Professional Training for Developing a Hands-On Organic Weed Management Learning Center for Commercial Market Gardens in Local Communities

2010 Annual Report for EW08-016B

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2008: $47,933.72
Projected End Date: 12/31/2011
Region: Western
State: New Mexico
Principal Investigator:
Beth LaShell
Fort Lewis College

Professional Training for Developing a Hands-On Organic Weed Management Learning Center for Commercial Market Gardens in Local Communities


The Organic Weed Management Learning Center had another successful year providing educational opportunities for local professionals, students, urban gardeners and community members. We hosted an organic weed management symposium in Bloomfield, NM in February. Additional recruitment presentations were given at New Mexico Farmer’s Market workshop and Shiprock Ag Days. During the summer, five hands-on workshops were conducted in the research market garden. The market garden demonstrated 15 different organic weed management techniques and offered workshop participants a chance to view ongoing results and learn more about methodology, soil and sustainability analysis, weed control efficacy and market garden production. A blog chronicling the different activities was maintained and a website was continually updated.

Objectives/Performance Targets

Host Organic Weed Management Strategies Symposium
Meet with regional Extension Agents to identify additional participants
Continue to gather information on current producer practices and agricultural professional knowledge
Hire hourly students
Determine organic weed management strategies to be included at Learning Center
Coordinate with local agricultural professionals to identify and establish on-farm demonstration sites in Shiprock, NM and 4-C region.
Schedule multiple workshops on methodology, soil and sustainability analysis, efficacy and production, and managing web-based information.
Create training documents for each Learning Center workshop. Distribute and make available on website.
Assist on-farm demonstration site coordinators with maintenance and data collection.
Collect appropriate data to document efficacy, sustainability and production differences.
Maintain website and BLOG
Make all publications available online
Assess efficacy of on-farm organic weed management strategies
Create and print summary booklet


Hosted Organic Weed Management Strategies Symposium

The Four-Corners WSARE Organic Weed Management Conference was held on February 24, 2010 at McGee Park in Bloomfield, NM. There were 60 participants, 8 model farmers, 5 speakers and 5 extension agents present. Of the participants, 5 were from Archuleta, 3 from LaPlata, 5 from Montezuma, 2 from San Miguel/Dolores, 45 from San Juan County, NM, and 5 from other counties in Colorado. In addition to a full program, recruitment material was distributed to encourage participants to become part of the Learning Center. Ten additional people completed a form indicating they would be interested in the Learning Center. They were added to our participants list and emailed information on all scheduled workshops.
Twenty seven of the participants rated their before and after knowledge on each of the presentations. The gain in knowledge (on a scale from 1 to 10) was: What is WSARE? (5.33), Cover Crops (2.63), Transitioning to Organic (1.52), Insect Bio-Control (4.04), Using Grasses in Revegetation (2.19), Hands-On Organic Weed Management Learning Center for Commercial Market Gardens in Local Communities (3.52), Crop Rotations (3.11). The most significant change for Agricultural Professionals will be to assist clientele with organic weed management planning. Producers plan to incorporate cover crops and crop rotations into their operations.

Met with regional Extension Agents to identify potential participants

Each year the San Juan Basin (LaPlata, Montezuma, Dolores, San Miguel, Archuleta and San Juan, NM) agents meet to plan the upcoming workshops for the region. All of the agents contributed to the Organic Weed Management conference in February and attended the symposium as well as several workshops. Each of the regional agents agreed to distribute information to current and former master gardeners, and publicize the Learning Center workshops in their newsletters. To increase participation in New Mexico, the PI attended a Farmer’s Market Workshop in January and presented information on the Learning Center and the first year’s results. To increase contact with Model Farmers and Agricultural Professionals working with the Navajo Nation, the PI attended the Shiprock Ag Days in March. One presentation was used to increase awareness of WSARE programs and grant opportunities. A second presentation included information on the Learning Center and results from the Organic Weed Management Techniques used in 2009. Most of the Model Farmers do not have an email address and only receive information via mail. We did see an increase in the number of model farmers that attended summer workshop. Three of the five agents also attended the bio-control workshop on May 7th and at least one additional workshop during the summer.

Continued to gather information on current producer practices and agricultural professional knowledge

Additional surveys were distributed at the Feb Symposium, NM Farmer’s Market workshop, Shiprock Ag Days and the Initial workshop at the Learning Center. This data was entered by hourly students and turned over to the SouthWest Marketing Network for analysis.

Hired hourly students

The project hired a part time hourly during the Winter 10 to assist with data entry and Spring planning. During the summer, we hired two part-time Fort Lewis College students to assist with data collection, plot maintenance, and workshop organization. Additionally, we were able work with SouthWest Conservation Corp by hosting a Youth (ages 11-15) Corp at the Learning Center. Three Fort Lewis students were hired as summer associates to assist with the Corp. They received a monthly stipend along with an Americorp award at the end of the eight week session. The Corp and the Summer Associates assisted us with all aspects of the project. Once school started, one part time hourly employee was maintained to help with continued data collection and completion of the growing season. Additionally, two students from the FLC Summer Field Class completed a 3 credit internship during the Fall semester.

