Monday, December 28, 2009

Finishing up our first year

First I would like to thank Nancy Dockter with the Arkansas Leader for the opportunity to be interviewed about my new career choice last week. Nancy is not only an excellent reporter; she is a local farmer.
She stands as one of the examples of why I maintain you will find no finer group of peers to work with.

It was sad to see our tomato and pepper plants succumb to the cold a few weeks ago, but keeping heirloom’s alive from April to December is one of this years success stories.
One of our lessons learned this year was that while high tunnel greenhouses are very hot in the Arkansas summers, they do a fantastic job of water management.
Keeping the rain off the tomatoes and most of the rest of our crop was most likely the key to their success. Fred was a bear to build and his soil has a long way to
go, but I suspect he will be a very productive growing system within the next few years.

Another success this year was finding great people to work on the farm. None of what we accomplished this year would have been possible without their help.
So thanks to Shawna, James, Sam, Brady, Mike, Gump, Steve-O, Justin, Jon Paul Sr & Jr, Tony, Josh, Tom, Tim, Ryan and Cody for all the hard work.
This group of local workers rose to the task of keeping this years construction and growing schedule on time and I could not be more thankful for their effort.

The next few weeks will be spent getting Fred ready for winter. We have spread leaves, lime & litter and will be lightly tilling it into the soil.
Afterwards we will seed rye grass for our winter cover. This process will help build our soil fertility and assist in the prevention of nutrient run off.
Starting in March of 2010, we will begin building our beds and transplanting our young ones.

Finally I would like to thank all of our customers. Thanks for the feedback and continued support. I am excited about next years crop and look forward to re-uniting with everyone in the spring.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Rainy Afternoons

OK, so Mia Vermillion’s “In the Dark” set’s the mood for a smooth afternoon listening to B.B. King’s Bluseville on the satellite radio. Farmers usually love August rain and I am no different, but do for different reasons. For me, it’s a chance to work in Fred without the brutal heat. I have some aphid collecting to do and get to try out my super duper bug sucker (leaf blower vacuum).

We have learned many valuable lessons with this year’s crop and continue to learn more every day. We are starting our fall crops and look forward to testing the limits of Fred this year. The tomatoes are starting to produce and the green beans have received good reviews. The Tyria’s have been a big hit at the market and their size certainly has been a fun conversation piece. We have learned much with regards to our cantaloupe. I think we may choose a different variety next year. We are loosing a very high percentage of these very fragile melons. We have started another row of Yellow Squash and Zucchini and hope to have some by the beginning of Oct. We are starting our spinach, basil and cilantro next week.

One a more personal note, it was a beautiful drive to Northern Virginia to help my oldest daughter Michelle move for her new job at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. A big thank you to my nephew Joe for his hospitality, from a parent’s perspective, it is comforting knowing that your child still has family around who can help if needed. So thanks to Joe, Lesa, Jules, Adeline, Missy, Bill, Kerry & Joe (jr) for having the insight to move to the DC area all those years ago. I have no doubt that my little girl’s new career will take off and her new employers will see her value quickly. Those who know me, know that I have never let a little geography get in the way of being with my daughters and I look forward to more trips to our nations capitol.

I also look forward to more rainy afternoons and Mia Vermillion can sing the blues for me anytime.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Role Reversal with Channel 7

I want to thank Jessica Dean and KATV for the opportunity to talk about organic farming. While I do wish that more of what I said could have been shown, I understand that television news stories have to fit within given time slots. It was a pleasure meeting Jessica and showing her the farm and talking about the value of organic foods.
You can see the story at the following link:

For over 20 years in the IT arena I have been on the side of science and it was interesting seeing me as the emotional defender when in fact there are many issues with the science the report was based on. The report from the United Kingdom was based on the evaluation of published studies over a 50 year time frame. I can say from a methodology perspective, this is bad science. The inconsistent data sets and lack of standard quality controls for collecting this data puts it in question to begin with. In fact, more recent U.S. studies that track antioxidant levels in plant based organic foods show completely different results. Keep in mind that it’s only been in the last 25 years that we even knew what an antioxidant was. Finally the study focused only on nutrient density and did not take a holistic approach. Any one who knows me, knows how I feel about making decisions based on only one piece of information, it’s not a good idea. Especially if we are talking about purchasing food!

