Photos and text by Nina Prater, NCAT Sustainable Agriculture Specialist

Image at right: Jeremy Prater practicing his shiitake mushroom inoculation skills at the mushroom workshop in Fayetteville, AR.

Last year, the NCAT Southeast office partnered with the University of Missouri’s Agroforestry Center to host a one-day mushroom cultivation workshop in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Gregory Ormsby Mori with the Agroforestry Center provided hands-on instruction, showing multiple ways of growing mushrooms. These included shiitake mushrooms in logs, oyster mushrooms grown on log totems, and wine cap mushrooms grown in a straw/woodchip bed. (Read a re-cap of the event here: https://www.ncat.org/growing-edible-mushrooms-workshop-recap-and-resources/). My husband Jeremy and I attended the workshop and were inspired to get started right away. We have a livestock farm in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas, but we’re always looking for ways to diversify our operation. Mushrooms seemed like a good fit. We manage over 100 acres of forest, a ready source of both material and shady land for mushroom production.

Making a Wine Cap Mushroom Bed

There’s nothing quite like a hands-on workshop to inspire you to dive right into a new project. After the workshop, we went home and ordered spawn for oyster mushrooms, shiitakes, and wine caps. We got the oyster mushroom totems and shiitake logs inoculated last spring, but ran out of time to do the wine caps. We stored the wine cap spawn in the back of the fridge for a year (farmers’ fridges are such interesting places—we also have animal vaccines and pawpaw seeds tucked in the back at the moment).  In early April of this year, we were able to establish a wine cap mushroom bed.

You can watch this short video to see exactly how we made our wine cap mushroom bed. If you prefer a very brief written version, it’s easy: you find a shady spot either within your garden under tall plants, or in a wooded area. First, clear the surface to expose the soil and sprinkle some spawn. Next, start layering your wood chips (hardwood preferably), spawn, fresh straw, then spawn again. Continue that lasagna-like pattern (chips, spawn, straw, spawn) until you run out of spawn. Finally, top it off with wood chips to hold it all down. Soaking your wood chips and straw ahead of time is ideal.

In our video, you can see that we watered the materials as we went, since we were not able to pre-soak. We have followed up on this by making sure we watered the bed well on days it didn’t rain. It’s too early yet to say if we were successful, but I’m already optimistically researching wine cap mushroom recipes.

More on Mushrooms

Mushrooms are a great way to add diversity to your farm operation. On our farm, we’re doing it primarily for our own consumption. But our secondary purpose is as a trial-run to see if it is something we would enjoy doing commercially. To learn more about mushroom cultivation, check out these resources:

ATTRA Publication:

Mushroom Cultivation and Marketing: https://attra.ncat.org/product/mushroom-cultivation-and-marketing/

ATTRA Podcast:

Introduction to Mycology: https://attra.ncat.org/introduction-to-mycology-podcast/

University of Missouri:

Cultivation and Cuisine: Getting Started with Wine Cap Mushrooms, By Hannah Hemmelgarn, University of Missouri Center for Agroforestry: http://agebb.missouri.edu/agforest/archives/v23n2/gh4.php

Call or contact your local Farm Service Agency today!

No, the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) is not food for the nation’s hungry, but rather assistance for the nation’s food producers. Details of how U.S. farmers can apply for this assistance are still scarce, but the most important message is to begin the process ASAP if you are a farmer who has experienced a loss due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Here is a way to contact your local Farm Service Agency (FSA) office which will be implementing this program:

Find your Farm Service Agency office

You must make a phone call to your local FSA office to start the process.

Direct support for farmers and ranchers available via CFAP will include:

  • Direct support based on actual losses because of price and disrupted supply chains.
  • Assist with adjustment and added marketing costs resulting from lost demand and short-term oversupply in the 2020 marketing year.

CFAP is available to farmers regardless of size and market outlet, if they suffered an eligible loss. Disruption to markets and demand may be significant and the USDA is already warning that these payments may only cover a portion of the impacts on farmers and ranchers.

