Monday, January 8, 2018

Welcome 2018

It has been cold!  We have just endured the longest period of sub-freezing weather we have experienced since getting started here 8 years ago. The last time the thermometer registered above freezing was over two weeks ago. Still, we enjoy the bounty of the farm and the fresh harvest of Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Kale and Turnips. In spite of the cold, thoughts of spring planting are foremost in my mind. In a couple of weeks it will be time to fill the plug trays with seed once again to start our next cycle. We have all kinds of good things in our planting plan including some trials of a number of new open-pollinated varieties that are very promising.  

Our On-Farm Training Session schedule for 2018 is finalized and we encourage any of you that would like to get the benefit of our decades of experience and expertise in growing the most productive and nutritious produce to consider participating. You can find details about what is offered on our website here.

If you want some of the benefit of our training but can't make it to our farm, AudioVerse Advance now offers our Food Grower's Guidelines; An Expert's Viewmaterial on their training site. It consists of over nine hours of principle based agriculture instruction that can aid anyone from first-time gardeners to experienced market farmers. You can also order this series in a six-set DVD case or see a preview on our website if you prefer a hard copy for yourself.

Pastor Dave Westbrook sharing horse tales at the 2010 meetings.

We hope you are all well, making your intelligent seed selections from all of the catalogs flooding our mailboxes, and looking forward to a great new gardening season.  Let's all keep striving for food sovereignty this year. It is an amazing blessing.

Bob and Lynnita

Next week we will be heading to Glen Rose, Texas for the 4th annual Adventist Agriculture Association Conference. I have been asked to give a keynote address on Wednesday evening and will again be teaching a couple of classes along with dozens of other presenters on a wide range of agriculture topics. This organization was inspired out of meetings that were initiated by the late Bob Jorgensen, an amazing historian of Adventist education and its roots in agriculture. The first agriculture-specific meetings were held right here at Berea Gardens back in 2009 and 2010 when we hosted about 150 guests from around the country. Since then, the Dysinger family at Bountiful Blessings Farm in Tennessee has worked with dozens of others to develop the AdAgra group and has expanded the influence into a large organization with many hundreds of supporters. Lynnita and I are looking forward to seeing many of our friends and people of like-minded interest this year. The theme is "Something Better" and an agrarian lifestyle surely is.

Humble beginnings for agriculture meetings in our gym building from 2010.

We will have a limited quantity of our heirloom seed available again on our website when we return from the meetings in Texas. We will be taking our inventory with us to share with the folks there, but the remainder will be available for online orders after February 2.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