Organic food is not just about the nutrient levels, it’s about the processes used to produce it. Organic farming is about sustainability and health. From a health perspective, not using petro-chemicals or any other synthetics in our process prevents any possibility that an accidental human error could cause an overdose to the plants or product. Recent studies have shown that plant based organics have higher levels of antioxidants and lower levels of nitrogen than there conventionally grown counterparts. The higher nitrogen levels are a real health concern. The fact is we don’t know what the long term effects of chemical fertilizers and pesticides are because they have only been in wide production for the last 40 years. From a sustainability perspective, we simply can’t continue to over fertilize and over water and hope to stay on the top of the food chain. Organic products are produced using natural fertilizers and management practices that can be sustained. Organic Farmers have to have a soil management plan that prevents fertilizer runoff and builds soil fertility. The fact that our soil gets better with use extends the life of the farm.
Certified Organic farmers are inspected by USDA certified auditors who verify our practices and test our soil. This 3rd party audit is an assurance that we are following the rules.

Here is a link to the recent report regarding higher levels of antioxidants in plant-based organic foods:

Granted, I have a vested interest in organic foods, but the reason I chose to grow organically was because of the science, not the emotion.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Markets & Tasty Lessons

The last few weeks of selling our produce in North Little Rock and Jacksonville has rocked!
Re-Connecting with many of my former travel colleges has been a pleasant surprise. I never knew that so many of them supported local agriculture and am thankful for it. We have sold several hundred pounds of squash, zucchini, and tomatoes. Starting soon, our cantaloupe will be here. Now understand I am perfectly happy being Mr. Squash Man. I like it and it has been profitable. But, if I am not Mr. Cantaloupe Man before fall, I will surely be disappointed. Our Sweet Granite’s are starting to mature and hopefully will produce thru the fall. Look for them online at .
Additional produce information is available at our online calendar .

Last week, I harvested 8 pounds of sun scaled Brandywine’s. Deciding not to sell them was difficult, Brandywines are grown for taste, not appearance and I am selling out each week. Since the scald was pretty bad and for the good of our customers, I sacrificed them and made a marinara sauce. I am not a real cook, but have been known to play one at parties, the Brandywine Tomato flavor was very rich and now I am really questioning the logic in me putting up a shade screen to prevent the scalding from happening again.

This season has started slow for us, but we are stating to find our grove and our crops are maturing.
Meeting new customers and re-connecting with former colleagues, networking with all the local growers and sharing the experience with my daughters has been priceless.

Mr. Squash Man

Sunday, June 28, 2009

they call me... Mr. Squash Man.....

Despite what the thermometer said, Saturday June 27th was a very cool day.
Our first market was a huge success, if anyone had told me we could sell over 80lbs of squash in the middle of the summer I would have asked them to share whatever they were smoking! A special thanks to my daughter Danielle for getting up early and letting me exploit her cuteness and charm. She not only weighed all the baskets we sold, but handled many transactions herself.

Thanks to all our customers who purchased our squash and tomatoes. Growing quality produce is our farms first priority, if you folks are not satisfied for any reason with your purchase, we will gladly provide a refund. We consider service a privilege and are grateful for the opportunity to provide it.

I have been called many things in my life and a good portion of it is not fit for this blog. Saturday I was called the Squash Man by a few of our customers. I think it has a nice ring to it.

Mr. Squash Man

p.s. just wait until our cantaloupe come in

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

To Market We Will Go!

Greetings folks, it has been a very busy two weeks, training, tweaking and testing all the growing systems here at the farm.
Minus a few small leaks in our irrigation system, things are starting to settle into a summertime pattern.
The heat has driven us to night shifts and we have removed Wilma’s poly in anticipation of the shade screen scheduled to be installed next week. We are still waiting on word regarding our organic certification and hope to have positive results before this weekends opening market.

North Pulaski Farms will have summer squash and a small amount of Grape and Brandywine heirloom tomatoes for sale this Saturday at the Certified Arkansas Farmers Market in the Argenta district of North Little Rock. I cannot express how much I look forward to this. One of the things I miss from my IT/Travel career is the relationships made during the course of our business. I look forward to the relationships built with this one. As always, props to James Franks whose effort and expertise is constantly evident at the farm. This weekend would not have happened without his help.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Wow What a week!

