PRAIRIE PRIDE POULTRY – Daniel Hromas

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Daniel Hromas participated and graduated from the FARM BEGINNINGS® program in 2013. He then was able to rent some land and start Prairie Pride Poultry near York, NE.  I first visited his farm near York in February 2014. This is a photo of his farm.  He has a laying flock of Rhode Island Reds.

Daniel was a Disabled American Veteran who served in the Middle East. With assistance  from the Veterans Administration, Farm Service Agency and Farmers Veterans Coalition he was able to begin his farming operation. Through the networking from FARM BEGINNINGS® , presenters Ruth Chantry & Evrett Lundquist from Common Good Farm connected Daniel with landowners in York where he leased 3 acres for his farm. “Common Good Farm” also provided Daniel with some valuable advice as he started and developed his new laying flock of Rhode Island Reds. He was able to purchase these portable buildings from Mid-American Structures at Peru, NE. With these portable structures, he was able to move them to his farm when he purchased it.

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Daniel utilized an electrified fence to keep hens in and also some of the predators out on his farm in York.

Daniel had about 400-500 hens in his flock on his farm near York.  Starting out  in York he marketed eggs to Grand Central Foods in York, NE. He also sold eggs to the Chances “R” Restaurant in York and sold at the Old Cheney Farmers Market in Lincoln and on the Nebraska Food Coop, an on-line local food coop.

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I had the opportunity to visit and interview Daniel last year when I visited his new farm he purchased on the west side of Grand Island, NE.  Daniel now has over 15 acres. He has an opportunity to expand his farm into other enterprises.

Daniel  moved his portable buildings from his farm in York. He now has permanent fencing, a tractor to help with the chores and feed storage as shown in the photo above. Daniel has expanded his flock to 500-600 hens.  Besides the Rhode Island Reds he started with, he now has some other breeds that do well in his operation.  From the photo above you see he has several of the Gold Sex Link Hens. These are very gentile and excellent egg producers, laying on average over 300 eggs/per hd/per year.  These are brown egg layers.  He also has some Black Australorps and Barred Rocks in his flock.

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This photo shows some of the Black Australorps Dan has incorporated into his flock.
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With the expanded acreage, Daniel has more room to grow other animals.  He has expanded into producing swine on his farm so he can sell pork directly to consumers.

Daniel also has expanded his operation into broiler production.  He raises from 100-150 broilers annually and sells these direct to consumers as well.  Most of these are sold at the Old Cheney Farmers Market in Lincoln where he goes 2 times a month when they are open from spring through fall (April – October).

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With Daniel expanding his markets and traveling to Kearney, York and Lincoln delivering his eggs, and selling pork and chicken; he has a trailer to haul his local food products in and deliver to his customers.

Daniel continues to deliver eggs to Grand Central Foods in York, but now also sells eggs to four Hy-Vee locations, one in Kearney, Grand Island, Williamsburg Hy-Vee in Lincoln and the 5010 O St. location in Lincoln.  He also sells to two restaurants in the Lincoln area that source almost all of their food locally, “The Hub” at 250 N 21 St. in Lincoln and Prairie Plate Restaurant at 10405 Branched Oak Rd. near Waverly, NE.  Daniel continues to sell at the Old Cheney Farmers Market, on the Nebraska Food Coop on-line market, direct from his farm near Grand Island and to other customers in the Lincoln area.

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Daniel’s egg laying operation is very labor intensive, but the purchase of some equipment, such as the tractor and portable bulk storage feed unit have helped improve the efficiency of his operation and save time and labor. 

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With a flock between 500-600 hens and very productive egg layers, it takes a lot of time to collect all these eggs every day. I caught Dan collecting eggs when I visited his farm near Grand Island last year.

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Daniel runs his eggs through an egg washer.
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Daniel will then sort the eggs by size for packaging.  The breeds of chickens that Daniel has in his flock produce brown eggs, most of which are large or very large and excellent quality. 
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An example of Daniel’s brown eggs after they come out of the egg washer. 
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Daniel puts a stamp on each carton of eggs which shows the eggs come from his farm “Prairie Pride Poultry”. 
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Daniel keeps his eggs in cartons, sorted by size, in refrigerators until it is time for him to deliver the eggs. 
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Here is photo of Daniel Hromas at the “Old Cheney Farmers’ Market in Lincoln.