End of the Year News

News from a grower growing growers
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We have had a full Fall season here on the farm with lots of activity and also some heartache.  I lost my 92 year-old Dad at the end of September and spent some time back in California with my Mom.  The sadness was tempered with the joy of visiting with family and the knowledge that  a very full life had been lived. When I returned we did a major task that we spent three years planning and saving for;  we re-roofed our gym building (my barn now.)  It is wonderful to have the amount of space we enjoy with this place, but when there is a project it is always large!  Another major project was the installation of an underground waste-water system for our main building. We can now abandon the large wastewater treatment pond that has been both expensive and time consuming to maintain.  We enjoyed an unusually mild Fall and the crops have done very well.  We are still harvesting a lot of rich, green goodness.  Helping hands from our neighbors and my cousin visiting from Washington State have made the time go by pleasantly.  Mom also came for a few weeks in October and helped with our last training session.
We hosted another group of students for an afternoon this year from the West Virginia University Rural Immersion Program. These are people headed into the medical profession that spend a week in our county learning about the needs and resources in rural areas.  We were able to share with them our perspective that healthy people begin with a healthy diet that begins with healthy soil.  After we talked for a few hours  the group helped us harvest some potatoes and were rewarded with one  of Lynnita's fabulous plant-based meals.
Another project we will be taking on in 2007 is in association with "Grow Appalachia," a community oriented education project sponsored in part by Berea College in Kentucky.. Although we share the name "Berea" we are independent of each other except for the selection of the name.  (If you are curious about that you can find the source of the name in the Book of Acts in Chapter 17 v.10,11)  The project involves providing education, tools and seeds for families to begin home gardening.  I will be mentoring an Americorps VISTA worker and providing community training for a five county area in our region.  The objective is to improve health and economic opportunity.  We will also encourage participating families to grow enough for themselves and to sell their surplus produce in area farmer's markets and other outlets, such as Farm to School.
This is the sixth selfed-generation of a hybrid we crossed between Butternut Squash and the Amish Neck Pumpkin.  After one more selfed-generation, when the characteristics are fuly stabilized, we will have a new open-pollinated variety.  One plant produced five of these squash and the one I am holding weighs 42 pounds! In a couple of years we will add these to our Open Source Seed offerings.
Lynnita, Jordyn and I want to wish all of you a blessed  New Year.  May we all keep each other in prayer as we face the challenges and opportunities ahead.
Our On-Farm Training schedule is now published on our website and we are ready to take reservations for 2017.  We look forward to another season of sharing our experience with people from all over the country. We limit each session to ten people, so that means there are only 60 openings this year.
Our committment to community involvement must go beyond words, and I am blessed to have the opportunity to work with our local elementary school by helping construct two high tunnels for students to learn about gardening and the value of fresh foods.  The staff at Arnoldsburg Elementary recognizes the value of agriculture and its role in education.  I will be mentoring both staff and students as they develop this school and community garden project in the coming year.  I am very pleased with the enthusiasm that the children, their parents, and the teachers are exhibiting for this.  The third grade class presented me with a "Community World Changer Award" during a school assembly and I am honored to be a participant in this great project.
From January  25 to 28 Lynnita and I will travel to Camp Kulaqua in Florida for the third annual Adventist Agriculture Association Conference.  I, along with many others, will be presenting a series of classes  for hundreds of people that recognize that agriculture is not only about growing food, but also about growing character.  These conferences are an outgrowth of meetings that we held here at Berea Gardens back in 2009 and 2010 organized by  Bob Jorgensen. The Dysinger family from Tennessee with the help of others has carried  Br. Jorgensen's legacy to a whole new dimension by organizing the conference for the past three years and expanding the group into a large, world-wide  association. I am looking forward to this meeting of like-minded people and am grateful for the chance to teach and visit Florida in winter. 
Copyright © 2016 Berea Gardens Agriculture Center, All rights reserved.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

September News

News from a grower growing growers
My favorite month of the year is here and the fall garden is growing beautifully. From now until long after Christmas we can grow beautiful crops without pressure from diseases or pests and most of the weeds seem to take a vacation. We are all planted up with beets, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, chard, kale, lettuce, turnips and spinach. All of these crops can tolerate the cold weather that is coming and many of them are even grown outdoors right through the winter.  Good soil nutrition is one of the keys to healthy winter crops.  If you would like to learn more about how to have fresh winter veggies (and a whole lot more) you might consider registering for our October Training Session. We still have October openings but the November session is not available. The schedule for next year has not been finalized, but it is likely that we will only offer our week long sessions 4 times in 2016. Now is a great (and beautiful) time of year to get the training you need for food security and great gardening success.  Check out our program here
I took this photo of a spider web suspended from a phone line 20 feet above some broccoli. It is an amazing example of engineering, but it is also an example of the benefit of toxin-free growing. Using strategies of plant selection, plant nutrition, crop timing, trap-cropping and avoiding toxic sprays so that we don't harm beneficial insects we have had great success growing our food and have not had to spray anything (not even organically certified sprays) for the past four years.
Last month we had the pleasure of hosting ten students and five faculty from the West Virginia University School of Medicine for a week while they were participating in a "Rural Immersion" program to acquaint them with the unique problems and resources of practicing medicine in rural areas. We shared our perspective that healthy people require healthy food from healthy soil.  Lynnita prepared plant-based meals from our farm for them and when they left the consensus was that the highlight of their very active week was the vegan dinner she served them.  We really enjoyed housing this group and are already making plans to have a group again next year.
I like to experiment with new crop varieties every year and this open-pollinated organic flint popcorn caught my eye. It is called Glass Gem and is as beautiful as the name implies. I grew a small abount to increase as seed for next year. I am waiting for it to fully dry so we can pop some and see how it tastes. I'll report to you later, but if nothing else it is a treat for the eyes.
DVD Training Series
Our two new high tunnels are completed and will give us more capacity for season extension, but we even have success with growing outdoors. The planting to the left of the greenhouse is brussels sprouts that will be harvested in January.
An answer to prayer arrived in our community a couple of months ago and we have a new friend, Michael Maslanka.  Part of the challenge maintaining a big, old, school building is that when problems arise they can be big too.  Such was the case with our main electrical service panel. It is located in a small room off the main building that also houses the well for the water supply. For thirty years a chlorine injection system was used to make the water "safe" for the kids, but the chlorine tank was in the same room with the electrical panel. (We use a different well with pure, un-chlorinated water now.) Chlorine is terribly corrosive, and the main panel suffered. Replacement and upgrade estimates were over $13,000.  We prayed for months over this and then Michael, a master electrician and lineman came to us.  He was moving to the area and needed our parking lot for a large moving truck for a few days. He asked if there was anything he could help us with in return. We said yes, and he dove right in. His moving truck even contained the parts we needed to secure the system. A few days later we had a new friend, a repaired system and a bill for a couple of bags of fresh veggies!
The view of our farm right now is peaceful and beautiful. The view of the world is not.  We are ever grateful for the blessings of country living and the opportunities to serve that come our way.  We want to be of help to you as well and share the knowledge and satisfaction of food security and health.
Go to our Website
Blessings to you all and happy growing from Bob, Lynnita and Jordyn
Copyright © 2015 Berea Gardens Agriculture Center, All rights reserved.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

