Skip to main content


Showing posts from October, 2020

What's a Food Safety Plan and why would I need one?

Annalisa Hultberg, Extension Educator, food safety Good agricultural practices, or GAPs, are practical steps that farmers take to protect their fresh fruits and vegetables from harmful bacteria and viral pathogens that can make people sick. Many fresh fruit and vegetables are consumed raw, meaning there is not a processing step to kill any potentially harmful microbes that might be present. Therefore, preventing contamination in the first place is the goal. A food safety plan is your farm's roadmap to help prevent microbial contamination of your fresh produce. Who needs a food safety plan? At this time most Minnesota growers are not required to have a farm food safety plan unless they have a GAP audit on their product, or unless their customer – typically a distributor, grocery store, school or restaurant – requires it. If you need to have a GAP audit, the first thing you need is a written food safety plan. If you are interested in learning more about the process for getting a GA

From our colleagues: Farmer reviews of E-commerce platforms

The CSA Innovation Network recently published a comprehensive review of farmer experiences with a variety of E-Commerce platforms. While we rarely post other peoples' content, we thought that this would be a useful tool for those of you who are planning to shift to online sales as a result of COVID-19 and other market forces. From the CSA Innovation Network:  The report is layered allowing you to quickly access the information you need, including: an intro chart showing overall farmer rating, pricing, and best uses for the top nine platforms a page with the full farmer ratings, selected farmer quotes, and notes about appropriate sales channels additional links take you to deeper details: the full set of farmer pros/cons for the platform the full set of farmer comments on the platform a written farmer profile on why and how they use the platform and a farmer-guided video tour of the customer facing store and backend functions of the platform  Click here to read the report.

New video: Estimating nitrogen credits from cover crops

 Author: Natalie Hoidal, UMN Extension educator Cover crops provide many ecosystem services, one of which is nitrogen. When you're making nutrient management decisions and calculating fertilizer needs, make sure you're including the nitrogen provided from your cover crop in your calculation.  In the video embedded below, graduate student Naomy Candelaria walks us through the process of estimating the nitrogen contribution from your cover crop.

Snow and Cold Weather Complicate Fall Mulching for Strawberries

Photo: Three inches of snow covers the ground west of the Twin Cities, October 20, 2020. Annie Klodd  Between cold temperatures and snowfall this week, it can be confusing to decide when to lay down mulch for strawberries. Straw is typically applied some time in November, depending your location and the weather. A very general rule is to apply mulch once temperatures dip below 20 degrees F, as long as the plants have had a chance to go dormant and acclimate to late fall temperatures. Another precise, research-based rule is to wait until the soil temperature has remained at or below 40 degrees F at 4 inches depth for at least 3 consecutive days. Bottom line: It is important to wait until the plants go dormant to apply mulch, so that they do not keep growing underneath the straw.  However, the cold temperatures and snow this week make following these rules a little more interesting. Since the plants were still growing as of a few days ago, they are unlikely to be dormant, and the soil t

National online GAPs class for fruit and vegetable growers: scholarships available

updated 4/9/21 Annalisa Hultberg, Extension Educator, Food Safety There are many online trainings available for farmers currently, with most trainings moving to virtual spaces due to COVID-19.  One great option right now is the fully-online 3 week GAPs class offered by our partners at Cornell University, and we have scholarships for farmers who wish to participate. This course, led by national experts and hosted by Cornell University National GAPs Program, is a great option if you are wanting to learn more about on-farm food safety in a self-paced, web-based class over the course of 3 weeks.  The course will provide you with excellent research-based information on some of the key risks to food safety on your farm and practical ways to reduce them. The next offering of the course is May 12 - June 1 with subsequent courses to follow.  The course lasts 3 weeks and includes interactive activities to learn about on-farm food safety. Once the course opens, it is open 7 days a week, 24 hours

Post-harvest disease management for grapevine downy mildew and powdery mildew

 This article was originally published on the UMN Grape Breeding and Enology blog.  Authors: Matt Clark, UMN Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist, Grape Breeding and Enology Leslie Holland, UW-Madison Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist, Fruit Pathology Annie Klodd, UMN Extension – Fruit Production   If downy mildew and powdery mildew are present on grapevine leaves at harvest, control measures should be considered at that time to prevent early leaf drop and help vines properly acclimate for winter.   Powdery mildew on the upper side of a grapevine leaf (left) and downy mildew spores on the underside of a leaf (right) on grapevine leaves. Matt Clark. Post-harvest vineyard management of downy and powdery mildew is critical as these diseases can appear late in the season and reduce photosynthesis, defoliate vines, and increase the risk of winter damage. Vineyard managers should scout early and often, and continue to control for these diseases late into the season. Furthe

Pumpkin Grower Virtual Meetup - November 11th

Join the UMN Extension Fruit and Vegetable Team for a virtual pumpkin grower meetup on November 11th at 6:00pm.  We all look forward to getting back to in-person events soon. However, while gathering restrictions are still in place, we will be "virtually" gathering pumpkin growers together on Nov. 11. This will be a chance for growers to share thoughts about the 2020 season, hear about recent findings from UMN and collaborating farmers, and get ideas for next year.  Additionally, learn about squash mosaic virus management, and see results from the pumpkin variety trials.  This will be an informal and interactive discussion. Register at Agenda: Pumpkin Variety Trial Results: Elmstrand’s 2019 and Hoffbauer’s 2020 (Annie Klodd, UMN Extension Educator, Fruit and Vegetable Production) Squash Mosaic Virus (Natalie Hoidal, UMN Extension Educator, Vegetable Production and Local Foods) Open Discussion: How did the season go overall Varieties that worked out wel

Fall invasive species management in on-farm woody areas

 Authors: Shane Bugeja, Local Extension Educator, and Natalie Hoidal, Extension Educator for local foods and vegetable crops Most farmers are still busy harvesting, cleaning fields, and preparing for next year. However, as your workload begins to slow down, consider taking some time to monitor for invasive species on your farm. While this article is about woodland invasive plants, we are posting it here because many fruit and vegetable farms in Minnesota have wood lots or small forested patches. Two plants in particular should be actively managed in these plots in order to maintain a diverse and healthy woodland ecosystem: Buckthorn and Garlic Mustard. Both plants are most effectively managed in the fall and in early spring. Buckthorn Common buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica) or glossy buckthorn (Frangula alnus) arrived in Minnesota in the 1850s; it was brought from Europe as a landscaping plant. Indeed, in its first few years of growth, it forms a dense patch of shrubs with nice dark gree

What it takes to get a GAP audit for your produce

Annalisa Hultberg Extension Educator, On-Farm Food Safety This time of year we get calls and emails from growers thinking about their markets and expanding opportunities next season. You may have heard about a GAP audit, and wonder what it is and how it could benefit your operation.  Here are 5 key tips to think about if you are considering a GAP audit. What is a GAP audit?  A GAP audit is basically a verification that your farm is following science-based best practices for food safety in growing fresh produce. An inspector from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) or another certifying body comes to your farm with a checklist to verify that you have implemented and are following Good Agricultural Practices during the growing, harvesting, packing, storage, and transportation of your product. It is not a law or regulation; it is a voluntary audit that you pay for, and farmers generally get it to access a market that requires an audit.   Read more about what the audit is and who