Besides Daniel’s extremely hard work on his farm, he has been a spokesperson for the Farmers Veterans Coalition and all Veterans. He was named a Champion of Change by the Nebraska Vocational Rehabilitation Services.  He went to Washington D.C. to receive this award. He has also had Congressman Adrian Smith visit his farm near Grand Island.  He has been to Washington D.C. talking to representatives about Veteran’s and local food issues. If you want to find out more about Daniel Hromas and Prairie Pride Poultry, go to https://localhens.com/farms/profile/prairie-pride-poultry/ or on Facebook at:   https://www.facebook.com/prairieprideacres/.

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FARM BEGINNINGS® SCHEDULED FOR JANUARY IN SOUTHEAST NEBRASKA

Nebraska Extension is planning its 9th Farm Beginnings® Program at the Kimmel Education and Research Center at 5985 G Road Nebraska City, NE  68410 for January, 2018. Plans are being made for Nebraska Extension and the Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society to facilitate the Farm Beginnings® Program to be held in Nebraska City.  The Farm Beginnings® Program is an educational training and support program designed to help people who want to evaluate and plan their farm enterprise.  Farm Beginnings® participants engage in a mentorship experience and network with a variety of successful, innovative farmers; attend practical, high quality seminars, field days and conferences.  The program is unique in that several successful farmers participate in the program as presenters, explaining firsthand the nuts and bolts of their farming operation.  While this isn’t a program for someone wanting to get into conventional farming, it is a program that has attracted several people interested in farming on a smaller scale, some who have migrated out from urban to rural areas.

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One past participant in the class said, “This program had a huge impact.  I have improved my business plan, my overall efficiency and continue to try new ideas I thought to not be possible.”  Any beginning farmer would benefit from attending these training sessions.  Most of the farmers that present come from small to medium sized farming operations that produce and market many different diversified and value-added products.  Many of these farmers direct market their products.

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The Farm Beginnings® Program consists of a series of 11 sessions from January through April that cover a variety of topics including: building networks, goal setting, whole farm planning, building your business plan, marketing, business and farm management and financial management.  While the class participants will learn firsthand from the farmers, they will also work on developing their own business plan as they progress through the course.  As part of the class tuition, participants will also have the opportunity to attend the Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society’s Healthy Farms Conference in 2018 to be held this winter.  This is a conference that has been held annually for a number of years and has sessions that focus on topics in sustainable agriculture, such as: vegetable production, grass-fed beef, pasture poultry, meat and dairy goat production, composting, cover crops, organic farming, growing crops in high-tunnels, bee keeping, farm transitioning and agri-tourism.  We also schedule farm tours early in the course and tour several farms in the summer to see how the farmers are operating.  If interested, participants also have the opportunity to have a farmer mentor.

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” Following the classroom portion of Farm Beginnings®, the class tours several farms that produce local food or organic products, i.e. alfalfa, corn, soybeans, milk, cheese, eggs and honey.  These are photos of West Blue Farm where Dave and Deb Welsch practice mob grazing and direct market beef and poultry.  Dave has been a presenter with our Farm Beginnings® programs for several years, teaching about the importance of financial management and managing cash flow on their farm.
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“We tour Ralph Tate’s Grass Farm near Fairbury, NE. where he mob grazes cattle through his pastures. Ralph has also utilized cover crops as he transitioned some row crop land into grassland for his operation. Ralph participated in our first Farm Beginnings classes in 2005-6.  He then became a certified Holistic Management Instructor  & teaches the Holistic Management portion & a session on Financial Management as well in the class (see Farm Beginnings Agenda).

Participants of this course may be interested in becoming involved with growing alternative crops, producing fruits and vegetables for direct sale to consumers, grocery stores or restaurants.  Others may be interested in growing livestock for direct marketing.  This is an opportunity for people interested in learning about this type of farming from farmers that are doing it and making a living at it.