February news

News from a grower growing growers
Wow, it has been a cold start to 2015!  It may be hard to think about growing food while we struggle with snow, ice and below 0 temperatures, but now is the time for developing your strategic plan for success. We are still enjoying the fruits of last year's storage, freezing and canning, with even a few fresh things still being harvested.
I took this picture today of the river that flows through our farm.  Three days ago our morning temperature was minus 21*F, the coldest I have ever experienced.  It warmed up to a balmy 7* by four in the afternoon.
We have two new high tunnels under construction this winter to increase our ability to meet off-season demand for produce.  A wonderful aspect of this project is that it has not cost us a dime to build these! We qualified for a grant from NRCS to put these up.  To see if grants are available in your area, see this link.  These two tunnels will add over 2,000 additional square feet of indoor growing area to the five high tunnels we already have, enabling us to meet the growing customer demand for winter veggies.

Free instructional webinar!

A free webinar is now available on our website to assist you with taking the first step to prepare your soil for optimum production. "Optimizing the Base Saturation of Soil" is now free and you can download from this link. Scroll down the page to see other, free presentations. This recorded webinar covers a portion of what is contained in our DVD series, "Food Grower's Guidelines; An Expert's View" and also our On-Farm Training Classes.  We still have room for you in our March and April sessions!  Click here for more information about learning at our farm.
Despite the frozen landscape outside, our propagation house is full of candidates for a great spring harvest.  These will be planted in high tunnels and low tunnels to offer some protection from residual freezing weather through March and will begin finding their way to tables in early April.  Pushing our planting schedule will allow us to get 5 crop cycles under cover and 3 outdoors this year.  That has the effect of making our 3 acres of growing area as productive as 10 to 15 acres.
Audio recordings of the Adventist Agriculture Association Conference held last November are now available on AudioVerse. The entire conference is available here.  There is some great information here presented in three tracks from a number of experienced growers; Home Gardening, Institutional Farming, and Market Farming. Get to know more about us with this one.
Only five opportunities left in 2015 to get training at Berea Gardens that will teach you how to grow the most nutritious, abundant and healthy crops possible.  Whether you are a home gardener or a professional market farmer, what you can learn here will prepare you for success. Learn more.
Hope you all have a wonderful start to your gardening season!
Bob, Lynnita and Jordyn
Copyright © 2015 Berea Gardens Agriculture Center, All rights reserved.