Thewis Ridge Currant Company, LLC – Interaction Between Yields and Mulch
The year 2012 has been one of great joy – receiving the SARE Grant on March 31 and the birth of a new granddaughter, Katarina, on November 11. The months in between were very busy with the planting and caring for the black currents. I started researching varieties and their uses in January 2010. I wanted several varieties that would be good for wine making, jams and jellies.
We planted 2400 currant plants on April 23 and 24. There were 2000 Willoughby and 400 Titania – $2733.00 in grant money was used to purchase these plants.
March 21-27 were the days I put 16 ½ yards of compost down on the rows in readiness for planting, using a small tractor and trailer and then using 5 gallon pails to put the compost down the middle of the rows. The rows were then tilled on March 30th; $80 in grant money was used to pay for tilling.
Putting the rows on the contour with the help of NRCS kept the soil from eroding during heavy rains in August and September. The different mulches also helped control soil erosion. Weed control is my biggest problem. There were weeds growing in all the rows. The use of a herbicide may be needed in 2011 to help with weed control and to help control poison ivy that was introduced with the planting of the variety Willoughby. The plastic and fabric gave the best weed control.
We plan on continuing adding to the mulches; grass clippings and bark chips. Mowing is very important and will continue to help with disease and weed control. Insect control will be watched closely. We will get advice from Extension Specialist to help identify and control insects. We are planning a family black currant picking day. We will then compare yields with different ground covers.
During the week of April 11th I picked 5 trailer loads of rocks off the field. April 20 two loads of wood chips were delivered — $220.00 in grant money was used. The field was mowed to get ready for planting days. The field was mowed 15 times during the summer and fall. Grant money, $1243.00, was used for mowing and tractor leasing, mulching, and weeding.
We had 28 family and friends participate in the planting of the black currants. It started out as a cool and rainy day and everyone worked very hard. One crew planted and another crew put down different ground covers that would help with the research. Black plastic, landscape fabric and staples were paid for with grant money: $773.00.
It was a wonderful sight at the end of the day – 2400 plants in the ground and ready to grow! The crews were thanked and well fed in appreciation for their generous help. The plants were top dressed on April 25th with kelp, calcium, sulfur and a 10-9-10 fertilizer –$75.00 of SARE grant money was used.
April 29 I hauled the first load of grass clippings – these were a part of the research to compare different mulches with erosion control, weed and disease and finally yield of different varieties. There were 17 loads of grass clippings that came from the Arcadia City Parks Department.
Wood chips were put down between the plants. Family helped put these around our plants, plus several students helped. Weeding, weeding and weeding was the major theme for the rest of the summer and fall. It was difficult to keep up. We had several family weeding and mulching days. Several times we hired other family groups to help with the weeding. These major weeding days were times when the whole field was weeded at one time. SARE grant money was used: $676.00.
We scheduled a field Day on August 21st. Carl Duley, Buffalo County Extension Agent organized the advertising and data. Rebecca Harbut, UW-Extension, Small Fruit Specialist, discussed small fruit production in western Wisconsin. Carl Duley discussed developing a marketing plan and the application process for SARE producer grants.
I discussed field preparation, planting and mulching of the plants and the results from the different mulches and erosion, weed, and disease control.
Lunch was served featuring black currants – jam with Brie cheese and crackers, black currant cookies and bars, and black currant juices. Approximately 55 people enjoyed the sunny day the speakers and the wonderful food. $200.00 from the grant was used for advertising, printing and food.
The field was mowed for the last time on November 15th. The plants went to bed with a good snow cover for the winter. A total of $6000.00 was used for this project.
I am waiting for spring; the plants have good bud growth and are waiting for spring, too.
On August 21 we had our first Education Day. Carl Duley, Buffalo County Extension Agent, facilitated the meeting for farmers interested in starting black currants and other small plants. Rebecca Harbut, UW Cooperative Extension small plant specialist, shared her knowledge; she answered many questions. Carl Duley discussed developing a marketing plan and the application process for SARE Farmer/Rancher grants. I discussed reasons for choosing black currants.
In early October the Arcadia Area Historical Society conducted a self-guided tour through the township of Glencoe. Our black currant field was featured as one of the stops on the tour. The tour groups were very interested in the story of our family project.
March 11, 2011, a joint county education day for people interested in commercial berry production. 60 plus individuals attended this day featuring small plant production (grapes, raspberries, blueberries, currants and aronia). I participated in a panel discussion on the reasons we started our particular plant – how we plan on continuing and if we plan on expansion. This was a great way to interact with others interested in black currants and other small plants. We will be having a summer field day to compare yields with the different mulches! We are looking forward to this day.