This last week we finished Fred, built 44 325 foot beds, installed an 8 stage irrigation system and transplanted several thousand seedlings.
The end of the week was capped off with our organic inspection by Jeff Stearns of the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture. One of the differences with certified organic farmers and others, is the inspection process to get certified. Annual 3rd party inspections and audits of our farm and its systems is a requirement of the certification process. Jeff toured our farm, took soil samples from Fred, Wilma & Barney, reviewed our seed and fertilizer documentation, and reviewed our Organic System Plan with our actual practices. He commended us on our runoff prevention techniques and our water management design. It’s nice to know working all those buckets to catch the run off from the seedling tables and the design efforts for our drainage and irrigation systems did not go un-noticed. True Organic farming is more than just not using synthetics fertilizers and pesticides; it’s about doing so in a sustainable manner that actually enhances the land used. This inspection was our first chance to show how we plan to do just that.
Jeff advised they should have their results by the end of the month.
Thanks to all the teams that made it happen.

Later this month our Brandywine’s will be ready for market, check and for details and of course you can watch their progress on Wilma cam.

Monday, May 25, 2009

It's beginning to look a lot like Fred!

Fed is about finished. We have 8 of 11 bays skinned and the 2 inches of rain we received had little affect on the growing areas that are covered in poly.
I could not wait to get inside Fed when it was raining. We have a little bit of trench work in a few of the bays, but overall its fantastic!

We will finish the last 3 bays and install the side walls, but probably not bother with the end doors until fall. Check it out on Barney Cam.

One of the challenges with using high tunnel greenhouses in Arkansas is the heat. Fred is designed to mitigate heat risks with his unique venting systems and his luminance color. Not only does he vent from the ends, he vents thru the gutters.
One of the pics shows the roping system designed to allow us to push the poly up on the sides. This releases the heat build up in the tunnels and allows for more air circulation. Since the gutters are a 5 feet high, the ground area stays cool.

This next week we will be building our beds and transplanting our spring crops. Our first harvest will not likely start arriving until mid-July, but next year will be an completely different story.

Let it rain, let it rain let it rain……

Monday, May 18, 2009

What a difference the Sun makes!

Now that Mrs. Nature’s fit has subsided, the teams are making real progress on Fred.
The leg drilling is down to the last 50 or so stubborn legs. Each of the holes requires jacking multiple times to bust the rocks so that the legs may make it down the required 30 inches.
I have to brag on the teams doing this work, each of them have been patient while it’s been wet and willing to work when it finally dried out. There is a good chance that we might have a few bay’s skinned before the rain comes later this week, and that would not be possible without their Hard work. So, props always to James Franks for his expertise and hard work, props to the Proffit boys, James, Jon, Sam, Rodger, a hellava work ethic is in ya’lls bloodline fer sure, Mike Burges, Dustin Lovell, Tony Hart, Josh Stewart and lastly Cody Ballard for helping at all hours of the night.

Check the for skinning dates towards the end of the week. Skinning is the process of installing the poly over the bays. It’s usually done early in the morning during non windy days.

Our fierce attack Labrador; Dostaff’s Nasserite Warrior is always on guard for any stick that makes it’s way into the irrigation pond.

Things are starting to come together nicely with Fred, several thousand plants in 2x2’s could not be happier.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Squash Anyone ?

Work continues on Fred, we have a great team of guys working their butts off.
Check out the weather and barney cam's for the best view of the construction.

Ever see what several hundred baby summer squash looks like? Us neither, but James did a great job of tranplanting them and we look forward to getting them in Fred.

Let's hope that witch Mother Nature let's up a bit on her cryin, this farmer and a few hundred others have work to do.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Rain Rain Go AWAY! or whatever......

Things are pretty soggy at the farm and not much work has been done on Fred.
All told in the last 10 days we have had over 8 inches of rain. I am beginning to not like my Honeywell Weather Station. I feel compelled to always watch it and check it and talk about it and even now I am going on and on about it!
The weather will be what it is. That fact was one of the reasons we are investing in Fred to begin with. Once complete, we will have better control of the water and hopefully have the ability work during these beautiful Arkansas springtime’s.

The good folks from Haygrove will be at the farm this Monday (5/4) assisting us with bending our hoops and providing some additional construction training. While this rain has pushed us back another week, we still should be complete by the end of this month. We have several hundred plants living in 2x2's that are waiting patiently for their new home to be ready.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Blooms & Gully Washers

North Pulaski Farms received 3.3 inches of rain early this week and I could not be happier with the way the field looks. All the time spent building the drainage system seems to be paying off. Work on leg drilling has paused while Fred dries out, hopefully we can get drilling by the end of the week.
A month ago, this gully washer would have shut field work down for 2 weeks.

