NCAT was excited to partner with the Alliance of Sustainable Farms to host a workshop at our demonstration farm at The Piney Woods School (PWS) on Friday, December 15. Approximately 35 farmers attended this one-day workshop to learn about small farm equipment, cover crops, hoop house production, and farm to school programs.
Sam Humphrey, NCAT’s demonstration farm manager, made sure attendees could experience tools and practices first hand. He demonstrated how the farm’s BCS tractor works and showed folks the four different attachments he uses to prepare the soil. Sam also showed participants different hand tools that are particularly useful in hoop house production—including the flame weeder, which was a big hit—and let them give them a try.
When everyone needed a break from the cold, the workshop moved into the classroom, where Walter Jackson of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) presented on the importance of cover crops and the benefits they provide to farmers.
Participants dined on a delicious lunch catered by PWS which included purple and green kale grown on-site. This was a natural segue to the panel discussion. PWS’s Katrina McLin, NCAT’s Sam Humphrey, FoodCorps member Kristin Lynch, and the PWS Food Service Director Sara Hazelnis discussed the PWS farm to school efforts and answered farmers’ questions on the ins and outs of serving this type of market.
The hoop house was of great interest to many growers, and Sam led a session discussing how he manages the demonstration farm’s hoop house to grow food year-round. He talked about soil preparation, crop planning, nutrient management, pest management, micro-irrigation systems, and the tools that are key to this kind of production.
The audience was excited to see all this first-hand, and Keith Benson with the Alliance of Sustainable Farms agreed that more collaborative workshops like this one should be held in the future.