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” Two regular presenters at Farm Beginnings are Travis Dunekacke from T D Niche Pork and Paul Rohrbaugh from Pawnee Pride Meats.  Travis produces and markets heritage breed swine to several restaurants in the Lincoln and Omaha urban area of southeast Nebraska.  He has built relationships with chefs at these restaurants which has taken a long time.  Paul Rohrbaugh has pasture raised poultry and grass-fed beef he direct markets to consumers. We tour Travis’s and Paul’s farms regularly following the Farm Beginnings class (see photos above).
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“Another regular presenter and tour stop for the Farm Beginnings® class is Common Good Farm; Ruth Chantry and Evrett Lundquist’s  Organic and Biodynamic Farm near Raymond, NE. They sell at area farmer’s markets, off of their farm and also have a CSA. They produce and market locally many types of vegetables, eggs, honey, beef, pork and starter plants. They explain the challenges and intricacies of their vary diversified operation during our class.

We also provide for the class participants the SARE resource, “Building a Sustainable Business and the MOSES publication, “Fearless Farm Finances”.  We also provide a number of SARE resources and Farm Beginnings® exercises and references.  Toward the end of the class we have previous Farm Beginnings®  graduates give presentations about their farming operations.  The final classroom session highlights what each of the farms participating in the class plan for their farms.

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Previous Farm Beginnings® graduate Gary Fehr from “Green School Farm” is growing vegetables, selling them locally and has a small CSA in the Lincoln area.  The above photo is from his farm. His farm was also highlighted in a previous blog.  It can be found at: https://saremansagnews.wordpress.com/2017/05/05/green-school-farms-gary-fehr/ .

Cost of the total program is $500, but you may qualify for a partial scholarship for up to $200.   For more information, a brochure for the Farm Beginnings® Program  or an application go to our website at https://extension.unl.edu/statewide/nemaha/farm-beginnings-0/. For more information about the program you can also contact Gary Lesoing, Extension Educator at glesoing2@unl.edu or at (402) 274-4755, Nebraska Extension in Nemaha County.

 

Cover Crop/Soil Health Field Day-Tour Scheduled for September 19th in Southeast Nebraska

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Learn about cover crops being used in different cropping systems at a NRCS Demonstration Site, a SARE On-Farm Research and Education Experimental Site and a Nebraska Grazing Lands Coalition Site. 

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Nebraska Extension, North Central SARE, NRCS, and the Nebraska Grazing Lands Coalition are sponsoring a Cover Crop Field Day/Tour on Tuesday, September 19th.  The field day/tour will start at the Daryl Obermeyer Farm east of Auburn. Registration is at 9:00 with refreshments; followed by the program beginning at 9:30 a.m.Daryl’s Farm is one of several demonstration farm sites across Nebraska that the NRCS has established to evaluate soil health principles and the impact of cover crops on soil health in different cropping systems.  At the demonstration site Stephen Kennedy, District Conservationist from Nemaha County and Aaron Hird, Soil Health Specialist from NRCS will discuss and demonstrate soil health principles, explain the project at this site and answer questions about this program in Nebraska.  Participants will have the opportunity to view the plots at this site.  Daryl has a corn, soybean, wheat rotation with cover crops planted following each crop. The above photos show the cover crops growing following wheat and the corn and soybeans which will be harvested this fall.

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The second stop on the tour is the Rob and Trent Bohling Farm.  This is the site of a North Central SARE Research and Education Grant that the University of Nebraska-Lincoln is conducting with the Bohlings.  In this on-farm research project, cover crops have been incorporated into a cropping system and the impact of cover crops and grazing cover crops is being compared to no cover crops on the impact on soil health and crop yields.  Humberto Blanco, UNL Soil Scientist will discuss research that is being conducted at this site and in Nebraska and the impact of cover crops and grazing on soil physical properties and crop yields.  Mary Drewnoski, Beef Systems Specialist, Nebraska Extension, will discuss the feed value of cover crops, the economics of grazing cover crops and potential nitrate issues in grazing cover crops. We will also be serving lunch at this site.  Participants will have the opportunity to view the cover crops here as well.  Above are photos of the cover crop growing and a plot without the over crops.  Crop yields and soil data is being collected from this experiment. 
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The final stop on the tour will be at the Rod Christen Farm, with the site being southwest of Tecumseh where Rod has a Cover Crop Demonstration site as part of the Nebraska Grazing Lands Coalition (NGLC) Demonstration Project.  Rod, Ron Bolze, NGLC Coordinator, Mitch Stephenson, UNL Range Management Specialist and Nate Pflueger, UNL graduate student working will have a report on this project.   This field day is free to the public.  While pre-registration isn’t required, it is encouraged for lunch. 

