New City Farm is a 3 acre vegetable farm and has been in operation since 2012. We have been a sustainable grower (using organic practices while not being certified) since the farm started.
This project will research innovative practices of intercropping in order to make small scale CSA farm operations more economically and ecologically sustainable. While CSA models are socially beneficial to farmers and communities because they create a direct relationship between farmers and consumers, CSA farms often struggle with managing a large diversity of crops in a financially viable way. This problem is particularly acute for small farms that try to grow space consuming crops like sweet potatoes, winter squash, and broccoli. Because these crops need many days to reach maturity and a lot of space, many CSA farms abandon growing these crops and focus instead on more short day small crops such as salad greens. This can reduce the value of CSA shares to consumers; research consistently shows consumers highly value hearty vegetables like sweet potatoes, squash and broccoli. This project will demonstrate that these crops can be grown profitability on a small scale if they are intercropped with short day small crops. We will research the combination of sweet potatoes with onions, winter squash with garlic, and broccoli with lettuce. Our research will provide farmers with specific information about an intercropping growing system along with the supporting economic data.
- Research and record the yield per acre of three intercropping systems: broccoli/lettuce, sweet potatoes/onions, and winter squash/garlic
- Determine return on investment for each of the intercropping pairings by recording materials and labor expenses, and comparing market value to the yield recorded for each separate pairing
- Produce a digital document outlining the spacing and timing of each intercropping system along with two short videos documenting project results
- Share project results through a field day, conference presentations, and through social media
This project will be a demonstration project. Three 150ft x 150ft test plots will be established to trial the three intercropping pairings of broccoli/lettuce, winter squash/garlic, and sweet potatoes/onions.
In the broccoli pairing, broccoli and lettuce will be planted at the same time. Two rows of lettuce will be planted on the outer edges of a 30in bed top. Broccoli will be transplanted down the center row. We will plant this intercropping into bare soil and will manage weeds with scuffle hoes.
The sweet potato/onion intercropping and winter squash/garlic planting will be planted with the same spacing and put in landscape fabric. By using the same spacing, growers can reuse fabric interchangeably between each pairing during subsequent seasons. The landscape fabric was chosen in order to manage weeds on both of these vining crops. The fabric will have holes burned in it for a 30in bed top. Each bed will have three rows. The outer rows will be for the garlic or onions and the center row will be for winter squash or sweet potatoes.
In the squash pairing, garlic will be planted in the fall ahead of the winter squash. Winter squash will be transplanted in the center row of the bed in early June. Garlic will be harvested in July, just as the squash plants begin to vine out.
In the onion/sweet potato pairing, onions will be transplanted 50 days ahead of the winter squash planting. This will allow the onions ample time to be established without competition and will ensure they receive full sunlight into the equinox. The sweet potato slips will be transplanted in early June. Onions will be harvested in late July, just as the sweet potato vines begin to take over the entirety of the space. Please see attached drawing for specific planting patterns (SARE-Intercropping-diagram).
Educational & Outreach Activities
On August 19 we hosted a farm group from the Michigan State Student Organic Farm. We gave a tour of the farm and showed our intercropping systems. At the end of the tour we provided pizza from our wood fired pizza oven and talked about value added production and our previous SARE project. This event was advertise through the MSU Student Organic Farm as a farmer field day school. Approximately 25 farmers were in attendance.
We also presented our findings at the Michigan Family Farm Conference on February 8, 2020. Approxiamtely 55 farmers were in attendance.
We are scheduled to present at the Indiana Small Farms Conference on March 6, 2020.
We will apply to present at the Michigan Small Farm Conference in 2021.