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Showing posts from February, 2021

Survey: How is COVID-19 impacting your business?

A sign listing COVID precautions for customers on a Minnesota apple orchard, September, 2020.   Author: Gigi DiGiacomo, Research Fellow, Department of Applied Economics  We continue to hear from growers about ways the pandemic is affecting your daily work and livelihoods. In this unprecedented and challenging time, the value of your work has never been more evident. It is with this in mind that we ask for your assistance. The University of Minnesota and University of Wisconsin-Madison, as part of a multi-regional study funded by the USDA, have created a survey to assess and quantify the impacts of the COVID-19 on the farm and food communities in our two-state region. The survey includes questions about production, income, financing, staffing, procurement, distribution and sales. The survey results will help researchers, community groups and policymakers establish a roadmap for moving forward. The survey should take about 20 minutes and should be completed by an owner/manager who is cur

Managing seed shortages

Author: Natalie Hoidal, Extension educator for local foods and vegetable crops If you’ve been browsing seed catalogs lately, you’ve likely noticed that many varieties have completely sold out, and some companies have stopped taking orders entirely. In this article, I’ll provide some more context for seed shortages, and suggest some ways to get access to the seeds you need. Is there really a seed shortage? The seed shortages we’re seeing reflected on seed company websites are complex, and don’t necessarily mean that there is an actual shortage of seeds. There are many factors playing into the “sold out” messages we’re seeing on some of our favorite varieties. Some of those factors include: A surge in demand Last year, we saw unprecedented seed sales at the onset of COVID-19, and companies struggled to keep up with demand. Griffin, a large horticultural supply company, conducted a survey of 1000 first time gardeners in 2020, and 80% of them said that they would probably or definitely c

2021 Considerations: Preparing for Pumpkins and Squash

Authors: Natalie Hoidal and Marissa Schuh, Extension Educators, University of Minnesota Extension Our winter / spring vegetable series focused on helping you anticipate and prepare for the growing season’s potential problems continues. This week we're talking about pumpkins and squash. Read on to learn more about variety selection, nutrient management, powdery mildew, and resources for anticipating common insect pests. Variety selection Storage We’re seeing more and more farmers add fall and winter CSAs, meaning fall storage crops are increasingly important. Johnnys has a great guide to the storage lives of different pumpkins and squash. Pumpkins and squash have different storage requirements than pretty much any other vegetables; they require cool, dry conditions (50–60°F with 50-70% relative humidity), whereas many other storage crops require colder, moire humid conditions. Think about how much space you have available for storage, and whether you’re able to keep it at the prop

New water testing reimbursement mini-grant from MDA

Annalisa Hultberg, Extension Educator, food safety Testing your farms water is one of the most important ways you can reduce risk of foodborne illness on your farm. Human pathogens, such as Salmonella or pathogenic E. coli , can be present in water used in the water you use for irrigation and postharvest uses like handwashing and rinsing vegetables, and can make people sick if ingested.  Testing your water annually for bacteria is an important way to protect your customers from potential illness associated with contaminated water. To learn more about the process of gathering a water sample and to find labs in your area that can conduct the tests, see this factsheet   and this recent blog post .  Funds are still available! New Grant Funding Available: Water Testing for Generic E. coli from MN Department of Agriculture  Did you purchase water testing for generic E. coli between September 30, 2017 and December 31, 2020? If so, you may be eligible for reimbursement of your expenses, up to

Advice on planting blueberries in 2021 and 2022

Author: Annie Klodd, Extension Educator - Fruit and Vegetable Production You have likely noticed that certain fruit plants and vegetable seeds are harder to find this year than normal. Natalie Hoidal discusses vegetable seed shortages in this article from UMN Extension Yard and Garden News. In addition to vegetable seeds, growers may also have a hard time finding berry plants at this point in time. For example, the Nourse Farms website shows all but one blueberry variety sold out for the 2021 season (as of Feb. 17). Options for growers planning to plant blueberries have several options: Dig deeper to find potential vendors to purchase plants, contact local retailers, alter variety preferences, or wait until 2022 to plant.  If your soil has not yet been amended to the optimal pH range for blueberries, it is best to use this year to prepare your soil, and plan to plant in 2022. Recommendations for growers wishing to plant in 2021: There are multiple places to source blueberry plants acro

Additional 2021 USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant Funding Available

Federal COVID-19 relief adds funds to existing program, increases maximum grant award St. Paul, MN : The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) has extended the application deadline for the USDA’s Specialty Crop Block Grant (SCBG) as a result of the addition of federal COVID-19 relief funds to the program. The MDA expects to award a total of roughly $2.9 million in funding for the grant program, including about $1.65 million in one-time funding for COVID-19 relief. As a result, the application deadline has been extended to March 16, 2021, and the maximum amount applicants may request has been increased to $150,000 from $100,000. The minimum amount remains $20,000. The grant program aims to boost the competitiveness of specialty crops grown in Minnesota through marketing and promotion, research and development, expanding availability and access, and addressing challenges confronting producers. The eligibility criteria are expected to remain the same for both

2021 Considerations: Tomato Time

Authors: Natalie Hoidal and Marissa Schuh, Extension Educators, University of Minnesota Extension Our winter / spring vegetable series focused on helping you anticipate and prepare for the growing season’s potential problems continues. Let’s talk tomatoes! Two important tomato management strategies to prepare for before the season begins are your fertilizer program, and bacterial disease management. Fertilizer programs for tomatoes Of all of the vegetables, tomatoes tend to get the most attention when it comes to fertility programs. With more and more farmers growing tomatoes in tunnels, (there were over 2000 high tunnel tomato growers in the 2019 MN census of horticulture!), we’re seeing increasing interest in utilizing foliar and sap testing, and applying specialized fertigation treatments. There are a few key things to think about when developing your management plan. The following are universal concerns for high tunnels. Make sure you’re testing your soil very regularly , at least

2021 Planning: Resources for Vegetable Variety Selection

  Author: Marissa Schuh, UMN Extension Educator, Horticulture Integrated Pest Management We all know the varieties we select are one of the most important factors in how the farm season ahead will go.  When flipping through seed catalogs, we are bombarded with acronyms for resistances and lots of big claims.  Below are some resources to help you wade through the options. A stack of magazines. Photo: govicinity via Sources for Evaluating Potential Varieties  There is more than promises of resistance and tolerance.  Universities around the country evaluate varieties to see how they perform in local conditions.  Below are examples of resources that can be used to figure out what varieties you might want to try out this year.  All of the below is well paired with searching by using the ctrl+F key combination. What kind of disease resistance is out there? Cornell tabulates all the disease claims in assorted seed catalogues into webpag e .  Claims haven’t been verified, but ca