We are now in our fourth year of production here at Farm to YoU NH at UNH (36 Spinney Lane at the Fairchild Dairy in Durham, NH). It has been an amazing adventure to see how the student participants of this program have transformed the way in which this farm runs and all the ideas we have put into action.
Take a look at our first ever blog to see how far we’ve come: Get to know Farm to YoU NH.
Starting in 2012, the students (with help of one instructor, SAFS lecturer Andrew Ogden, and a production coordinator/teaching assistant) have built two 90ft x 30ft high tunnels as well as formed two growing fields that comprise roughly a half acre. Farm to YoU NH began producing food in October 2012; just two months after the tunnels were finished and the class itself began in spring 2013. We now deliver a variety of crops ranging from salad mix and head lettuce, to tomatoes and peppers to the UNH Dairy Bar, Conference and Catering, and the three UNH Dining Halls here on campus. In total, we delivered 2519lbs to the Dairy Bar, 1,800 to catering, and 672lbs to the dining halls in the 2014-15 school year alone. Three new initiatives during this year for Farm to YoU NH include micro-greens production, cut flower production, and hydroponic lettuce production.
See what else that we’ve done in our community!
Farm to YoU NH and the Local Community
In the fall of 2014 the class decided to plant a pollinator bed from the middle of the outdoor growing field in hopes of attracting beneficial insects to our field by providing them a habitat. Dr. Cathy Neal, landscape extension specialist here at UNH, provided plugs of pollinator plants to use in the pollinator bed. In the summer of 2015 it was decided to add a second pollinator bed below the field and the high tunnels, which was planted with transplants that were seeded in the high tunnels. This helped increase the natural flow of the pollinator population throughout the field and high tunnels. It has also added to the aesthetic beauty of our fields.
This semester, we are growing strawberries, garlic and a combination of winter rye and hairy vetch as a cover crop in the fields. In our unheated high tunnel we are growing onions, carrots, kale, Swiss chard and an array of herbs. The heated high tunnel is growing kale, Swiss chard, spinach, Mache (a very cold hardy leafy green vegetable), head lettuce and salad mix. We just constructed a germination incubator which is a foam box with a heating pad where we will begin to grow two varieties of ginger and turmeric.
We are currently in the process of establishing this year’s crops! We have discussed and intend to grow some cultivars that were bred by University faculty, Dr. Becky Sideman and Brent Loy. Dr. Sideman has developed a tomato variety grown from hanging baskets which would minimize the space needed to grow tomatoes! Dr. Loy is a plant breeder who has multiple varieties of melons and squash available from numerous regional and national seed vendors We will be using a variety of his squash in our “Three Sisters” planting of corn, beans, and squash. Brent has also created a spineless variety of summer squash which makes harvesting much easier! Using these varieties will allow this program to hone in on all of the University’s assets.
In the last four years the class has flourished, networked, and has made a name for itself. We have implemented the use of four separate teams that all play important roles to our class as a whole: Propagation, Production, Records Keeping, and Social Media. Each team has various responsibilities and tasks to accomplish throughout the semester, which allows the class and farm to function smoothly.
Fifteen to twenty-five students have actively participated in the course each semester since the start of the program. The class offers a great opportunity for students to gain practical first-hand experience about vegetable production and farm management all the while getting their hands a little dirty.