The crisp, cool fall mornings are some of the best times of the year to be working at Rural Studio Farm.
With the fruits of Summer harvested, the Fall crops of leaves, roots, and stems have become the farm’s focus.
Students and staff can now enjoy fresh green salads from the farm every lunch until the weather becomes hot again.
In addition to a variety of fresh lettuces, the farm is also producing spinach, baby greens, kale, collard greens, beets, hakurei turnips, radishes, peanuts, turnips, scallions, carrots, mustard greens, sugar snap peas, and snow peas.
With the next freeze right around the corner, most of the field production is halting for the Winter. To maintain and promote healthy soils, as well as to protect against erosion, the students broadcast a cover crop mix into the beds and winter rye grass into the aisles. It is also a good time to tidy and clean things on the farm so that it looks good while it rests in the cold.
We grew sweet corn for the first time ever on the Rural Studio Farm!
Throughout the year Chef Cat prepares meals for our students, staff, and faculty several times per week using our fresh produce from the Rural Studio Farm. One of our goals this summer was to provide the freshest and sweetest corn for the meals. Approximately 12 hours after sweet corn is picked, the sugars in the corn kernels begin to convert to starch. To achieve this goal of having fresh and sweet corn, we grew three different varieties that mature at slightly different times, which allowed for staggered harvests over the summer. Cat was also able to process any leftover corn for future meals.
Proper pollination is essential to a good yield. We planted the corn in blocks of at least four rows to encourage more thorough pollination by honey bees.
The male part of the corn is called the tassel, and it grows at the top of the plant producing pollen. The pollen must then be transferred to the familiar female silk; each strand of which acts as a tube to transfer a pollen grain to an ovule. Each mature corn kernel represents a successful pollination from tassel to silk to ovule.
Typically, one stalk only produces about one or two (possibly up to four) ears of corn. Corn doesn’t produce as much per square foot as some other food crops, but having fresh organic corn to eat at lunch was a rare summertime treat for our students, staff, and faculty! We will definitely grow corn again next summer. It was absolutely delicious!
The long, hot, busy summer on the Rural Studio Farm is finally starting to wind down toward autumn.
With several of our recent graduates once again spending their summers here in Hale County, we have been experimenting with the timing and varieties for multiple crop cycles of summer favorites: tomatoes, squash, eggplant, sweet corn, and cherry tomatoes. The Sun Gold cherry tomatoes have been the biggest hit of the summer!
We’ve been able to provide fresh produce for those students working over the summer (with extra to be preserved for the future) and still have some fresh for the students whose semester has just begun. We have also harvested mountains of pinkeye purple hull peas, garlic, onions, zucchini, peppers, melons, butternut squash, and many leafy brassicas.
This summer we added sweet corn and sweet potatoes to the crop rotation (more on these in future posts). The fresh sweet corn was a big success with two crops of fresh juicy corn. The sweet potatoes have also proven to be a great choice because we have been growing them in the greenhouse where few other crops are able to thrive during the long hot summers. They have performed so well that there is no longer any room to walk!
Some of the lingering warmer season crops are still yielding, like eggplant, peanuts, and bell peppers.
Mostly we have been busy planting seeds into soil blocks and direct-sowing with the push seeder. These crops are lettuces, mustard greens, baby brassica greens, carrots, beets, chard, collard greens, rutabagas, broccoli, radishes, spinach, hakurei (salad) turnips, and turnips.
Once the seedlings are ready, we prepare the beds and transplant out all the crops.
We have been reaping great harvests of many of these crops too, with all of Rural Studio’s daily green salads coming straight off the farm.
Now that the weather is beginning to cool, we have also been preparing for winter by sowing fall cover crops to leave in the field for overwintering. This ensures that there is always something growing in the beds, which helps with drainage and compaction and overall soil health. In the spring, these crops will be mowed down, adding good organic matter back into the soil.
Finally, we are also preparing the greenhouse for production over the winter, which is where most of Rural Studio’s food is grown in deep winter.
The Studio has been making the best of COVID-19 obstacles by prioritizing outdoor work for the past six weeks! Working outside has given students and staff the ability to learn about construction processes while also maintaining healthy and safe work protocols. Luckily, Rural Studio has quite a few tasks to accomplish around Hale and Perry County to keep them busy.
In the first couple of weeks of the semester, everyone came together (socially-distanced, of course) to clean up Morrisette campus. This work included laying and tamping gravel in the driveways, demolishing some old mock ups and a couple unused storage sheds, power washing the Great Hall and Fabrication Pavilion, and helping Eric on the farm.
Students have also been helping out at Perry Lakes Park, which has been closed for maintenance for the past few months. The Studio hopes that, after a little bit of work, they can help reopen the beautiful park to the public. Jobs to be completed were: replacing rotting boards on the bridge, walkways, and tower; replacing structural members underneath the walkways; rebuilding walkways that had been hit by fallen trees; and replacing rotting deck boards on the tower. This work is still in progress, but they expect to have the majority of the tasks complete in the coming week.
As the semester progresses, students have been working toward creating a balance between studio work and site work. On designated “studio days,” 3rd-year, 5th-year, and graduate students have been meeting with their faculty at new open-air pin up spots on Spencer House’s porch and under the Fabrication Pavilion. Next week, 5th- and 3rd-year will transition away from studio-wide work toward focusing on their own class projects. The 5th-years will soon choose their project teams and 3rd-years will start making more progress on 20K Ophelia’s Home!