, exciting developments to the Juniper Gardens Training Farm, other parts of our program have achieved “firsts” this year. Several of our graduates planted fruit trees- apple, peach, pear, and cherry- as well as blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries. A few people have also planted asparagus!

At the Bhutanese Community garden, farmers have planted fruit trees and berry bushes too, but they've also planted ferns and taro root. The fiddle heads on ferns are a popular food in Nepali culture, and taro root is a starchy plant that is often used for its gelatinous qualities.

This season has been a great one, with our farmers collectively making several thousand dollars more than they have in years before. We’re excited about the additions of fruit, honey and mushrooms to our farm and can’t wait for next year to see these projects bear fruit (literally and figuratively)!

Keep your eyes peeled for an end of year report with more details on the 2013 season! 

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