Friday, March 28, 2014

The Emporia Community Garden is open for the 2014 season!

The Emporia Community Garden is open for the 2014 season! Located in the back yard of the Flint Hills Technical College, it features 24 plots of approximately 300 square feet each, which are available to community members to purchase during the growing season.  The $35 plot fee includes water and garden resources. Applications are available on our website, emporialocalfood.org. The Emporia Community Garden is a project of the Emporia Area Local Food Network, whose purpose is to promote the production, processing, preservation and consumption of local food. Locally raised food promotes sound economic, environmental, social, and nutritional health within our community. 

This year we are shifting to a no-till approach and will be planting a cover crop in the fall to improve soil quality and retain nutrients.  As a result, the planting season will run from March thru mid-September depending on the crop that is chosen.  If you have suggestions please let us know!


The garden is still in need of some supplies to ensure a productive season for our members. The following items would be greatly appreciated (used or new): garden tools, hoses, mulch, and seeds and seedlings. We are also looking for instructors to teach informal classes in the garden to our plot holders. If you have a green thumb and a few tricks up your sleeve, please share your expertise! Garden members have a wide variety of experience and ability levels, so we welcome lessons on the most basic to advanced topics. Please contact Amy Becker at 341-1335 or abecker@fhtc.edu if you would like to teach, donate materials, volunteer, or become a plot holder this season. 

Link to Guidelines (including application) for printing.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

2014 Community Garden Restricted List

Restricted List

The community gardens are to be used primarily for seasonal vegetable production for human consumption.  We strive to establish standards of excellence that reflect good stewardship of resources and the environment. 

NO perennials may be planted, since all plots will be tilled in early spring before each growing season, and again in the fall.  Perennials include, but are not limited to the following examples: perennial flowers and bulbs, shrubs, trees, berries, rose bushes, mints, horseradish, asparagus, rhubarb, and other perennial herbs.  Annual flowers used as companion plantings or edible flowers are permissible.  A perennial garden located nearby is a future project.

            NO poisonous plants, such as castor beans, may be planted.

            NO illegal substances, such as marijuana, may be planted.

            NO tobacco or nicotiana plants may be planted.

If you raise tall plants, such as sunflowers, sweet corn, okra, pole beans, or some varieties of tomatoes, please be considerate of the shading factor and the effects of shade on neighboring plots. It is best to avoid placement of tall plantings directly adjacent to plots that adjoin to the north side of your plot.  Consider dwarf varieties, or plant tall varieties near the center of your plot or on the south side.  Also consider how you will remove those plants at the end of the season; mammoth sunflowers are not easy, to say the least. 

Fertilizers, soil amendments, and sprays:

The community gardens will promote organic and natural soil practices.  To that end, we encourage gardeners to use only organic labeled fertilizers, soil amendments, foliar sprays, herbicides, or pesticides.  Examples of organic fertilizers include fish emulsion, kelp, worm castings, and various blended organic brand fertilizers.  NO raw manures may be used.  Composted or dried manures may be used in the fall after the growing season is complete, or in early spring – at least 70 days before planting.  

Organic soil amendments include such things as compost, bone meal, greensand, gypsum, lime, rock phosphate, and trace minerals.  Organic approved (OMRI) pesticides and herbicides should be used sparingly, and should not be applied during windy parts of the day where drift is possible.  Examples of organic pesticides include insecticidal soaps, garlic and red pepper sprays, BT, Dipel, Pyganic, Pyola, rotenone, and other similar products.  Herbicides can be avoided entirely by proper tillage practices, hand weeding, and through the use of cover crops.


You may NOT use non-organic, synthetic, or petroleum based fertilizers, herbicides (weed killers), pesticides, such as, but not limited to the following:  Sevin, Miracle-Gro, diazanon, Round-up, ammonium nitrate, etc.  There are alternatives that are better for the environment and better for the health of consumer that are available locally.  If in doubt about what to use, ask a board member before you apply.  Check your brand – does it say “organic” or OMRI approved on the label?  You risk forfeiture of your current plot and future years’ plots if you use any prohibited products.   

Monday, May 14, 2012

Urban Farm: Ben Stallings



Ben Stallings invited visitors to tour his Urban Farm in Emporia for International Permaculture Day on May 6, 2012. Ben's 1920-era home sits on approximately 1/10th of an acre. Once you account for the house, the driveway, sidewalks and a small shed out back, there's not a whole heck of a lot of yard space left. Ben's approach to yard management, however, is appealing.

"Taking care of a lawn can be a lot of work," Ben says. "But it's not productive work."

Think of it in these terms: every time you mow your lawn you are harvesting, but in a traditional yard, you receive no benefit from the harvest.

When Ben bought the home in 2008, the yard was primarily grass and volunteer trees. Ben's goal was to reduce the amount of time needed to maintain the lawn and work it into something that would produce a good and useful harvest. He wanted the resulting garden his lawn would become to eventually be less work than the existing grass was.

Ben's background includes a year-long tour on bicycle of various ecovillages and intentional communities. This prompted his interest in permaculture. He become a certified permaculture designer in 2010 and his urban farm, starting with 36 crops in its first year, now supplies food for he and his wife, as well as cash crops for the Emporia Farmers Market where he has been participating as a vendor for three years now.

Ben does not till his soil, but instead uses a process called sheet mulching to enhance his soil and create the beds that become home to his low-maintenance garden plots. He arranges his plants in guilds, meaning that each plant should play some role in supporting the other plants in the guild. Via succession, the harvest from the guilds should change as each system matures. The area around a young walnut tree, for instance, currently grows mulberries, chive and aronia. Onions attract beneficial insects. Beans planted next to onions thrive where beans planted alone do less well.