PARTICULARLY IF YOU HAVE NOT USED FSA PROGRAMS IN THE PAST, GET READY BY COLLECTING:

  1. Tax Identification Number: TAX ID
  2. Farming Operating Structure: TYPES
  3. Adjusted Gross Income

BE PREPARED TO FILL OUT POSSIBLY THE FOLLOWING SIX (6) FORMS.
DO NOT SEND FORMS WITHOUT FIRST CONTACTING YOUR LOCAL FSA OFFICE

  • CCC-901 (Español) If applicable, this certification reports income from farming, ranching, and forestry, for those exceeding the adjusted gross income limitation ($900,000)
  • CCC-941 (Español) Reports your average adjusted gross income for programs where income restrictions apply.
  • CCC-942 If applicable, this certification reports income from farming, ranching, and forestry, for those exceeding the adjusted gross income limitation ($900,000)
  • AD1026 (Español) Ensures compliance with highly erodible land conservation and wetland conservation
  • AD2047 Provides basic customer contact information
  • SF3881 Collects your banking information to allow USDA to make payments to you via direct deposit

As with all emergency assistance, there will be those that are more prepared then others and getting in line as early as possible is to your advantage.

Contact ATTRA for Help

If you need help contact us here at ATTRA as we are always ready to help.

  1. Call our toll-free ATTRA helpline (U.S. only)
    800-346-9140 (English) 8 a.m. to 5 p.m Central Time
    800-411-3222 (Español) 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Pacific Time
  2. Ask online, using the green chat box at the bottom of the ATTRA webpage.
  3. Via email to askanag@ncat.org

 

By Guy K. Ames, NCAT Horticulture Specialist

In Northwest Arkansas I’m seeing peach leaf curl in my orchard. It’s April, but the calendar date is not as important as the growth stage of the peaches. The professionals call this time “shuck split.” The “shuck,” or the last remnant of the flower, is splitting and falling from the growing young fruit. This is a crucial time for the developing fruit as it is growing rapidly, and this is not a good time for the tree to be stressed. This disease, incited by the fungus Taphrina deformans, causes the leaf to deform and swell irregularly (see photo). As you can imagine, leaf function—primarily photosynthesis and respiration—suffers and the tree is stressed. The more severe the curl (the more leaves are affected), the more stressful it is to the tree.

Managing Peach Leaf Curl

You’re going to want to do something about it, but there’s not much you can do once you see it on your trees other than to remember to spray next year during dormancy. Here’s why. The fungus overwinters in the tiny crevices around the leaf scale (or leaf bud). As soon as the leaf bud begins to swell in the early spring the fungus invades the leaf tissue. That’s right, the fungus is inside the leaf and thus protected from normal fungicide sprays! You should apply sprays of lime-sulfur (the best organic fungicide for this disease) sometime in March before the leaf buds begin to swell. If the trees have gone through severe infection, you can apply once in November when the leaves have fallen and then again in the spring before the new leaves emerge.

Helping an Infected Tree

A tree with a severe infection will sometimes drop all its infected leaves and try to push a new crop of leaves. This is understandably stressful for the tree, so if it happens, the grower could help the tree out by applying a quick release fertilizer of some sort. Organic growers could choose compost tea or fish emulsion. If the infection wasn’t severe (only a small percentage of leaves were infected), then you may need to do nothing. There is only the single infection period, so newly emerging leaves will be safe from T. deformans.

There are a few somewhat resistant varieties, including Clayton, Candor, and Frost, but this resistance is only relative to other more susceptible varieties and often can’t be relied upon for control.

Here’s hoping your leaves aren’t curly!

More Information

Guy shows examples of peach leaf curl and the leaf buds where the fungus overwinters in his video What is Peach Leaf Curl? on ATTRA Sustainable Agriculture’s YouTube channel.

For more on peach diseases, see the ATTRA Sustainable Agriculture publications Peach Diseases Identification Sheet and Peaches: Organic and Low-Spray Production.

Contact Guy and NCAT’s other agriculture specialists by emailing askanag@ncat.org or calling 800-346-9140.

By Guy K. Ames, NCAT Horticulture Specialist

At right: Juneberry fruits look quite like medium-sized blueberries, but the juneberry is actually much more closely related to apples and pears. Photo: Guy Ames, NCAT.

Of the many names for this plant, “chuckleberry” is certainly my favorite, but I’ve only seen it in writing, never heard it spoken. Around the Ozarks where I live “sarvis” or “sarvisberry” seems to be the most commonly spoken, at least among the old-timers. If a name is known at all for this berry among the newcomers to the Ozarks, “service” replaces “sarvis.”  “Sarvis,” I think, is presumed to be a thick southern linguistic variant of “service.” “Shadblow” and “shadbush” seem to me to be the weirdest names, but they are documented and widely used at least in coastal regions. (Shad is a once-common fish whose annual spawning runs up the rivers of colonial New England happened to coincide with the early springtime blooming of this tree.)

