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Smart Farm Infrastructure with Poughkeepsie Farm Project

In June, NOFA-NY kicked off its 2018 summer field day season at the beautiful Poughkeepsie Farm Project. Host farmer, Poughkeepsie Farm Project’s Leon Vehaba, led the inaugural full-day field day of the year “Building Success through Smart Farm Infrastructure,” along with Cornell Cooperative Extension Eastern NY Commercial Horticulture Program’s Ethan Grundberg. The day mixed classroom and field sessions, focusing on both the key farm infrastructure of irrigation and high tunnels, as well as managing for safe water quality.

6.18.18 Irrigation Field Walk Wide View

The steamy day kicked off in the (air-conditioned) classroom with a great workshop by Leon that hit on essential irrigation practices and principles. In addition to decoding irrigation terminology, Leon stressed the importance of learning your soil’s physical properties, knowing how water interacts with nutrient movement and availability, and how building up organic matter can boost water retention. He also detailed a range of methods to monitor your irrigation needs, including an in-depth introduction to the concept of water budgeting, and the impact of evapotranspiration on plant water needs.

 

6.18.18 Irrigation Classroom session 2

In the field, Leon showed examples from all parts of their system, speaking of how they tailor irrigation to the needs and cropping practices with each crop. During the field day, it was a dry spell so lots of irrigation was actively demonstrating itself. It was actually so dry they had to irrigate before cultivating! Poughkeepsie Farm Project sits on a unique well-drained gravelly loam, which made their investment in a substantial delivery system a good move to boost yields and produce high quality crops. Beyond discussing irrigation, Leon also spoke extensively about how the farm manages and builds their soil organic matter and tilth through cover cropping, green manures, organic mulches, and composting.

6.18.18 Irrigation Field Walk Junction 2 copy

With backgrounds that both include farming in California, Leon and Ethan had a lot to share about irrigation equipment and strategies. Here Leon is demonstrating how they quickly move some micro overhead lines around the field. It took less than a minute to switch over to two new beds in need of water. As someone who generally commits to one type of irrigation per crop throughout the season, I was interested to hear how Leon will transition at times between overhead to drip mid-season after the crops have established. (It inspired me to go home and run some drip tape down on my half grown carrot beds!)

6.18.18 Irrigation Field Walk Overhead

The crops all looked gorgeous, and despite being so dry, were growing well thanks to good soil and water management.

6.18.18 Irrigation Field Walk Garlic

After lunch, Ethan Grundberg led a discussion about food safety, how it relates to water on the farm, and some of the possible risks points. One rising area of concern for growers in many parts of upstate NY with our high calcium soil (and ground water) is how pH influences both the quality of water and soil in field and growing situations, as well as the safety of the water used for washing. High pH lowers the efficacy of chlorine products as sanitizers, which led into a discussion of alternative organic sanitizers and how to use them safely. Ethan also demonstrated how to test water pH and alkalinity and emphasized how important it is to understand the impact of pH on your wash water, your high tunnel soils, and for organic pesticide applications. When a pesticide label says that you want a 6.0pH water for applying it, they mean it—high pH water reduces effectiveness!

6.18.18 Water Quality Safety Testing 2

We continued the water conversation back into the field, where we visited the high tunnels this time. Ethan and Leon spoke about their winter SARE project where they examined winter nutrient management in high tunnels and looked at how crops performed at different temperature points (33 versus 40 degrees). Leon went into more depth about their tunnel nutrient management practices and their trellising system, as well as how the tunnels fit into their operations.

6.18.18 High Tunnel Tomatoes 2

Honestly, this was one of the most informative field days I’ve been too, and we are so appreciative of Leon and Ethan taking their time to share their expertise. Fortunately for you, if you missed joining us, there will be videos coming soon of Leon and Ethan’s great presentations and the beautiful Poughkeepsie Farm Project!

6.18.18 Irrigation Field Walk

It is also not too late to join us for the rest of our great 2018 field days; you can learn more at https://www.nofany.org/events-news/events/2018-on-farm-field-days. Our July field days include a great dairy session at High Meadows Farm on Thursday, July 19, 2018, “Newly Transitioned Organic Dairy Grazing” and a business and market session on “Cultivating a Thriving Food Network” Sunday July 22nd at Headwater Food Hub—we hope to see you there!

This field day and workshops were supported in part by USDA-NIFA grant no. 2016-70020-25792/project accession no. 1010528 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture as well as by the USDA-Risk Management Agency—thank you, and our members, so much!

MaryEllen Sheehan farms with her husband on 5 acres in Fenner, NY. Hartwood Farm produces vegtables for year round farmers markets and CSA. Maryellen is particularly interested in the adaptation of organic farming systems to deal with new pest, disease, safety, economic, and climate challenges. She supports organic farmers across the state with vegetable and food safety programming and techincal assistance.

 

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