The back yard includes a greenhouse in its second incarnation. A PVC framed hoop house sort of set up failed to stand up to snow a previous winter. A wooden frame now replaces the original design. In theory, the greenhouse is host to three poly-cultures (plants that grow better together than separately) and he relies on vertical growing to help shad plants that don't tolerate heat as well. 

Since Ben considers much of his effort experimental, there really is no failure on his urban farm. What works becomes material for him to incorporate into his designs for clients. What doesn't work simply gives him ideas for new directions to try at a later date.


An audio recording of the tour, complete with photo illustrations, can be found at Interdependent Web, as well as several other resources of value to those interested in permaculture.


What is permaculture?
"In brief, it is a philosophy of working with, rather than against nature; of protracted and thoughtful observation rather than protracted and thoughtless labor; and of looking at plants and animals in all their functions, rather than treating elements as a single-product system."
Introduction to Permaculture, by Bill Mollison 

Ben offered his guests strawberries and cream and chocolate mint tea. The strawberries were so sweet I never even bothered with the cream. They were perfect, sun drenched and hand picked. And everywhere I looked I saw another ripe one or two begging to be tasted.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Extending the Growing Season


Rayburn High Tunnel ~ Hamilton, Kansas

Gene Rayburn is a cattle man, by trade. "I raised cattle. I grew feed for the cattle. But this is all new. I wanted to learn how to grow things, how to feed my family, how to be a little more... sustainable."

Rayburn put up his high tunnel two years ago and brought some of his product, gorgeous leaves of lettuce, to the indoor season of Emporia Farmers Market in 2010/11. The learning curve wasn't so much on how to actually get things to grow -- Gene seems to be naturally green thumbed -- but figuring out how to distribute so much produce once it was grown.

"I can grow enough to feed a lot of people," he said. "But people around here, they don't want to pay for it. They don't care that it's better than what is at the grocery store." 

The exception was tomatoes. "People will drive here to the house for tomatoes," he said. Following up on last year's greatest successes, he has filled his hoop house with tomato plants this year, and has lettuce lining only one side. There were more than several plants with small green bulbs already on tomato plants with healthy looking, thick green stalks. 

Rows of tomatoes inside Rayburn's High Tunnel. Young lettuce grows along the right side.

Rayburn should have ripe tomatoes early this season.

High tunnel is a word that has gotten a lot of press in recent years. I've also heard them called Hoop Houses. It's a greenhouse, of sorts, but it sits right on the ground. High tunnels are constructed of PVC pipe and covered with plastic. The idea is to extend the growing season here in Kansas where a typical April might still bring snow and freezing temperatures and October usually marks the end of a long season. The sides of a high tunnel can be rolled up to let in air as the temperatures warm or dropped all the way to the ground to keep out the cold.
Gene Rayburn harvesting baby Romaine lettuce from his high tunnel. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A Taste of the Tall Grass Prairie


Though this isn't specifically a food story, it is a Kansas story. What we grow and how we treat our lawns and soil affects us in many ways. Therefore, I wanted to share this information from Arnold's Greenhouse. The Tall Grass Prairie once covered 140 million acres of North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and Missouri. This is "where the buffalo roamed" and "the deer and the antelope played." Today, only 4% of the original Tall Grass Prairie remains and of that portion, 70% of it is in Kansas. 

From an Arnold's Greenhouse brochure:
Beginning in Spring 2012, We will be offering a prairie plant collection of native grasses and wildflowers for you! This "Taste of the Tall Grass Prairie" includes six different native grasses and twelve different native wildflowers. The collection includes one jumbo six pack (like what we grow our strawberry and sweet potato plants in) of each plant. Thus, you will receive a total of 108 plants. Provided there are no germination failures, we will have six plants of each of the 18 varieties in the collection.
 Planting all 108 plants will cover approximately 200 square feet, when planted 16 inches apart. Like all plants, they will need two or three years to fill in the space you have given them in the garden.
 We are not wanting you to replace existing flower beds with a "Taste of the Tall Grass Prairie"; you have worked hard to establish those beds, so leave them and enjoy them! Rather, most of us have way too much lawn to mow. A 10 ft. by 20 ft area converted from a boring lawn to a "Taste of the Tall Grass Prairie" will benefit the environment and our children. You will even want to hum a few bars of "Home on the Range"... "Oh give me a home where the buffalo roam..." Well, maybe you won't be humming "Home on the Range," but the butterflies will!

Arnold's will donate 10% of every native plant collection purchased to local schools to be used for teaching ecology. 

Arnold's Greenhouse 1430 Hwy 57 S.E.  LeRoy, KS 66857

Spring HoursMarch, April, and May

Monday through Saturday 9am - 7:30pm

Closed on Sundays. 



Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Local Food Finder

The Local Food Finder application was created by Emporia Area Local Food Network member, Ben Stallings, to assist shoppers in finding local and/or organic foods in their areas. This user-contributed database is free to anyone and especially useful in helping shoppers share information about where to buy local and organic foods.

The application is currently being used in Emporia, Kansas and other communities are welcome, invited and encouraged to use it, too. The more people who use and contribute to the database, the better the tool will be.

If shopping local and buying organic is important to you, consider adding this free application to your smartphone to help increase awareness and assist others as they shop for local and organic food.

From the website:

LocalFoodFinder.net is a free service to help grocery shoppers share information about where to buy local and organic foods.


Use it to plan a shopping trip:
Just enter your zip code and see which stores in your area carry each of the local and organic foods on your list. The site is designed to be used on any smartphone, so you can check the list while you're out running errands.
Share what you know:
If the information is incorrect or incomplete, simply log in and select the store whose inventory you want to edit. The editing form is designed to be used on your phone right in the store, so you can update the information as you shop.