Determined organic weed management strategies to be included at Learning Center

The 2010 Research Garden included 15 different techniques including plastic barriers, biodegradable barriers, cultural and mechanical. Participants in the 2009 workshops indicated a strong interest in more biodegradable options as well as colored plastics. The following treatments were applied: Control, Red plastic, Black plastic, White on Black plastic, Embossed black plastic, Biodegradable embossed black plastic, EcoOne, Planters Paper, EcoCover, Horticultural Vineger, Flaming, Corn Gluten Meal, Hand weeding, and Re-usable weed barrier.

Coordinated with local agricultural professionals to identify and established on-farm demonstration sites in Shiprock, NM and 4-C region.

Working with Gary Hathorn, Model Farmer Coordinator, we identified two potential cooperators and sites for the on-farm demonstrations in Shiprock, NM. After visiting with two producers and visiting their respective locations, we selected the cooperator that was more accessible and grew a wider variety of crops.
While San Miguel County is part of our Four Corners region and works with our San Juan Basin agents, travel times often prohibit growers from attending workshops. Therefore, we decided to establish a demonstration in the Norwood/Telluride area. We worked with the San Miguel Extension agent to identify some potential cooperators in her region. The most visible and enthusiastic group was from the Norwood Community Garden. They established a 1.5 acre garden in town with good access to water in 2009. After tilling the garden, a tremendous amount of Canadian thistle invaded the growing space so they were looking for some treatments that would allow them to grow produce in 2010.
The Norwood site was established on June 3rd utilizing four students and the PI. We worked with community garden organizers to install 80’ strips of EcoCover (biodegradable), EcoOne (biodegradable), Black Plastic and Red Plastic in one section of their garden that had already been tilled. We provided them with 80’ of the reusable weed barrier obtained from NRCS for another section of the garden that was not yet ready for installation.
The Shiprock, NM demonstration site was installed on June 7th at one of the Model Farmer’s gardens. She raises chilis, squash and tomatoes and uses flood irrigation so it made installation more difficult. We tried a couple of different techniques to make transplanting and watering easier. The Red plastic was installed across the irrigation channel to allow for transplants to be placed on both side of the water source. The cooperator later moved the barrier because it was too difficult to manage the water in the channel when it was covered up. To help with the extreme summer heat, we installed the white on black plastic and red plastic. The red plastic has also been shown to increase tomato production. As a biodegradable option, we installed EcoOne and the Embossed biodegradeable black plastic.

Create training documents for each Learning Center workshop. Distribute and make available on website.

The primary training document we have been distributing was developed by Dr. Phil Shuler on Soil Analysis. This continues to be our most popular hands-on workshop because they were able to work with pH meters, infiltrometers and make dirt shakes. We also provided cost analyses handouts for the 15 different methods being studied, potential sources for purchasing tools and barriers along with websites for technology like thermocrons. These documents will also be made available on the website. With the conversion to the new website, we are still working on bringing all of the information up to date.

Scheduled multiple workshops on methodology, soil and sustainability analysis, efficacy and production, and managing web-based information.

The initial workshop was held on May 7, 2010 at the Fort Lewis College Field Station. The topic for the workshop was Biological and Cultural Control of Pests. There were 40 people who attended the workshop and 20 completed an evaluation form. Of the attendees, 29 were from LaPlata, 3 from Montezuma, and 6 from San Juan County, NM, and 2 from Dolores County. The program consisted of three formal presentations and a hands-on Insect Monitoring activity followed by a tour of the demonstration plots. Evaluations indicated that knowledge gained for the various presentations were Insect Identification- 2.58, Longterm Grasshopper Management – 4.63, Tamarisk Leaf Beetle – 4.09, Vegetable Pest Management for Small Farms/Market Gardens – 2.89 and Hands-on Insect Monitoring – 4.67. The audience was made up of 12 agriculture professionals (4 tribal representatives and 4 extension personnel), 7 farmers, 9 students and 12 Educators or Master Gardeners.
We offered our workshops in a variety of different ways this year. We found that our audience liked the 4 hour workshop schedule and still found the Soils workshop to be the most popular. To give the participants more time to ask questions and network with their fellow participants, we offered a snack/meal break in between the two different workshops. Additionally, we worked with the LaPlata County Extension program to offer the workshops to their BackYard Gardening participants.
Workshops began in June after the plots were established by the FLC Field Class during the month of May. The students assisted with the selection of the methods and each of the 17 students contributed to the selection and establishment of the research plots.

Soil Analysis: June 9, Aug 2 and August 17
Soil analyses hands on topics included taking soil samples, using a pentrometer (measures soil compaction), infiltrometer (measures water percolation) and soil pH. Participants were encouraged to bring a jar of their dirt with them so they could perform some simple tests.

Methodology: June 9, July 14, August 2 and 17
Methodology topics included working with different options for market gardens including barrier methods (traditional, biodegradable, and mechanical) and alternative treatments (corn gluten meal, flaming, horticultural vinegar). Participants were also given the opportunity to try out several of the hand weeding tools that the Learning Center has been using in the plots.

