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December 29th, 2010

Collaborating for Safer Food

don_tnBill, I think your idea of a garden “learning cooperative” is brilliant. Now, that’s learning! Nothing works better than getting out in gardens. Are you using a book to go along with your discussions and observations? When the weather gets bad, it might make a good option. I like Wendy Johnson’s Gardening at the Dragon’s Gate, and wish I could use it in academic classes. That’s another advantage to informal learning.

Meanwhile, the food safety bill passed last week as a rider to the federal budget extension. There was much angst in some quarters over potential impacts on small organic growers and even backyard gardeners. My reading is that there’s not much threat, especially with an amendment exempting small growers that the North Carolina Farm Stewardship Association (NCFS) worked very hard to have included. NCFS is our statewide network of organic growers, been around for a long time, good group. North Carolina has one Republican senator and one Democratic senator, and we got both on board and working together. (See, gardens bring folks together, right?) So, we’re generally happy here, or maybe relieved is a better word—if only because it could have been much worse. Relative happiness, like a couple nice squash before the borers hit. But I’ll take it. —Don Boekelheide, Charlotte, North Carolina

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December 28th, 2010

Growing New Gardeners

bill_tnLeslie, your seedlings look so neat and organized! Maybe mine will be a little more orderly next year, too. I’ve purchased a hoop bender from Johnny’s. This is the big one, designed to bend the tubing from cyclone fence. Two 10-foot pieces bend together to make a 12-foot-wide arch covered with 20-foot-wide plastic. Hopefully we’ll get it up fairly early in January. I’m going to start with 20 feet long. This will give me about three times the floor space of the ramshackle hoop house I’ve been using for years and probably five times the usable space. I’ll let you know how it goes.

With inspiration from the Test Gardeners who are educators, I’ve begun an education project myself. An old friend and I have started a loosely organized group of interested backyard gardeners. Some are customers of my CSA farm, plus some others. Few have much gardening experience, but a lot of interest. We’ve met twice so far, about 8 people each time but probably 12 different folks altogether.

First meeting was at my friend Brent’s back yard where he does veggies in a few nooks around a nicely landscaped yard with swimming pool. Second one was a walkabout at my 2-acre garden. So we’ve shown them large and tiny so far and talked about what we call “cool-weather veggies” here. Next month we’ll see if any of them have actually started their winter gardens. Actually, I think it’s cool that we’ve begun in winter. There are plenty of tomato/cucumber/zucchini growers here, but not many folks do the winter garden.

Just where this will lead I don’t know, but I think we’re providing people some help and encouragement. —Bill Nunes, Gustine, California

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