To register, for information about the field day or directions to the tour sites, contact Gary Lesoing at Nebraska Extension in Nemaha County at (402) 274-4755. In case of rain the event will take place at the Nemaha County Fairgrounds in the 4-H Building at 816 I St., Auburn, NE.

 

 

Sustainable Ag Tour Scheduled for August 15th in Eastern Nebraska

ITS NOT TOO LATE TO SIGNUP AND REGISTER FOR THE ANNUAL SARE TOUR! 

A SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education) sponsored sustainable ag tour is scheduled for August 15th in eastern Nebraska.  An air-conditioned coach bus will leave the East Campus near 40th and Holdrege in Lincoln, NE at 7:30 a.m. for the tour.  This year the tour will travel west and north of Lincoln in eastern Nebraska, touring a variety of farm stops.  We hope to return to Lincoln at about 5:30 p.m.

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Our first stop is at Dave and Deb Welsch’s “West Blue Farm” near Milford, NE.  West Blue Farm has been Certified Organic for their crops for many years. They produce corn, soybeans and alfalfa annually and have been rotationally grazing, (mob) grazing their cow herd.
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The Welsch’s have direct marketed several hundred broilers locally in eastern Nebraska for several years.
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They also direct market several beef from their cowherd each year. They are currently transitioning their crop and livestock farming enterprises to a couple of young producers and will discuss this process at our visit.
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The second stop on our tour is Pekarek Produce near Dwight, NE.  Pekareks grow several different vegetables sustainably for various farmers markets and grocery stores, and they have also marketed to the University Good Fresh Local Program for many years.
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The Pekarek’s utilize several several high tunnels and greenhouses in their production system. Crops grown in the high tunnels include broccoli and tomatoes. 
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We will then travel to District 10, a renovated old school house near Abie, NE.  It is owned and operated by Mary Sohl.  Mary hosts many events at this facility and caters meals which are prepared at a certified kitchen at another site.  Mary will be serving the tour group lunch and will explain about her rural entrepreneurial business enterprise she has started in Butler County.  
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The next farm stop on the tour is Larry Stanislav’s organic farm. Stanislav, a certified organic farmer, has an extensive crop rotation with spring wheat, corn, soybeans and cover crops used to control weeds and increase fertility.  Stanislav has conducted on-farm research studies with the University of Nebraska on the use of different cover crops.  
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Stanislav has conducted on-farm research studies with the University of Nebraska on the use of a crimper for cover crop termination on his organic farm.
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The University of Nebraska evaluated the use of flaming for weed management on Stanislav’s organic farm. 
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We will then travel up the hill to Liz Sarno’s organic certified grass farm.  Liz has developed organically certified pastures and utilizes rotational grazing with her Grass-Finished Devon Cattle.
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Liz Sarno also has a Boer Goat Herd and has received a SARE Farmer/Rancher Grant in the past.
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Our final stop of the day will be at Mark Roh’s farm, “Abie Vegetable People”.  Mark is a market gardener.
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Mark will discuss his operation and the various crop rotations, pest control methods, on-farm processing, mechanization and the storage facility on his farm. 

For more information visit the SARE Sustainable Ag Tour webpage at:  http://extension.unl.edu/statewide/nemaha/sare-sponsored-sustainable-ag-tour-august-15/. The cost of this tour is $25 a person. Please contact the Nebraska Extension in Nemaha County at (402) 274-4755 or email gary.lesoing@unl.edu  or glesoing2@unl.edu for questions or to register by August 11th.  We hope many of you will be able to participate in this excellent sustainable ag tour sponsored by Nebraska SARE!

Opportunities for Growing and Grazing Cover Crops

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Many farmers are growing cover crops to prevent erosion and improve soil health.  Why not graze cover crops on your farm and gain some added income?