Wilma has blooms!!
Our marketing crops of Grape & Arkansas Traveler Heirloom Tomatoes have started to bloom. The Brandywines have a few very small buds as well.
We staked Wilma’s first two rows of tomatoes today and plan on suckering them later this week. Suckering tomatoes is the process of hand pruning the limbs that do not produce buds. This allows the plant to put more of its energy into fruit production than vine growth.

I just love the smell of tomato vines on my hands. I wonder if Channel will ever have a Brandywine#5.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Fred and Farmers

Construction Continues on Fred.

The leg drilling is almost 50% complete and we have started to connect the end struts. The next phase will be bending and installing the poles for the hoops followed by the “skinning” of the tunnels. “Skinning” is the term used to lay the poly over the frame. Weather permitting; Fred should be complete by May 15th.

North Pulaski Farms attended its first farmers market this Saturday at the Certified Arkansas Farmers Market in the Argenta district in North Little Rock.

Thanks to Christian Shuffield and Jody Hardin with the CAFM for letting me in on short notice. The only thing we had to sell was promises of good things to come, but we handed out flyers anyway. I got the chance to meet several other farmers and look forward to getting to know them better. Val Sviridov “The Russian Farmer” has even stopped by the farm. I welcome all the help I can get when it comes to farming, and will be happy to assist my peers with any tech knowledge I may be able to offer.

One thing is for sure, this new career of mine is putting me in very good company.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Fred has arrived!

After a long journey, our main production system arrived today. The US Customs service inspected the contents and it seems that they did not pack the container back as well as it previously had been. Most of the legs and struts had shifted during transit from Charleston. James & CO had to manually unload most of the container and it took all day. We are almost finished with the trenches and will start drilling legs soon. I have added an event on the calendar page to keep track of the cam’s, so you voyeurs’ will know where to look for what.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Fred is in Memphis

I am happy to announce that Fred (his future home in the photo above) just got unloaded from a train in Memphis and is scheduled to be delivered on the 21st. All the way from the UK to the Port of Charleston then by rail to Memphis then by truck to the Farm, Fred is close.
Check out for more information on our field scale tunnel.
The timing is fantastic. We are finishing up the bay trenches and should be able to start leg drilling this week.

Look for updates on the calendar.

Monday, April 6, 2009

blues, bugs and blogs....

Ok so I am listening to BB King’s Bluesville on satellite radio when they play Stevie Ray Vaughn and Lonnie Mac’s version of Oreo Cookie Blues (plugged inn) and I figure its time to give everyone an update on how things are going at the farm.

First of all a special thanks to James Franks for his construction expertise and hard work. Wilma, our well and our indoor plumbing would not exist if it was not for his efforts. Thanks man, keep up the good work.

We are happy to announce several new arrivals for the month of April. First, Fred has arrived in the port of Charleston and if all goes well he should arrive at the farm sometime in mid-April. We will keep our calendar updated with his status.

Secondly, our Brandywines, Arkansas Traveler & Grape Tomato seeds are sprouting daily. Check the calendar in early May for transplanting dates.

Lastly, we have 2 rows of Brandywine’s in the ground inside Wilma. During last week's storms, these 3-5 inch high plants just laughed at mother nature's tears, and no matter how hard she cried outside, they stood their ground and extended their middle leaf at her!!!

We had our first insect issue, and so far, Ants 0, Boiling Water 1.

We do make every effort to avoid burning fossil fuels, but we are a commercial farm. Leveraging technology to increase efficiency is a core part of our business plan and a priority. We try to balance this with our “no-till” practices and organic systems to help reduce the farms overall carbon footprint.

Our application for Organic certification has been sent to the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food & Forestry’s Organic Foods Section. They operate a USDA certification program. Why a certifier from Oklahoma? The simple answer is they are the closest one we could find. They are affordable even after we pay for their travel expenses. They have dedicated resources to assist farmers with the certification process and have been available to answer our calls. We are fortunate our neighboring state has made organics a priority and share their services with us.

We are continuing to get the field ready for Fred and working the seed tables in Wilma. Now that we figured out how to update the calendar, the odds are better that we will actually keep it up to date.

Thanks for taking time to read this and check out the cam’s sometime, you may catch us dancing...