- Vegetables: cucurbits, greens (leafy), radishes (culinary)
- Crop Production: no-till
- Education and Training: on-farm/ranch research
- Production Systems: organic agriculture
- Sustainable Communities: urban agriculture
Nutrition experts refer to urban inner-city neighborhoods such as Oak Grove as "food deserts" because there are virtually no grocery stores within proximity that offer an average range of nutritious food including leafy vegetables and raw fruits. Urban inner city farming is therefore an important tool of improvement in this area. In addition to improving the healthy food choices, the urban farms offer learning and income generating opportunities. There is already a farmers market in the neighborhood, Jefferson Farms sells at two other farmers markets and we know that with renewed neighborhood interest, that will come from this more accessible means of farming, both community residents and community markets will profit. Two of the prevailing socio-economic demographics in the Oak Grove Neighborhood are age and income; many seniors live on fixed income. Generally, seniors have physical handicaps that prohibit the critical and timely use of the following critical farm maintenance activities: plowing, tilling, weeding, fertilizing, watering, and mulching. In addition, the senior’s fixed incomes prohibit the frequent use of water that may be necessary during the summer months and the frequent use of contract laborers who would perform the maintenance activities for pay. With water prices on the rise, seniors and others on fixed incomes are less likely to engage in urban farming. Techniques that reduce both the amount of labor hours necessary to perform the critical farm maintenance activities and the amount of water required to sustain and promote crop growth would go a long way to promoting participation with and satisfaction in the urban inner city farm operations. Starting in January, 2010, I have been assisted every Saturday by volunteer Paul Grahovac who has also assisted me with this proposal. Paul is a corporate attorney and business development executive with extensive experience in technology development and technology transfer. This includes work with the agricultural research team at the U. S. Department of Energy's Idaho National Energy & Environmental Laboratory and participation in the Idaho Potato School. His passion for using agriculture to raise incomes and other quality of life parameters coupled with his business acumen has led him to recommend a method to solve the two problems: water usage and reduced labor associated with the critical farm maintenance activities. His recommendation is: slot farming. Jefferson Farms will use the slot farming technique and this proposal recommends that we research this technique to substantially reduce or eliminate the labors hours associated with performing the critical farm maintenance activities. As a SARE grant recipient, Jefferson Farms will be able to construct and evaluate slot farming as a cost-effective alternative to the traditional urban farm methods. Quantitative and qualitative analysis will be performed during the production season. We propose to demonstrate how the narrow crop growth areas (slot farming areas) will boost desirable main crop production because more time can be spent planting, cultivating and marketing rather than the laborious and reiterative tasks associated with the critical farm maintenance activities associated with traditional farming methods. Slot farming uses a sidewalk edger that makes a “slot” in the ground. The grass that grows around the slots acts as living mulch and is controlled by regular mowing. Chicken manure and organic compost materials will fertilize the narrow crop-growth areas thus overcoming the tendency of the living mulch to outpace the growth of desirable crops. The by-product of the living mulch is that it also reduces the crop’s susceptibility to disease. In 2010, over 55,000 gallons of water were used to irrigate the crops at just one Jefferson Farms’ site at a cost of over $223. We anticipate that the slot farming technique will substantially reduce this cost by one-half.