                    Wednesday, August 9th, 2017

                              11 am – 5:30 pm

Lancaster Event Center – Exhibit Hall 

84th & Havelock Lincoln, NE 

You can still register up until tomorrow August 4th. Register by going to:

http://lancaster.unl.edu/ag/covercrops or calling 402-441-7180

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Learn how farmers and ranchers are currently making cover crops a part of their farming systems in Nebraska and elsewhere.

                              Agenda

11 – 11:15 am — Registration – Highlight Videos: Making Cover Crop Work Advice from NE Producers

11:15 am – 12:15 pm — Free Lunch and Tradeshow

12:15 – 12:45 pm — What Every Farmer Needs to Understand About Soil Health. Presenter: Jacob Ness, Soil Health Partnership

12:45 – 1:30 pm — Opportunities for Incorporating Cover Crops and Grazing into Cropping Systems. Presenter: Daren Redfearn, UNL Forage Specialist

1:30 – 2 pm — Impacts of Cattle on Cropland. Presenter: Mary Drewnoski, UNL Beef Systems Specialist

2 – 2:30 pm — Tradeshow

2:30 – 3:15 pm — Integrated Crop-Cattle Production: One Farmer’s Journey. Presenter: Mike Buis, Chatham, Ontario, Canada

3:15 – 4 pm — Pricing Cover Crop Grazing and Developing Rental Agreements. Presenter: Jay Parsons, UNL Agricultural Economics Professor

4 – 5 pm — Partnering for Profit: Producer Panel Keys to Successful Farmer-Cattlemen Partnerships. Panel Members: Chad Dane, Gary Bader, Burdette Piening, Rodney Wiese, Mike Buis

5 – 6 pm — Tradeshow/Networking
Reception to follow sponsored by Polansky Seed

You can go to http://lancaster.unl.edu/ag/covercrops  to view the speaker profiles.

HOPE YOU CAN MAKE IT!!!

 

Bio-Based Weed Control

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 Watch a webinar this next Thursday, July 27th at 10:00 a.m.  Dr. Sam Wortman, Assistant Professor, Department of Agronomy and Horticulture, University of Nebraska-Lincoln will present a webinar on “ Bio-based weed management tools for specialty crops.” Sam will discuss some of the research he has conducted with cover crops and other methods of weed control in organic specialty cropping systems.  This meeting will be recorded.
Here is the link to the Zoom Meeting  and also the meeting ID #
https://nebraskaextension.zoom.us/j/730760379     
Meeting ID: 730 760 379

 

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Dr. Wortman conducted research at the University of Illinois with this weed blaster.  His research started in the greenhouse where he used grit to blast weeds.
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From the greenhouse, research moved to outside plots.  Dr. Wortman evaluated the effectiveness on weed control in garden crops. The machine above was used to blast weeds. 
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Hand weeding is still a method of weed control in organic production. This can be expensive and time consuming as well.  In organic production there are several methods that can be used for weed control.  
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The combination of several management strategies for weed control is the best path to success.  Black plastic has been used for several years as a reliable method of weed control. 

 

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A large scale mechanical blaster is being used for weed control by this farmer.
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Many farmers are using mixtures of cover crops in their cropping systems.  While being much more expensive, will it be cost effective to use a mix?  Dr. Wortman will discuss his research on cover crops in the webinar.  

 

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A mix of 18 cover crops is being evaluated. 

 

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Mustard produced the most biomass in the spring monoculture and spring mix.

 

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In the summer, sudan grass produced excellent biomass in a monoculture and in a mix as well.

 

 

This is an excellent opportunity to learn about bio-based weed control methods in organic specialty cropping systems. Let people know about this webinar that may be interested in learning more about this topic.  This Zoom meeting will be recorded.  

 

 

 

Green School Farms – Gary Fehr

Much has happened since I conducted this interview last fall with Gary Fehr.  Earlier this winter, Gary’s wife, Shannon Moncure, passed away following a courageous battle with cancer.  Shannon was a strong advocate for local food and served in several different capacities on the Nebraska Food Coop Board.  She was instrumental in getting this Cooperative established.  Shannon was also a strong supporter of sustainable agriculture. Shannon served on the Nebraska SARE (Sustainable Research and Education) Advisory Committee. This blog is in memory of her.  I wish Gary the best of luck as he follows his dream of developing his farm and continuing to produce local food organically for the community of Lincoln and other people in southeast Nebraska.

