Caterpillar Tunnels are Springing up for Summer

Farming is in many ways about working with our natural climate and environment to grow food. To be successful farmers we must also make use of tools to extend growing seasons, keep pests away, and increase our crop yields.

One of the tools City Roots uses to benefit our farm is the caterpillar tunnel. Caterpillar tunnels get their name from their segmented structure that resembles a caterpillar. Recently our field team spent an afternoon putting up a caterpillar tunnel at our Tupelo farm site for a new planting of red and green peppers, and they will be building another in the coming weeks. Field Manager Andrew described the purpose of a caterpillar tunnel as a way to shade plants and to protect them from pests and inclement weather.

 Freshly transplanted pepper plants in our caterpillar tunnel at Tupelo

Freshly transplanted pepper plants in our caterpillar tunnel at Tupelo

 Field Manager Andrew (left) and Rigsby (right) cutting poles for our new caterpillar tunnel

Field Manager Andrew (left) and Rigsby (right) cutting poles for our new caterpillar tunnel

The new caterpillar tunnel our team built runs the length of our pepper bed, and is made up of a series of equidistant arches covered in semi-transparent plastic to create an internal environment similar to a greenhouse. The ease of assembly and disassembly make the caterpillar tunnel preferable for fields that we don’t want covered all year long. Simulating Summer weather in the caterpillar tunnel will help our pepper plants produce fruit more quickly because they enjoy warmer temperatures and higher humidity, but as the season progresses the caterpillar tunnel allows us to change these conditions in ways high tunnels and greenhouses would not allow.

 Caterpillar tunnel at Tupelo farm site

Caterpillar tunnel at Tupelo farm site

As temperatures outside rise the plastic on the caterpillar tunnel can be rolled up to allow more airflow or even be completely removed and replaced with shade cloth, which provides the plants some protection from the sun in the middle of Summer. The coverings provide our plants protection from wind, hail, and heavy rain as well. If we choose to extend our pepper production just a little bit longer into the fall months, our caterpillar tunnel can once again be used to create a warmer environment.

The caterpillar tunnel provides our field team with one of the simplest forms of pest reduction available: a barrier. By covering a large part of our pepper bed we are able to block insects (and larger animals like deer and rabbits who like to visit for a snack) from making their homes on these plants. This leads to happier and healthier plants because insects can spread plant diseases, and more tasty peppers for you and all of us at City Roots because no one wants a vegetable that someone already nibbled on!

 Cucumber plants in a high tunnel covered with shade cloth for sun protection

Cucumber plants in a high tunnel covered with shade cloth for sun protection

At City Roots you will see many permanent high tunnels in addition to the caterpillar tunnels, one of which has cucumbers that will be ready for harvest soon! Our Cut Flower Manager, Brinton, is using a high tunnel at the City Roots farm site. She has filled it with rows of celosia, stock, and basil (Basil makes an attractive and fragrant foliage addition to bouquets and produces small flowers as well.) that will be blooming all summer long. The permanent high tunnel Brinton is using serves many of the same purposes as the caterpillar tunnel over our peppers, but with some added benefits to cut flowers. Some flower varieties, like celosia, grow longer stems in tunnels, which is ideal for bouquets. Rain can damage the basil plants, so Brinton has planted them in the high tunnel to protect them, and stock flowers loved the warm temperatures the tunnel provided in the cool spring months of February and March.

 Stock flowers in a high tunnel at City Roots with the sides rolled up just a little for ventilation

Stock flowers in a high tunnel at City Roots with the sides rolled up just a little for ventilation

City Roots also has four microgreen greenhouses, which are fully enclosed and temperature regulated with fans, heaters, and a swamp cooler (a system that uses evaporative cooling). There is a fifth structure that looks like a normal greenhouse from the outside, but this is our microgreen germination chamber.

The caterpillar tunnel filled with our peppers is not at our main farm site, it’s at Tupelo, so you’ll have to enjoy these photos and the beautiful peppers we bring to market all Summer, but if you want to see one of these in person we currently have a vacant caterpillar tunnel at City Roots. Come take a self-guided tour of the farm to see all of our caterpillar tunnels, high tunnels, and greenhouses, or if you have children they will get to see this and many more farm features in one of our week long Summer camps which are open for registration now!

5 Reasons to Join a CSA

 Spring Crops grown for CSA members! 

Spring Crops grown for CSA members! 

5 REASONS TO JOIN A CSA

1. CSAs keep small farms, like ours, going.
For farmers, all of our inputs are needed before we even plant the first seed. Your CSA membership helps us buy the seed, transplants, water, taxes, fuel, labor and other inputs needed for the season, and provides us with an immediate income to begin each season. This allows us to concentrate on good land stewardship and growing the highest quality food, both of which are important for our CSA members.

