Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Intern Wrap-Up

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After an eventful summer, I am back in College Station and wrapping up my internship. On Friday morning, I will give a presentation reflecting on my intern experience. I am very glad to have had the experience. Hands on learning is something so valuable to me. In many facets of academia, things are done to appeal to both visual and auditory learners. I think there is a true lack of focus on kinesthetic learning. Howdy Farm has given me a place where I could touch, feel, and experience the material I am learning in my college career.

Many changes are taking place at Howdy Farm. In August, we welcomed the arrival of our new Sustainability Building. Having this wonderful gathering place right in the middle of the farm will give us many opportunities.
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I am now an officer for the Sustainability Agriculture Student Association (the student group that helps run Howdy Farm) and look forward to continuing my involvement with Howdy Farm, even though my time as an intern has come to and end. I know  that, since January, I have learned much about farming as well as  about working with people, communication, marketing, sustainability and much more. I cannot wait to continue growing in my new position.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Farmers Festival Part II

Leading up the May 3rd Farmers Festival, I was a bit nervous. I wanted to make sure we had both extra vendor/art/food people as well as extra people attending so both parties were happy. So I sought to advertise as much as possible. Another Howdy Farmer had a list of local communication people. I emailed and sent fliers to many of them, to get the word out. Another Howdy Farmer did an interview with a local pop radio station. And, the Friday morning before the market, I did a radio interview with a local country station. I also took some fliers to the Village Cafe and to a local gym. The women who manages the facebook page for the market also helped with advertising and getting the word out.

To be totally honest, I was not quite sure if we would have many extra visitors at the market or not. I arrived early that morning to welcome our new vendors and make sure everyone knew where to go. I was hoping for the best. As 8 AM rolled around people started trickling in. There is always a rush of regulars who come at the beginning as they know you must come early to get the best produce, so I did not think much of it. But, soon the market was more crowded than ever, filled with new faces! I could not believe it.

Pottery Demonstration
Texas A&M Sustainability quizzing kids on water conservation

Line at the Taco Truck

All in all, I say it was a successful first Farmers Festival. Of course improvements could be made for the future, but I am happy with how it went overall. The local news station even came out and did a little feature on the market. I did a little interview for that. I wish it was online so I could post it. I am very glad that I was able to help put on this fun community event as part of my internship! 

First Saturday Farmers Festival Part 1

As mentioned in a previous post, we decided, based on surveys I conducted, to make the Saturday Bryan farmers market more of an event on the first Saturday of the month. We thought it would be fun to bring in some extra guests.  Thoughts of a food truck, some local art, extra vendors, and live music excited me as I  began this project in early April.

I set to work contacting as many people as I could find who I thought would be a good fit for the market festival. Virtually everyone I talked to liked the idea of revitalizing the market. Some, of course, were busy on May 3rd. Others liked the idea, but were worried about generating enough business to make a profit as it was a new event. After lots of phone calls, emailing, and going to meet with a few people, we ended up with several extra guests at the market. In addition to the normal market offerings (produce, transplants, salsa, jam, grass-fed meat, breads, etc.) we had....

El Leoncito Taco Truck
I will say that this Taco Truck caused me a bit of consternation. You see, there was another taco truck that I thought was going to be able to make it. The lady seemed to think they could make it for at least a couple of hours. I had gotten a little overly excited and went ahead and put taco truck on the flier and happily told everyone there would be a Taco Truck. But ,on the Monday before the market, the nice lady from the Taco Truck left me a voicemail explaining that they actually could not make it this week. I freaked out way more than necessary.  Fortunately, when I actually talked to her a few hours later she knew of a friend who has a Taco Truck that was interested in coming to the market. Thankfully, the friend was able to come and my stress was for no reason.

What's the Buzz Coffee
What's the Buzz is a local "micro-roaster." They "primarily roast single-origin coffee beans from small estate, fair trade and/or organic farms." They actually said that they used to come to the market and would be interested in coming again on a regular basis. They came with fresh coffee to drink on the spot and also freshly ground coffee to purchase for later. 

TAMU Sustainability
I contacted Texas A&M Sustainability about setting up a booth and they were more than willing to come out to the market. The main issue they discussed was water use and conservation. They had a fun spinning wheel and quiz questions they brought along.

A local lady who makes her own soy candles and goat's milk soap came to the market to sell her wonderful smelling goods to the community.

Living Water Pottery
A local potter came out with her wheel and did pottery demonstrations as well as had a couple tables set up with some of her pottery available for purchase. She also said she had come to the market previously and was excited about coming again.

We really wanted live music but, unfortunately, the people I contacted were busy May 3rd. It also a little constricting that we needed someone who was willing to come out for free on a Saturday morning. Thankfully, at the last minute, a few students were able to come out for the last hour to play some music and keep market goers entertained.

I will be back soon to discuss advertising and how the actual day of the market went!

Monday, April 28, 2014


I'll post more about the market projects soon, but I wanted to take time to discuss something we did on Friday while I was working out at Howdy Farm. We grafted tomatoes! I was probably more excited about this than I should have been. I have been learning about grafting since the beginning of the semester in both my introduction to horticulture and international horticulture class that I am taking toward my minor. In fact, I just had a test Thursday on different typing of grafting. But, I still wasn't quite wrapping my head around how exactly it worked. I am definitely a hand on learner so anytime I can step out of the traditional classroom setting and learn by doing is always a good thing. So, on Friday another professor brought us two types of tomatoes and showed up how to graft them.

