I have always been involved in our farm in age appropriate ways. We direct market pork, beef, and chickens. I help pick up meat from the processor, load the freezers and sell meat to customers. Helping to raise these animals is something I have been involved in for as long as I can remember. I also help in the fields, driving tractor, picking rocks, etc. We try to run our farm in an efficient, sustainable way and I have been instilled with a respect for farming, taking care of both our land and animals, through my help and involvement.
It was my goal with this project to make fresh fruits and vegetables conveniently available to those who travel by our farm, which is located on a state highway. Another goal was to make people aware of the amazing difference between fresh and store bought produce. In this way it was my hope to get people to consider having their own garden and growing at least some of the food they eat.
I began by planning my garden to make efficient use of the space and try to plant vegetables that would appeal to most people. Next I got ideas for making a sign, ordered the materials and helped my dad to build it. I also decided to use a banquet table and coolers for a self-serve stand to sell my vegetables. The self serve stand made it possible to offer sales at all times during daylight hours without having to man the stand. I found people to be very honest, sometimes I had more in my moneybag than I should have, but never less.
I began planting on April 11, 2009 with leaf lettuce, which sold very well at the stand. I continued planting the rest of my crops as the weather warmed and the time was right. For weed control we laid down feed and seed bags between the rows and put compost on top of them to hold them down. I did this because it keeps the weeds under control all season without constant weeding. We also did quite a bit of hoeing where we didn’t use the compost method. The whole garden had been spread with composted manure the fall before and the added compost between the rows for weed control was my only fertilizer except on the sweet corn where I added some urea. Any bugs were manually removed. I did not have many insect problems, just some squash bugs early on the zucchini.
The people who helped with this project were my family. My dad and sister designed the sign, my dad did the actual building and my sister and I painted it. My mother, sister and brothers helped with the planting, weeding and harvesting. They also helped to stock and maintain the stand, especially when I was at work.
The results of my project were absolutely beautiful gardens, lots of fresh produce on our table and a freezer and shelves full of preserved food for my family. I sold a fair amount at the roadside stand, although I had hoped to have more customers. I now realize how much time it takes to start a new business and I think it was a good beginning. I am hoping to sell even more next year. I will probably never know if my fresh produce enticed anyone to start his or her own garden, but I hope it did.
I wanted my project to be socially responsible by allowing people who commute past our home to be able to buy fresh produce without having to use extra gas to get to a farmers market or CSA garden. I also wanted people to see how much fresher local, just picked produce would be rather than buying produce that had been shipped across the country.
I mulched to control weeds and to conserve water. I used manual insect control for my safety as well as those who would be buying my produce. I learned how much labor it takes to grow food this way and how difficult it would be to make a living raising food this way if people aren’t willing to pay more for it.
I compiled a three ring binder of information about my grant project and exhibited it in the Self-determined 4-H project area at the Rice County Fair. I received a reserve champion award for my efforts.
I contacted the newspaper about my grant and they sent a reporter who did a story. The story contained misinformation about the size of my garden and didn’t include information about being able to purchase produce at the farm or about a garden tour that was held the next day. Our family knows from experience that newspaper and magazine articles are often inaccurate because most reporters don’t understand enough about agriculture to write a totally accurate story. I held a garden open house on Sunday, July 26, 2009, which was publicized in the What’s Happening section of the Faribault Daily News and in the Self Determined 4-H project I did about my garden. Turnout was very light but those who came seemed to enjoy seeing the garden and receiving the recipes I had prepared.