2. CSA will teach creativity in the kitchen.
"(We liked) learning to cook and eat some vegetables that were totally new to our family. Also, the mushrooms!" --CSA member 
Joining a CSA is committing to having a little fun with all the surprises in your weekly share. A fridge full of produce will (gently) push you to be more creative in the kitchen and try new things. And we're here to help! We provide you with weekly emails to guide you each week, with recipe ideas and storage tips.

3. It frees up brain space.
Contrary to what you might think, a CSA is a chance to not think about what’s for dinner. You pick up your bounty and work backward from there. In time, you''ll learn how to cook based on what's in your fridge, not at the store. And it helps train you and your kids to eat what's in season.

4.We need to learn to "eat the whole farm."
So says Dan Barber, renowned chef, food and farm advocate, and author of the book, The Third Plate: "...what we eat is part of an integrated whole, a web of relationships, that cannot be reduced to single ingredients." In an effort to get past wanting nothing but tomatoes, spinach, and carrots each week, you can open up to the rainbow the smart organic farmer provides through a CSA share.

5. It's not just produce.
CSA members also enjoy a few fun perks, like meeting farm staff at membership appreciation happy hours, touring the farm, and even some specialty items in their shares. CSA is also about the health of our planet. City Roots is a USDA-certified organic farm, meaning we avoid the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. We also employ sustainable farming practices such as cover cropping and composting. This not only provides healthy, great-tasting food but healthy soil, which is the basis of a healthy planet.

New Years Dinner: Ale-Braised Collards

This recipe is a sweet, sour (and a touch spicy) southern preparation of collards. Prosper in the New Year by making collards for New Years Day dinner! 

 Photo from NYT

Photo from NYT

 

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  •  Kosher salt, as needed
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
  • 12 ounces amber ale (such as River Rat Red Ale) 
  • ½ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 smoked ham hock
  • 3 bunches (about 3 pounds) City Roots collard greens, thoroughly washed, stems removed, cut into 2-inch pieces
  •  Black pepper, as needed

PREPARATION

  1. Heat oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and sauté, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened and just starting to color, 10 to 12 minutes.
  2. Add 1 teaspoon salt, the red pepper flakes and the brown sugar; stir to combine. Add beer and cook, scraping up any browned bits from bottom of pan. Raise heat to high and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 3 minutes.
  3. Add 2 cups water, the apple cider vinegar, the ham hock and the collard greens; stir to combine. Cover pot, raise heat to high, and bring to a rolling boil. Stir collards thoroughly to incorporate flavors, then reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring every 30 minutes, until collards reach desired tenderness, at least 30 minutes but preferably up to 2 hours. Remove ham hock; pull off and chop meat and return to pan, or discard if desired. Season with salt and pepper.

Farmer Eric Gives the Scoop on Microgreens Expansion

 A 5,000 square foot new home for more microgreens, edible flowers, herbs and flower transplants

A 5,000 square foot new home for more microgreens, edible flowers, herbs and flower transplants

You may have seen activity surrounding a new greenhouse on the farm... Farmer Eric McClam gives the inside scoop on our recent microgreens expansion:

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"At City Roots, we are proud to be the Southeast’s premier organic microgreens grower. We started from humble beginnings in 2009, growing only a few pounds of microgreens, to now producing over 25,000 pounds annually. Although we are a diversified organic vegetable farm, microgreens are our focus, making up the largest portion of our farm’s production in four (now five!) greenhouses. And while our production has grown significantly since the onset of the farm, we haven’t changed our methods much since we started. We are still filling plastic flats with soil, germinating, cutting and composting 5,000 trays of microgreens weekly by the most rudimentary methods--by hand!

 Greenhouse Manager Beth Lund seeding trays by hand.

Greenhouse Manager Beth Lund seeding trays by hand.

We realized the need to improve our methods of growing and harvesting if we were to meet the growing demand of our microgreens. Our current process is extremely manually intensive, so we spent hours identifying the necessary equipment and infrastructure to minimize that hard labor while increasing efficiency, improving yield and overall food safety of our micros for years to come. Our goal is to get more of this awesome super food out to our local community and beyond! 

We are pumped to have acquired some of the key components (pictured below) we needed to improve our process: soil hopper, flat filler, seeder, and a water tunnel, as well as conveyors that will be hung from the ceiling of the greenhouses and can be moved left to right over the the head of the tables.