In this blog post I am interviewing Gary Fehr of Green School Farms. Gary produces food organically on a farm he rents west of Lincoln, NE, just off of West Van Dorn St.  Gary has marketed his produce through a number of methods, including a CSA, wholesale farm distributors and a local school  since he began farming. Follow along with this photo blog as we tour the farm.

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Gary put together this makeshift high tunnel or you may call it a medium tunnel.  It is taller than a low tunnel, but not nearly as big as a high tunnel.  It serves its purpose though of being a season extender to crops.  This is out on the garden site west of Lincoln.  (photo Gary Fehr)

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A well was dug to provide irrigation water to the garden site. Water is  essential for the successful production of local food in southeast Nebraska. In most years at least some supplemental water is needed to raise a good vegetable crop.

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Gary grew several types of greens and salad-type vegetables that he marketed through his CSA, the Nebraska Food Coop and schools. (photo Gary Fehr) 2016-04-18 21.16.17.jpg

Here is an image of a snail. Snails, slugs and other critters can become pests, foraging on different crops, especially salad greens. These pests can be kept out of gardens by using different types of materials, i.e saw dust, egg shells, ash and sand and nut shells. (photo by Gary Fehr)

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You can see from this photo that Gary planted several different varieties of greens.  Being an organic grower, Gary utilized several different methods of weed control. Notice the cereal rye growing between the rows of his crops in his garden site. Cereal rye has been shown to be beneficial as a cover crop, particularly  for suppressing weeds. It can also be used as a windbreak, protecting young seedlings from hot, south winds. (photo Gary Fehr)

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Gary uses an old drill to crimp down the cereal rye.  This makes an excellent weed barrier and also keeps the soil cooler during the hot summer to reduce evaporation from the soil surface.  (photo Gary Fehr)

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Cereal rye after it was crimped down by an old drill in Gary’s garden spot.  The rye needs to be at least in the flowering stage when it is crimped or else it will come back and try to produce seed. Research has shown the cereal rye is beneficial in suppressing weeds and some diseases. The above ground biomass adds carbon to the soil and the roots underground do the same. When the roots die there will be more pore space which improves water infiltration and  water storage in the soil. (photo by Gary Fehr)

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Another cover crop that Gary incorporates into his garden rotation is hairy vetch. Hairy vetch is a legume that fixes nitrogen and provides significant nitrogen (100 lbs of N/ac) for the subsequent crop, i.e. a high nitrogen user like corn.

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As an organic grower Gary used several different materials to mulch the vegetables in his garden.  Cardboard can be used to smother weeds and old hay can be used to cover soil to reduce competition from weeds and also add organic matter to the soil.

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Gary grows a number of different crops throughout the growing season of spring-summer-fall. Drip Tape is used to water the crops during the drier parts of summer.

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Some of the summer crops that Gary grew in 2016 included sweet corn, peppers, and water melon. (see photos above taken by Gary Fehr)

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From the photos above, you can see that peppers were a staple in Gary’s Green School Farms garden.  He planted several different varieties and they were excellent producers.

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Another important crop at Green School Farms was tomatoes (see photos above) Gary grew several kinds of tomatoes up until the first killing frost in the fall.

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Gary even grew some Okra on his farm. Although he had a limited number of plants, they produced well for him. (see photos above)

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Cantaloupe was a good crop for Gary, producing in the late summer and into the early fall. (see photos above)

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Early in the fall Gary planted salad greens.  In the photo above he covers some of his crop to protect it from a freeze.  Notice the companion flowers growing next to his crop. As an organic grower Gary uses different plants that attract beneficial insects that are predators for pests or some plants that repel and protect the crop from harmful pests.

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One last crop Gary plants and sells that will keep for use in the winter is butternut squash.  This popular squash is used several ways in various dishes and soups for people that love local food. (see photo above)

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A photo taken near the end of the growing season at Gary Fehr’s Green School Farms in west Lincoln. I know Gary purchased some land near Raymond, NE and hopes to move his farm out there in the future. I wish Gary the best of luck as an Organic Farmer and Local Food Producer in southeast Nebraska, I hope for many years to come!  Good Luck Gary!!!!