Genuine Faux Farm
Life on the farm includes research of all kinds. Not all of our research is formally designed and implemented, but it need not be set up in great detail to have use on the farm. We do, periodically, pursue grant funding for some of our projects. We also cooperate with organizations such as Practical Farmers of Iowa in efforts to learn more about our farming techniques. This page may not receive the same attention as other pages on our website, but we will periodically add material to share what we have learned and what we are doing.
Posters (all are PDF files, slower connections be aware)
SARE GRANT - PAPER MULCH and CUCURBITS: First year of a two year study. Weather prevented us from doing everything, but early results are encouraging for heirloom melons. No real difference for most summer squash and zucchini.
Quick Turn Around Cover Crops: We tested millet, buckwheat, clover and field peas as cover crops that could be used between an early season cash crop and a fall season cash crop. We were most pleased with the buckwheat and also liked the millet. The field peas would be better if we could drill them in versus broadcast seed them. The clover is better for a longer period, but certainly not a loss to have planted. Research with Practical Farmers of Iowa cooperators.
Horticulture Yield Project: Another Practical Farmers of Iowa Cooperators project. All participants reported harvests for certain crops in order to begin a database of Iowa yield numbers. These numbers could eventually be used for insurance, pricing, variety trials and other appropriate needs.
SARE GRANT - INTERCROPPING and MECHANIZATION: We are convinced that intercropping has numerous benefits, but multiple crops in one planting or field can take much more labor and time to accomplish. This research attempted to identify spacings that maintained intercrop benefits while still allowing for mechanization.
Results Summary: We were able to identify a very good set up that we have since refined for beans and potatoes. Other crop pairings had less success, but we continue to modify these spacings and feel things are moving forward.
Undersewn Cover Crops in Horticulture: The intent of this research was to attempt to identify under sewn cover crops that would work for peppers. The drought followed by the spraying event in July terminated this research as a PFI Cooperator.
Companion Plants with Cabbage: This PFI Cooperators project was undertaken, but weather conditions resulted in an abnormal year for the appearance of cabbage worms and cabbage loopers. No useful results were collected.
High Tunnel Construction: Not as much a study as it was exploration of a process. A great, big learning process.
Results Summary: You may look at a post linked above that outlines the process of putting up the high tunnel.
A Working Field Day was held through PFI over two days, during which time participants help to put this tunnel up.
Yield Fluctuations in Summer Squash and Zucchini: This independent project will be ongoing. It is largely based on production numbers, planting dates and field/weather observations. Included are soil tests, etc. Every farm tracks yields and attempts to find explanations for variations - we are no different in this.
Results Summary: A poster presented at the PFI conference in 2011 is linked above. Basic idea - the first and last successions (of 3) can be risky. The middle is almost always the same production levels. As a result, we will go to four successions to take advantage of the mid season consistency while still trying to extend the season.
Broiler Breed Trials: Once again, we were cooperatores in a PFI sponsored study. This was an attempt to identify breeds for broilers, using Cornish X as a baseline, that would work well for production on a small farm.
Results Summary: Once again, you can look at a poster linked up above. While Cornish X is the standard for confinement raising, we found that the Rangers were a decent free-range breed. This confirmed that we should maintain loyalty to this bird type until we learn something different.
Field Day was held at Scattergood Farm in West Branch - another of the cooperators for this study.
Beginning Farmer Finances: Participation in an Iowa State study to learn how different beginning farms can expect their finances to work out in Iowa.
Results Summary: We can only speak for ourselves on this one. The process of looking carefully at financial trends on the farm helped us make some reasonable targets that we were able to reach as far as profitability and capital improvements were concerned.
Tomato Trellising as Cooperators through Practical Farmers of Iowa: Trials on three different methods of tomato 'staking' to determine if there is any impact on the production of heirloom varieties. Two other farms in Iowa participated in this study. The target variety was Cherokee Purple. Poster is linked above.
Result Summary: Experience counts. The methods the farmer was most comfortable with tended to do better. On our farm, we have used caging, but were impressed enough with cattle panels to use it for cherry and salad sized tomatoes.
Field Day was held on the farm to demonstrate these trellising techniques and taste some of the heirloom tomatoes.
Field Data Collection Tool: The resources for this project, most specifically our time, were not sufficient to get this project off the ground. Maybe later.
Radish/Winter Squash Companion Trials: We were able to receive the aid of a Wartburg student who made sure the treatment and control areas were free of weeds and given all the care necessary to isolate the effects of the treatment. Unfortunately, 2008 growing conditions were such that there were not enough growing degree days for the squash to do anything. We hope to replicate this trial at a later time.
Bean/Potato Companion Trials: This was not a formally set up study, so take the results for what they are worth. We were checking out the green bean (bush) and potato pairing we have used for some time to mask the potatoes from the Colorado Potato Beetle.
Result Summary: The results seem to indicate that the potatoes at the edge of the plot that did not have immediate companion were the only place we saw this pest. We also noted that hay mulch in a section of the outer rows also had less incidence. Both are consistent with other observations by different growers over time.
CSA Pricing Study: We participated with three other Iowa CSA farms in an Iowa State University Study. The intent was to compare what was placed in our CSA shares with prices at local groceries for the same product.
Result Summary: In short, the value of CSA product was typically much higher than was being charged by the CSA itself. In our case, there were numerous products we could not find in the grocery. But, even without these, our large share received the same value at grocery store prices as was paid for the season's CSA share. This does not take into consideration that the produce was organic and fresher than that at the grocery. The study revealed that organic produce prices for similar produce would be 50-65% higher. In short, what people get in a CSA tends to be a good deal. It also indicates that CSA farms need to carefully consider what it takes to pay themselves a fair wage for their efforts.
Radish/Summer Squash Trials: An informal test. Some hills had some radish planted at the point of seeding the summer squash. About 3-5 radish were allowed to grow and produce flower stalks.
Result Summary: We only used this companion for three test hills in the first succession of planting. Interestingly, these three hills produced all summer. All other first succession hills were dead by late August (or stopped production). These hills continued into September.
last updated 3/28/14
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background photo copyright L.E.Bartel
all others GFF