Although we currently use solar power to offset a portion of our fossil fuel consumption, City Roots' goal is to become even more sustainable and reduce our carbon foot print by working to utilize infrastructure improvements. Still to come: a germination chamber (we're pouring the concrete now), a micros mechanical harvester and more conveyor belts. These improvements will help us increase the capacity and efficiency of City Roots microgreens production and get more of these greens to your plates!

We are actually in the process of applying to a competitive local farm grant program, called Cultivating Change, to help fund some of this expansion project. Cultivating Change is a local farm grant program offered by Greener Fields Together.  It aims to fund projects and pursuits that will help local farmers do what they’re best at: farming. We will need voters and you can help! Learn more and sign up on their website.

Do you love microgreens? You can help support our efforts by joining our CSA program! Each week your CSA includes a share of our microgreens harvest, as well as seasonal veggies and mushrooms. Your CSA subscription will be hard at work this year with supporting these greenhouse improvements! 

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Staff Spotlight: Our Marvelous Marketing Team!

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Meet our dynamic sales and marketing team! Frances (right) and Audrey (left) work tirelessly to get our products from the fields to your CSA boxes, local grocery stores' shelves, the hands of local chefs, area farmers markets, and more. With our sales outlets stretching from Columbia to Atlanta, the Upstate and down through the Lowcountry, this is a BIG job. Thankfully, these ladies are ON IT day in and day out, coordinating logistics, answering calls, placing and packing orders, identifying new markets, and many of the "other duties as assigned" that come up on a small farm!

Frances Magun is the Sales Manager at City Roots. Starting as an intern in May 2015, she has worked many sides of the farm, and found a niche working with local restaurants, farmer’s markets and managing the CSA program. Additionally, she now manages our wholesale accounts and serves as the main point of contact for various operations of the farm. Before City Roots, Frances worked for the League of Conservation Voters in Washington, DC, a nonprofit organization focused on environmental advocacy. She brings an operations background and passion for sustainable agriculture in her role at City Roots.

STAFF PICK: Frances loves all the seasonal field produce we grow, but her new favorite item is our Shiitake Mushrooms. 

NOTE: If you have not personally met Frances, many of our most popular photos feature her hands and/or feet proudly displaying the farm's latest produce, flowers, mushrooms or field crops. Thanks, Frances! 

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Audrey Martinich is part of the chef sales and market team at City Roots. She also assists with preparing flowers for sale. Audrey studied public health and food systems at The University of South Carolina, and while her interests in sustainable living had been growing for many years it was a volunteer opportunity through one of her classes that brought her to the farm. Volunteering later led to an internship and employment at City Roots.

The busy but flexible work days, opportunities for creativity, and open air environment are a few of her favorite things about working on the farm.

STAFF PICK: Audrey's favorite flower on the farm is orange gumphrena and her favorite vegetables are arugula and carrots.

NOTE: Audrey has panache when it comes to packaging and arranging the farm's flowers and produce. Her creative energy is evident! 

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Staff Spotlight: Brinton Fox, Cut-Flowers Manager

In an effort to acquaint you with the fine folks who provide you with a steady stream of City Roots' tasty (and gorgeous) local product week-to-week, we present our (new!) Staff Spotlight Series! Follow along for series installments. First up: Brinton Fox, City Roots' Cut Flowers Manager. 

Brinton's City Roots Pick(s): Flamingo Feather Celosia, Mustard Greens, Shishito Peppers, Hakurei Turnips, Snow Pea Microgreens, Oyster Mushrooms

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Small scale farming has always been a part of Brinton's life. Her mother ran a small, organic herb farm when she was a child in Chapin, SC, and her favorite thing to do as a kid was planting seeds in the greenhouses and harvesting basil. Brinton went to college at Clemson University with the aspiration of going to law school, but soon found herself working on the Student Organic Farm. She immediately fell in love with being back in agriculture and has never looked back! Since graduating from Clemson, Brinton worked on organic vegetable and flower farms in the mountains of NC and in the deep red clay of southern Georgia. She returned to the Midlands to help with starting a Farm to School program for the school district she grew up in. Now, at her new farming home, City Roots, she is able to combine aspects of her previous farming and education endeavors in her role as Cut Flowers Manager.

What Brinton does at City Roots:
Brinton manages all aspects of the cut-flower production at City Roots, from seed to bouquet. Starting with a comprehensive flower plan--which she follows through the year--she plants, cultivates and harvests, all by hand. After each harvest, she creates beautiful and seasonal bouquets for our farmers markets, events and Flower CSA. In addition to her cut-flower role, she helps with educational programming. Second graders from a local school planted sunflower seedlings with Brinton, which grew mighty and beautifully over the summer! Brinton also coordinates the farm's weekly Thursday Farmers Market.