What’s in a Name

Other names include saskatoon, juneberry, blueberry tree, chuckley pear, and, of course, the Latin binomials of which there are several because within its genus, Amelanchier, there are several species. All of the species produce berries nearly indistinguishable from the others. And all these names, except and very notably the saskatoon, pass over the Native American names, which were presumably many because Amelanchier grows over a wide area and commended itself to all who ate it.

When I first moved to the Ozarks in 1971-72, the sarvisberry trees (as I first learned to call them) were the first bloomers that I would notice on the dull gray wooded hills of the Ozarks in February. In their profusion of bright, white blooms they were a welcome harbinger of spring. One probably erroneous explanation for the origin of “serviceberry” is that the blooming of the tree indicated that the soil was thawed enough to dig graves and hold services for the folks who didn’t make it through the winter.

Although it is improbable, the funereal explanation persists and I rather enjoy it. Like Persephone returning from Hades every spring, it presents a beautiful and poignant reminder of the rebirth part of the never-ending cycle of life and death.

Speaking of death, a juneberry pie or cobbler is to die for! When eaten fresh, the juneberry has a detectable almond flavor that comes from its small, edible seeds. But when cooked into pies or cobblers, that almond aroma becomes pronounced and will fill a kitchen and spill deliciously into the house!

Mistaken Identity

A juneberry bush full of white blossoms.

A juneberry bush in bloom. Photo: Margo Hale, NCAT.

When you first see a juneberry fruit you might have a hard time distinguishing it from a medium-sized blueberry. However, the juneberry, technically a pome fruit, is much more closely related to apples and pears than to blueberry. A few intrepid grafters have even had limited success grafting pear wood onto juneberry (graft compatibility is an indirect proof of relatedness).

Sometimes the juneberry is referred to as a tree, sometimes a bush. That difference is not just in the eye of the beholder. The species native to the Ozarks, A. arborea, like the species name suggests (arborea = tree), assumes the form of a small tree. The species that I prefer for fruit production and endemic to most of the Northeast United States, A. canadensis, is a multi-stemmed bush usually around 12 ft. tall. The saskatoon, A. alnifolia, native to the Northern Plains and into the foothills of the Canadian Rockies looks like a shorter version of A. canadensis. It usually tops out around 6-8 ft. Regardless of species, the fruit looks and mostly tastes the same.

Juneberry’s Uses

Though the Native Americans used the juneberry wherever it grew (pemmican was one way the juneberry was preserved and used), until relatively recently it has not been pressed into commercial service. That is beginning to change. The University of Saskatchewan is conducting research and breeding to commercialize the saskatoon, A. alnifolia. And in the United States, Cornell University Extension has done some limited research and promoted juneberries as an alternative to the persnickety blueberry. In Canada there is a nascent saskatoon industry marketing frozen and canned saskatoons as well as wines, jams and jellies made from saskatoons.

Whatever they’re called, they are easy to grow. They’re not nearly as finicky as blueberries regarding soil pH and watering. And, if you get the right species for your area, you’re not likely to have any disease problems (I and other growers in the Ozarks have found A. alnifolia or saskatoon to be susceptible to cedar-apple rust). And though they bloom very, very early, the blooms never seem to be damaged by late spring freezes and frosts. I have juneberries year after year, often in years that other fruit crops are wiped out by weather or disease.

A woman holds a basket of ripe juneberries in her left hand and a basket of ripe mulberries in her right hane.

Juneberries (left) and mulberries ripen at the same time—in May, not June! Photo: Guy Ames, NCAT.

As with most small berries, the commercial viability of juneberries will revolve around harvesting costs. In Canada, researchers hope to find techniques and cultivars that will lead to the uniform ripening that allows mechanical harvesting. Elsewhere and until that happens, individual farmers will have to figure out ways to efficiently pick and effectively market the fruit to make juneberry production a viable money-making proposition. But that should not preclude gardeners and homesteaders from planting these easy-to-grow and highly productive berry plants in their gardens for home use.

Related ATTRA Resources

Fruit Trees, Bushes, and Vines for Natural Growing in the Ozarks

A Recap of the Young Farmer National Leadership Convergence

By Luke Freeman, NCAT Horticulture Specialist

Photo at right: Luke enjoying the Colorado snow!

In November I attended the National Leadership Convergence in Boulder, Colorado, hosted by the National Young Farmers Coalition (NYFC). This was a fantastic opportunity to meet other young farmer leaders from across the country and learn about the common issues young and beginning farmers face. This post is long overdue, but I wanted to share some of my thoughts and experiences from the Convergence. I also wanted to share some ideas on how to support beginning farmers.

