New lambs and goat kids. Tips on mulching and bedding plants for your garden. Talks on organic and sustainable farming from Brodhead all the way to Africa.
Dela and Tony Ends mark their 20th year as vegetable growers with new products and presentations in the annual Brodhead Tour the Farm Day.
Brodhead Chamber of Commerce is hosting its 8th annual tour with Ends’ Scotch Hill Farm and local honey, sheep and emu producers May 10. The day-long Saturday event with Kinkoona and Sugar Maple farms and Opal-licious Honey at Ten Eyck Orchard runs from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
The Ends grow 60 varieties of certified organic and heirloom vegetables, which they deliver to subscribers seasonally and offer for weekly pick-up at the farm. They also raise dairy goats and sell farmstead soap made from milk, vegetable oils, herbs and flowers.
Area backyard vegetable growers can get help from the Ends this spring straight from the prairie in the annual battle against weeds. The Ends are in their second Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education study at Scotch Hill and will share tips on using switch grass mulch to suppress weeds in vegetable crops during the tour. Mulch and bedding plants will also be available for purchase during the one-day tour.
The Ends family operates one of the four oldest subscription vegetable operations in central Wisconsin. The couple is among 50 family growers practicing Community Supported Agriculture in a coalition based in Madison.
They have also just returned from assignments teaching organic rotation practices, insect identification and solar food drying as Farmer to Farmer volunteers in Senegal. The March 1 to 15 trip to west Africa with CLUSA and USAID was Dela’s second and Tony’s third Farmer to Farmer service in Senegal, where Tony also served in the Peace Corps in the 1970s.
The Ends have scheduled morning and afternoon talks and Power Point slide shows of their volunteer work in Senegal and also on using switch grass to mulch vegetable crops during the May 10 farm tour. Also new this year will be talks on “What I do with my weekly CSA vegetables,” from households that subscribe to Scotch Hill’s produce.
Scotch Hill Farm has been studying ways to reduce black plastic use by growing small grains and switch grass, then baling the straw for mulch. Mulch cuts weeding labor expenses and time for vegetables.
Many commercial vegetable growers use rolled plastic from polyethylene film to mulch vegetables and fruits. The practice has helped control weeds since the 1950s. By 1999, it had spread globally to more than 30 million acres. Much of it ends up in landfills, which are filling up and closing. Some consumers worry about black plastic mulch leaching chemicals into soil, during and after production.
Black plastic shades out weeds and avoids use of herbicides, but it contributes nothing to the soil during use. It is also difficult and time-consuming to completely remove from fields after use. Research stations in the South, Midwest and West have experimented with many types of biodegradable mulches, including paper with vegetable oil coatings.
However, organic certifiers have been barring their use because of GMOs and chemical leaching concerns.
They also have at times been found to break down (16 weeks or less) from weather before longer-term vegetable crops have matured.
Ends has found that small grains straw mulch and switch grass mulch contribute organic matter to the soil, breaking down as they impede weeds and returning minerals to the soil. It also improves soil tilth and fertility. At right density, organic mulch can hold up longer than biodegradable manufactured mulches.
Ends will share advantages and disadvantages of both from comparative trials he conducted with Dr. Jim Stute. Stute is studying use of the mulches in bedding plants with the Ends in their SARE Farmer Ranger producer grant projects. Stute, formerly with UW Extension Rock County, is now research director at Michael Fields Agricultural Institute. The Ends presented the results of their first study with Stute at the National Small Farm Conference and in a regional Community Supported Agriculture conference workshop Wisconsin Farmers Union hosted.
Scotch Hill Farm used all three types of straw mulch (oat, wheat and switch grass) over the first 2-year Farmer Rancher Producer Grant Project , noting differences, strengths and drawbacks in beds and plantings of garlic, broccoli, snow peas, cauliflower, tomatoes, cabbage, melons, cucumbers, squash, sweet potatoes and three varieties of beans.
This year, Scotch Hill Farm is employing 1,000-lb. bales of switch grass mulch in a comparison study with black plastic mulch. The Ends’ slide shows and talks on mulch, organic farming, CSA cooking and Farmer to Farmer projects in Africa will be offered hourly in the morning and afternoon. during the May 10 Tour the Farm Day. A schedule of the talks will be posted to Scotch Hill’s website www.scotchhillfarm.com and on facebook pages in the week before the tour.
Paradigm Garden Center, a 15-year-old, two-state business at 4501 Helgesen Drive on Madison’s east side, is selling Scotch Hill’s switch grass mulch for a second year. Contact the store at 608 241-3800. Ends can be reached at 608 897-4288 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org