City Roots launched its first Flower CSA this year, which was one of Brinton's favorite things about the 2017 season. Along with harvesting and arranging the bouquets for the Soda City Farmers Market, The Augusta Market and the City Roots Farmers Market, she sells wholesale flowers to florists and the farm's event partner, F2T Productions, for harvest dinners and events.

Brinton says, "Concentrating on the production of flowers has opened my eyes to a better understanding of a farm’s ecosystem as a whole. Crop planning and succession planting is vital in order to have a continuous harvest from our flowers, especially in the heat of South Carolina summers. All of our flowers are started from seeds or bulbs, and are sold as fresh as possible, which ensures a better product and vase life."

 

 

The Psychology Behind Flowers

Why We Enjoy Giving and Receiving Flowers

by Hannah Cangilla

It's no secret--we all love giving and receiving flowers. Across all countries, cultures, and generations, people have enjoyed the gift of flowers for as long as scientists and anthropologists can trace. But why is this? Some people believe that our adoration for flowers as gifts is purely societal, meaning we like them because we are supposed to like them, but among people who study behavioural psychology there is a growing consensus that there is something more going on when we react positively to flowers. New research shows that flowers, specifically the sight and the smell of them, can change your brain chemistry and lead to more positive feelings and emotions, says Jeannette Haviland-Jones, PhD, professor of psychology and director of the Human Emotions Lab at Rutgers University. Here are some of the perks of living with flowers:

Flowers Create Happiness
Need a mood boost? Receiving flowers, whether you bought them for yourself or they were sent from another person, can give you an immediate boost of happiness. A bouquet of flowers means that someone cares for you. A bouquet with bright colors and sweet, soothing scent can brighten any room. Give yourself some love and add some blooms to your home or spread the love by picking up some fresh flowers for the important people in your life.

Flowers Boost Creativity
Texas A&M University researchers found that women had more innovative ideas and creative solutions to problems when flowers were nearby their workstations. Next time a work project has you stumped or your calculus homework has your head spinning, try adding some blooms to your desk to get you through your day.

Flowers Reduce Stress and Anxiety
Reach for a bunch of daisies instead of a pint of Ben & Jerrys when you’re down. There is a reason that people turn to gardening when they are stressed out or battling the blues. There is a reason people give flowers as gifts for patients in the hospital; yes, it’s a thoughtful thing to do, but it may help patients heal faster. More commonly, hospitals include access to green space for patients in recovery because simply spending some time in the fresh air surrounded by plants and flowers helps stressed people feel more relaxed and a more relaxed patient typically heals faster than someone who is stressed out. Don’t just save that knowledge for someone in the hospital, treat yourself to those same benefits next time work or life has you feeling under the weather or stressed out.

Color Therapy
The effects of colors on the brain are well-known and flowers elevate our moods through color. When you’re picking a bunch of flowers in your yard or at the local farmers’ market, remember that less saturated and brighter colors are generally more relaxing, while bold saturated colors will energize you. A bunch with colors that fall near each other on the color wheel will also be more calming; with the opposite effect ensuing if the colors are opposite each other. Curvy shapes have generally been shown to be relaxing — make an informed choice!

Aromatherapy
Fragrance is another way that flowers affect the brain. For example, phenylethylamine is a chemical in roses that gives them their signature scent. This chemical holds an amino acid that slows the breakdown of beta endorphins; beta endorphins are hormones responsible for making us feel euphoric and in love. Other flower scents help promote sleep, relaxation and health. A whole field of study is devoted to aromatherapy and how it affects the brain. City Roots includes fresh herbs like mint and basil in arrangements, making the whole room smell fresh and amazing.

Who knew that something as simple as a flower could have all of these amazing beneficial effects on the human brain? Well, all of us who have ever received flowers, really. Science is now proving what we have always known to be true.

Check out the new flower CSA shares at City Roots to keep beautiful blooms in your home or office all season long.  hhttp://www.cityroots.org/flower-csa/

Here are the flowers we are planning!

Ageratum, Bachelor Button, Calendula, Celosia, Cosmos, Sun Ball, Flowering Basil, Dill, Mint, and Oregano, Gladiolus, Gomphrena, Lilies, Marigold, Salvia, Scabiosa, Snapdragons, Stock, Sunflower, Sweet Pea, Yarrow, Zinnia

CSA Recipe: Curly Cress!

Curly Cress is a new crop for City Roots!  Its flavor is similar to watercress and arugula, adding a nice spice to any salad or sandwich.