Efficacy and Production: June 9, July 14, August 2 and 17
Efficacy topics included visually inspecting the different treatments as well as reviewing production data from the different plots, showing participants how to take and interpret transect data. We also shared production data from the various treatments as well as preliminary temperature data with participants.

Web-based Information: June 9, July 14, August 2 and 17
All participants were given URLs for the BLOG, website, treatment barriers and tools resrouces as well as I information on the thermacrons that record temperatures.

Attendance at the June 9th workshop was 48, July 14th was 20, August 2nd was 10 and August 17th was 25. The June 9th workshop had 30 growers (backyard gardeners), 10 master gardeners, 2 extension personnel, 2 Fort Lewis Professionals and 4 students. The July 14th workshop had 12 growers, 4 master gardeners, 1 extension agents and 3 students. The August 2nd workshop had 2 master gardeners, 4 model farmers, 2 FLC professionals and 2 students. The August 17th workshop had 5 NRCS employees, 5 master gardeners, 2 extension personnel, 5 farmers and 3 students.

Collected appropriate data to document efficacy, sustainability and production differences.

Data collected on the research plots included journal entries documenting planting and germination dates for the various crops as well as any unique observations (weed growth under red plastic), recording production data by treatment, replicate and crop, and mid-season transects to characterize plant populations within treatment and replicate. Thermacrons were placed in each plot on May 20th. They were buried 4 inches into the soil and programmed to record temperatures every 90 minutes. They were removed on August 3rd and initial data was downloaded. Thermacrons were reburied until September 25th when the remaining data was downloaded. Data will be summarized for the final report.

Assessed efficacy of organic weed management strategies

Pictures of the 15 different techniques were taken at least once a month beginning with their establishment in May. Some of these pictures were placed in the blog and will be used in project presentations.
Vegetables were harvested at appropriate maturity and weights and counts of each rep and treatment were recorded. Summary data is being entered by Fort Lewis College work study students this winter. Results will be published on website when analyses are complete.
A 20’ transect line was used to record weed, crop or bare ground every 12 inches. Three transects were taken in each replicate for a total of 240 data points per treatment. This data is being entered this Winter and will be summarized for the final report.

Maintain website and BLOG

A new website was established at and a redirect was placed on the Colorado State website ( The website was used to announce upcoming events, post presentations from the symposiums and workshops as well as posting additional reference material related to some of the organic weed management techniques we are using. With the new website, we are able to create photo albums and slide shows that participants will find useful.
The BLOG was updated with pictures and narrative on upcoming activities and events throughout the growing season. Once the production data has been summarized, we’ll place the results on the website.

Create and print summary booklet

The PI is currently compiling information for the different treatments that were used during this project. This date includes purchasing and cost information, observed advantages and disadvantages, as well as temperature and production data. Once completed this Spring, it will be printed and distributed to regional Extension, NRCS and tribal offices as well as being available at the Fort Lewis Field Station and on the website.

Make all publications available online

We continue to update and transfer information to the website. Because of the different program that is used at Fort Lewis College, all of the pictures and documents have to be altered in order to be uploaded. It is taking longer than we anticipated.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

During the final year of this grant, we have introduced additional information related to Organic Weed Management into the community and raised awareness for alternative methods of weed control in market gardens. Approximately 50% of our attendees in 2010 were new participants so repeating many of the topics was important to educating these people. We presented the material in a variety of different venues utilizing different methods. The day long symposium was held in New Mexico and utilized more traditional methods of formal presentations. The initial workshop on bio-control and all of our short workshops combined the traditional with hands-on activities. We had hoped for a larger turnout at the Symposium in February, particularly from the Model Farmers but we were pleased to see more NRCS personnel attend. The biological control workshop in May introduced several new topics to our participants and was very well received. The Southern Ute Tribe sent employees from their forestry and farm management division to participate. They really enjoyed the hands-on insect identification using the microscopes but unfortunately, it was too cold to try and net any insects. The participants responded well to the new format of our summer workshops and we saw an increased number of participants in these evening activities. Our target audience (agriculture professionals, master gardeners, model farmers, progressive producers and students) have been actively participating and we saw an increase in the types of agricultural professionals attending workshops. As we enter into the final phases of this grant, we continue to work with different communities in our region to bring them more information on organic weed management. We recently scheduled an Integrated Land Management workshop in Cortez, CO (Montezuma County) for early March. Topics will include IPM, wildlife management, small acreage crops and regional medicinal herb production. Establishing the Learning Center and introducing the region to organic weed management techniques will benefit this community for many years to come.


Gary Hathorn
PO Box 1051
Flora Vista, NM 87415
Office Phone: 5053205056
Darrin Parmenter
Horticulture Agent
LaPlata County - CSU
2500 Main Avenue
Durango, CO 81301
Office Phone: 9703826464
Phil Shuler
Fort Lewis College
1000 Rim Drive
Durango, CO 81301
Office Phone: 9702477192
Jim Dyer
SouthWest Marketing Network
272 CR 134
Hesperus, CO 81326
Office Phone: 9705882292