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Showing posts from September, 2021

Farm to school food safety - new resources

Annalisa Hultberg, Extension Educator, food safety Food safety is sometimes a topic that is seen as creating a bottleneck or barriers for a farm selling to a new market, like a school or an institution.  A farm might lack a food safety verification like a GAP audit that some buyers require, or sometimes a buyer thinks that local food is not legal to use in their food service setting. Two new resources help clarify what is required and what is allowed under Minnesota state food code when farms sell to markets like schools and other institutions. What is allowed under law? To be clear,  as per Minnesota state statute, locally grown food is legal to procure for school meal programs and other foodservice settings. A farmer is not required to get any sort of license or inspection to sell to these buyers, as long as they grow and sell their own product. As per the Minnesota Department of Health food grown by farmers is an "approved source" . A buyer might ask for a GAP audit, whic

A grape fall topic: Why we remove grow tubes for the winter

A vineyard with grow tubes on newly planted vines. Photo: A. Klodd.   Author: Annie Klodd, Extension Educator - Fruit and Vegetable Production. To appreciate why it's so important to remove grow tubes in the fall, we first have to understand the original function of grow tubes. Grow tubes are designed to absorb heat from sunlight, creating a warmer-than-ambient environment inside the tube during daylight hours. Originally called "tree shelters," grow tubes have been used since around 1979. They originated from a shade tree researcher named Graham Tuley who used them to accelerate the upward growth of young tree seedlings during the growing season ( Source ).   In vineyards, grow tubes rose in popularity over the last 20 years, but not necessarily for that purpose. For many grape growers, grow tubes primarily function to protect newly planted vines so that we can spray herbicides around the tender shoots without injuring them. They also protect against wi

Late Season Vegetable Visitor: Fall Armyworm

Reports are coming in from across the Midwest and now Minnesota that the region has received a late season influx of Fall Armyworm.  This pest only makes it to Minnesota from southern regions when we have just the right conditions and south to north airflow (similar to corn earworm).   Fall armyworm caterpillars can be best identified by looking for a Y shape on their head.  They are often found clustered together in groups. Fall armyworm feeding on grass. Note the upside-down Y going down the forehead and between the eyes. Gif: Marissa Schuh, University of Minnesota Extension. Fall armyworm as a vegetable pest Fall armyworm can be a pest of a few vegetable crops, though extension hasn’t gotten any reports of it feeding on vegetables this fall.   It is most likely to be a pest of sweet corn, where it feeds on the leaves of pre-tassel corn, then moves to the tassel, and finally into the ear once it develops.  Most sweet corn production is wrapping up, so this isn’t a great threat. Fall

Help us Schedule a Pumpkin Field Day

 The University of Minnesota Extension fruit and vegetable team is working an in-person pumpkin field day.  Help us schedule it! We are aiming for the window between Halloween weekend and Thanksgiving for a two-hour field day in Chaska, Minnesota. .  Loading…

What comes after grape harvest

Author: Annie Klodd, Extension Educator - Fruit and Vegetable Production After grape harvest ends, there are a handful of key tasks grape growers can do to get the vineyard and equipment into shape before winter. With the exception of equipment cleaning, the rest of these tasks are on an "as needed" basis and will not be necessary for all growers. These include one final fungicide spray if needed, fall weed management if needed, and fall fertilization if the soil test indicates a need. Late-season disease management Scout the vineyard for visible powdery mildew or downy mildew on the leaves. Unless you have visible infections, you are done with fungicide responsibilities for the season and can start winterizing the sprayer (info below). For those with active powdery mildew or downy mildew, one last fungicide spray to dry up infections will help prevent premature leaf drop and potentially reduce infection next season. Read Post-Harvest Disease Management of Grapevine Powdery a

Specialty crop growers can apply for CFAP 2 funds through October 12

Author: Megan Roberts, Extension Educator The  United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the sign-up deadline for Coronavirus Food Assistance Program 2 (CFAP 2) . The deadline for new or modified CFAP 2 sign-up is now October 12. This latest CFAP 2 announcement primarily affects sales-based commodities (e.g. specialty crops and livestock production) or livestock and poultry contract producers.  For many agricultural producers, there is no additional action required at this time for CFAP 2, as you have already signed up in the previous iteration of CFAP 2 in fall 2020 and/or you were already automatically sent additional assistance payments in late March or early April for certain eligible producers of cattle and row crops.*  In contrast, if you are an eligible farmer that has  not  yet received a CFAP 2 payment or believe you may be eligible for a higher payment due to changes in CFAP 2, you may want to inquire very soon with your local USDA Service Center (i