Curly Cress and Orange Salad

  • City Roots Curly Cress (substitute for Watercress!)
  • oranges
  • olive oil
  • orange juice
  • lemon juice
  • salt

In a large bowl, combine curly cress and oranges. In a small bowl, whisk the remaining ingredients. Drizzle over salad; toss to coat.

How to Grow Potatoes in a Trash Can

Potatoes tend to take up a lot of space in the garden, can be difficult to harvest, and must be planted in a different area each year. For these reasons, it is often easier to grow potatoes in a container where they are easy to harvest and take up minimal space; an ideal container is a regular plastic trash can. Follow the steps below to learn how to grow potatoes in a trash can. Have any Pro Tips of your own? Share in the comments!

 Photo from Hope Gardens

Photo from Hope Gardens

1. Drill holes in the bottom of the trash can for drainage. If your can does not allow water to drain, the potatoes will rot. Holes can be drilled or cut with a small saw. Drill as many holes as possible without making the trash can bottom too weak to hold in soil.

2. Add a layer of potting mix to the trash can. Once the drainage holes are drilled, you can begin adding soil. It is best to use potting mix rather than soil from your garden, as potting mix produces the best results when container gardening. Begin by adding a layer about 10 inches (25 cm) deep.

3. Prepare your potatoes for planting (called "Chitting"). Small potatoes can be planted whole, but larger ones should be cut into smaller pieces. Each piece should have at least 3 "eyes," or dimples. After cutting the potatoes (if needed), allow the cut edges to air dry before planting. 

4. Plant the potatoes. Bury the seed potatoes about 4 inches (10 cm) under the potting mix. In a 32 gallon (120 L) garbage can, you should only need about 4 potatoes, spaced evenly apart. Place the garbage can into an area that receives direct sunlight for 4 to 6 hours a day. 

Tip: Keep the soil moist as the potatoes grow. 

5. Add more potting mix as the plants grow ("Mounding"). When the potato plants start growing, you should continually add potting mix to the garbage can to cover the plants' stems, making sure to leave the leaves exposed to the sun. This allows more room underneath the soil for new potatoes to grow.

Tip: You should continually build up this hill of soil throughout the growing season (called "Mounding"). This is why the trash can is such an effective vessel - it allows for plenty of vertical room to continually bury the plants' stems while keeping them covered from the sun.)

6. Harvest the potatoes when they're ready. At the end of the growing season, you simply have to lay down a tarp and overturn the trash can onto it. You can then pick the potatoes off of the tarp. Do not reuse the potting mix for growing potatoes again, as this will make the plants more susceptible to disease.

 

Farmer's Market Recipe: Pizza w/ Whole Wheat and Honey Crust

 Spicy Microgreens make an excellent pizza topping!

Spicy Microgreens make an excellent pizza topping!

You'll love the flavor of a little local honey in your pizza crust, it adds the slightest touch of sweetness and crisps up beautifully. This quick and easy pizza dough can be topped any way you like (we suggest lots of farm-fresh toppings and our Spicy Microgreens mix!).

Whole Wheat and Honey Pizza Dough
Dough Ingredients:
3/4 Cup Filtered Water (110 degrees F)

2 1/2 teaspoons Dry Active Yeast

2 Cups Organic Whole Wheat Flour

1 Tablespoon Local Honey

1 teaspoon Sea Salt

3 Tablespoons Organic Olive Oil

To make the dough:
Combine the water, yeast and honey together. After about 5 minuted the mixture will look frothy. Then add in the olive oil. In another bowl combine the flour and sea salt and whisk together. Then combine both mixtures together and mix well with a wooden spoon and your hands. Place into a bowl in a warm area and allow dough to rise. After 45 minutes, punch down and wrap in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator until ready to use.

For the Pizza:
To shape your crust you will simply use your hands and gravity. DO NOT use a rolling pin- it will press out all of the air that has formed in your dough. Take the ball of dough in your hands and simply begin pulling it around the edges. It should start to stretch easily. Rotate it around your first making sure you are stretching each side evenly, so that you have a round crust. The middle will be fairly thin, and you want to leave the edges thicker so they will puff up. Sprinkle a small amount of corn meal on a pizza stone or baking pizza pan to prevent the pizza from sticking. Top your pizza with a combo of your favorite farmer's market ingredients, like Trail Ridge Farm's Lavender Blues goat cheese, Wil-Moore Farms bacon and some crushed walnuts. Bake pizza in a preheated 500 degree F oven for 12-15 minutes until the the cheese is melted and the crust is golden brown. Top with spicy micros and another drizzle of honey!

**What market meals have you created lately? Let us know and share a photo on our Facebook page!**