Let me give you a quick explanation of grafting for anyone one his not familiar (I was not until recently). It is the joining of two plants together so that they form a union and grow together as one. This is done for a variety of reasons in many plants. Some of the reasons include....

  • Some plants cannot be propagated by other means
  • Decreases amount of time for a plant to produce fruit
  • To obtain desirable characteristics from two different plants such a disease resistant or adaption to a specific climate
  • To create a new variety
  • To repair damage

We had two types of tomatoes, Better Boy and Sweet 100. We grafted one with Better Boy on top  (the scion) and the Sweet 100 as the stock and one with the opposite. Here is a picture of a couple of the plants that we grafted with Sweet 100 as the scion. Basically we just cut off the scion of two of them and switched them and held the new scion on with a little grafting clip, making sure our scion and stock were approximately the same in diameter.

 I took home with me one plant of each plant. I covered them with a plastic bag and  have been spritzing water into it a couple of times a day. Keeping the tomatoes in a moist, not too hot environment should help the two plants to join together well. It should only take about a week before I can remove the clip holding them together. Hopefully I can keep the plants alive. 

Here is an approach graft we tried with the two tomato varieties...

I am so excited to watch the progress on these plants. I am definitely learning many new things about growing. I don't even think I had ever heard of grafting a couple of months ago.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

New Market Projects

At the beginning of the semester, I conducted surveys a couple of Saturdays at the Farmers Market in Bryan. The results of surveying showed that most people who attended the market had been coming for years. We did not have many new people. We also noticed that we did not have many young people. Another noteworthy thing is that most people found out about the market through word of mouth, so marketing could certainly be improved. We knew we needed to do something in order to get fresh foods to a larger clientele of people here in the Brazos Valley. Enter, two new project.

1) Project number one. A Thursday afternoon market outside Blackwater Draw which is a local brew pub and restaurant that brews their own beer and already uses Howdy Farm produce on their menu. This market would be close to campus and at a convenient time, thus appealing to a totally different group of people.

2) Project number two. Making the first Saturday of the month at the Bryan Farmer's Market more of event. This would be done by inviting in extra vendors, artist, music, food trucks, etc. 

I will be reporting later with updates about both of these project!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Farming Realities

After a crazy winter, we thought we had experienced the worst of it. But, the freeze that occurred on the night between March 3rd and 4th turned out to be pretty devastating for the majority of our crops. Fortunately, we had plenty of transplants and seeds and have been busy replanting. So, this week at the market we mostly had cabbage for sale and just a tiny bit of other stuff. So, sales were slower. As usual, I enjoyed interacting with the local community. A TAMU class studying an anthropology of food and nutrition came out to the market. It is definitely neat to learn about where our food comes from. 

The weather has certainly caused some set backs. If anything, I am certainly obtaining a value lesson about the realities of farming. It is really interesting, in a day where we take so much into our own control, farming is something we cannot really control. Though we can toil, water, fertilize, and any number of things, at the end of the day, the biggest factor, weather, is out of our control. I can only imagine what it would be like if I relied on things I grew to feed or support family, as many do. 

Here a few pictures of recent things we have planted at Howdy! Farm

Some onions that managed to survive the freeze....

I cannot wait until all of these new things are ready to harvest and we have an abundance of things to sell to the local market! 

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Why I like Buying Food at Farmer's Market

In a world where we are becoming increasingly distant from the production of the things we own, many food, products, and furniture comes from another country. The cultivation of crops or the factory workers who spend long days churning out products for our consumption are but a fleeting thought. Yet, at a farmer's market, as you hand cash to the farmer, your skin brushes against theirs, a smile is exchanged and the growing of your food is no longer a faraway process or a fleeting thought. You have come into contact with the grower of your food, the dry cracked hands of the farmer who picked it juxtaposed with your freshly lotioned and manicured fingers touching briefly. You are connected to your food, bonded by the universal necessity to eat. I have always loved going to farmer's market and I am just beginning to understand why.
Our little Howdy Farm booth this past Saturday
This week at the market we had carrots, red Russian kale, dinosaur kale, romaine and a few jalepeno peppers. We had lots of red Russian kale and romaine. I made a little board discussing the farm and the organic methods we use and put it out at our table. I think it was effective in letting people know that we are on-campus, student run, and organic. I did a bit more surveying this week, too. The biggest trend I have seen is that the majority of the customers have been coming for years, attend regularly, and found out about the market through a friend. There were a few first timers, and I was sure to ask them how they found out about our little market. Oh, how I would love to see it grow! I would also love to see more students come.

The little board I made

Sales were good. Toward the end we had a decent amount of the red Russian kale and romaine remaining. A man helping put on an on campus sustainability conference bought all our red Russian kale to serve at the conference, showing off a little with produce grown on campus. So we did end with quite a bit of romaine left. It is always interesting to me to see which items are the most popular. I look forward to offering a greater variety of produce in the coming months!

Some of the other booths