This was the fifth Annual National Leadership Convergence. The event brought 120 farmers and 19 NYFC staff members together from across the country. It was truly amazing to see a diverse group of so many young farmer leaders in one place. The group represented over half of the states in the union. I have been involved with the Arkansas Young Farmers Coalition since 2017 and was happy to meet other chapter members from other states in the Southeast – Louisiana, Tennessee, Georgia, and North Carolina.

Young farmer leaders from across the country gathered in Boulder, CO. Photo by Erin McCarley, 2019.

Acknowledging the Past, Focusing on the Future

Ricardo Salvador from the Union of Concerned Scientists gave a powerful keynote address, “Why the Future of Food and Agriculture Cannot Resemble the History of Food and Agriculture.” He described how the history of agriculture in the United States is stained by injustice and exploitation. But he returned to this message: We cannot make decisions about the past – only the future.

Salvador explained the economics principle that the factors of production include land, labor, and capital; those who own or have access to these resources accumulate wealth. The history of agriculture in America is littered with examples of land being forcibly taken from indigenous people groups. Labor has been appropriated through slavery or exploited through immigration policies. Access to capital has been denied to communities of color. These uncomfortable aspects of our history have caused disparities in wealth accumulation and land ownership, resulting in unequal opportunities for young people who wish to farm.

Ricardo Salvador from the Union of Concerned Scientists delivering the keynote. Photo by Erin McCarley, 2019.

Salvador emphasized that if we wish to create an equitable food system we must perform agriculture differently going forward. Applying this framework to the next generation of farmers means we would insure that beginning farmers have access to land, that they receive fair compensation for their labor, and that they can access capital. I’ve interacted with many young and aspiring farmers. I can confirm that access to land and capital are two of the biggest hurtles for new farmers to overcome. Ensuring equal access to land and capital is an important part of creating a more equitable agricultural system.

Services and Programs for Young and Beginning Farmers

I also attended a workshop on business services offered by NYFC and local chapters. NYFC has put a lot of energy into developing resources on land access for young and beginning farmers. NYFC hopes to continue to expand the scope of its business services for young and beginning farmers. During the breakout session, members of other local chapters shared successful business support programs they have led for farmers in their regions. The Hoosier Young Farmers Coalition hosted a business accelerator where beginning farmers met with a long-range planner, tax advisor, and loan officer. Other chapters have collected wholesale and retail price lists to give beginning farmers examples of how to price their produce. Chapters also have connected beginning farmers with accounting and business planning support at local universities.

Further Information

At NCAT our agriculture specialists often host trainings for beginning farmers on whole farm planning, recordkeeping, accessing USDA resources, and applying for farm loans. Over the years we have developed dozens of resources for beginning farmers on running the business side of a farm. These are available on our ATTRA Marketing and Business topic page.

One of my take-aways from the conference was that young and beginning farmers continue to need business training and farm planning services. The diverse group of young farmers emerging today needs these resources to help them access the federal programs created to serve them. Fewer barriers can lead to more equitable distribution of land and capital among new farmers.

Are you a beginning farmer who has questions about marketing, business, or production? Please don’t hesitate to contact me or one of the other ATTRA Sustainable Agriculture specialists. You can call our help line at 800-346-9140 or email askanag@ncat.org. We’re here to help!

NCAT, the United States Botanic Garden, and City Blossoms are proud to release their new Greenhouse Manual: An Introductory Guide for Educators.

Greenhouse Manual CoverThe manual is an easy-to-use guide designed to help educators with access to educational greenhouses. The manual has answers to questions about:

  • planting gardens,
  • growing for Farm to School programs, and
  • integrating plant science into an existing curriculum.

The goal of the manual is to help educators maximize the potential of new and existing school greenhouses. It opens with a basic explanation of greenhouses. There are explanations on how to integrate greenhouse use into classroom and out-of-classroom learning. It contains lesson plans and information on:

  • greenhouse operation,
  • growing plants,
  • starting seeds,
  • plant nutrition,
  • disease and pest management,
  • greenhouse budgeting, and
  • succession planting.

“NCAT has been thrilled to bring our expertise to the efficient and curriculum-based use of educational greenhouses,” said Andy Pressman, NCAT Northeast Regional Director and contributing author to the manual.

The greenhouse manual can be downloaded, for free, at https://attra.ncat.org/product/usbg-greenhouse-manual/.