Final weekly vegetable update of 2021 9/15

Author: Natalie Hoidal, UMN Extension educator, local foods and vegetable crops   This will be the final weekly vegetable update of 2021. Thank you all for following along and sharing photos and updates! While every season has its challenges, this year felt particularly difficult. For most farmers, it was a long, hot summer with extra work and stress related to keeping crops alive through the heat. These last couple of weeks have felt like a breath of fresh air, with breezy fall temperatures and finally a more "normal" amount of rain. We're now in the home stretch - seeding is pretty much finished, and now farmers are just focusing on maintaining the crops already in the field, and storing crops for winter. Crop updates   Cucurbits: It seems like all of the winter squash is ready all at once this week. Every year I get a few photos of squash with sunscald. Symptoms can range from round spots to general discoloration on the upright surface, especially in lighter skinned sq

Final Weekly Fruit Update of 2021

  Customers walk through rows of U-pick SweeTango apples at Pleasant Valley Orchard in Shafer last weekend. Photo: Annie Klodd. Author: Annie Klodd, Extension Educator - Fruit and Vegetable Production  In this week's update: Grapes, apples, fall raspberries, and day neutral strawberries (Webinar alert!) While apple, grape, and fall raspberry growers are busy harvesting, the amount of relevant weekly alerts slows down at this point as fruit comes off of the trees and vines.  Therefore, this will be my last weekly fruit update of the season, but I will continue to provide recommendations on post-harvest tasks through stand-alone articles this fall. I will also continue to field questions that come in via email (, phone, and text message.   Grapes We just released a set of grape growing recommendation sheets for each of the UMN varieties and Edelweiss. Please click here to access these fact sheets , which include canopy management, pruning, harvest parameters, and mor

Integrating livestock and produce: food safety considerations to do it safely

 Annalisa Hultberg, Extension Educator, food safety Many produce farms raise livestock such as chickens, goats, sheep and cattle alongside their fruit and vegetable crops. Some graze the livestock in the fields or in high tunnels during the winter or in the spring before planting the vegetables. While animal-based soil amendments such as manure and poultry litter can build the health, tilth, fertility and water holding capacity of your soil, they also can pose microbial risks and should be used safely to reduce the potential for causing illness. Here are some guidelines to help you minimize any potential risk of contamination and foodborne illness as you use these soil amendments this fall and into next spring. My animals aren't sick, how dangerous can their man ure be? The answer is that all manure can carry a risk of microbial contamination and can contain pathogens that can make people sick. While many of these pathogens are normal residents in the animals’ digestive system and

Spots, specks, and scabs: Squash and Pumpkin Fruit Damage

  By Marissa Schuh, Integrated Pest Management Extension Educator Many winter squash and pumpkins are ready for harvest already.  The dry season has meant that fruit that did get enough water generally look good, though there are still spots where cosmetic issues exist on the fruit. It's hard out here for a plant. Gif: Marissa Schuh, University of Minnesota Extension. Depending on the variety, the spiny stems and leaves of cucurbits means some scabbiness is a fact of life.  But when is that spot, scab, or speck something to make note of when selecting sites and varieties for next year? Read on for some common issues and things to think about. Peanut-like scabs? Think Oedema If you are in a part of the state that got a large amount of rain at the end of August, you may have noticed some pumpkins and squash with scabby growths.  I have noticed it in some heirloom, Hubbard type squash especially. Oedema on acorn squash. Photo: Gerald Holmes, Strawberry Center, Cal Poly San Luis Obisp

Weekly vegetable update 9/8/2021

Author: Natalie Hoidal, UMN Extension educator, local foods and vegetable crops   It's really starting to feel like fall. Many farmers are harvesting a flush of carrots and beets, and cool season crops like lettuce, chard, and Brassicas are coming along nicely. The drought is still persistent, but a few weeks of steadier rainfall has made it a bit more manageable.  I looked at the vegetable update I wrote this week last year, and I was wearing a heavy fall jacket, noting that tomatoes and peppers had slowed down substantially due to the cold. What a different set of conditions than we're experiencing right now! Crop updates   Cucurbits: Melon harvest is still strong, but many farmers are reaching the end of the melon season and transitioning focus to winter squash and pumpkins. I've noticed that stores around the state have embraced fall decor early this year, and people seem to be buying pumpkins a bit ahead of schedule. The most ideal scenario from a pumpkin storage