Cultivating new market vendors

Earlier this week, the Big Stone Gap Farmers’ Market Board hosted a vendor workshop, and a couple of our Grow Appalachia participants – new gardeners – were able to attend.  The audience learned about weight and measures from a Virginia Department of Agriculture & Consumer Science representative, and then Emily Wells, Wise County Extension Agent for Family & Consumer Sciences discussed steps to ensure that farmers’ market vendors have a safe and healthy product.

One of the most attention-getting slides from Emily’s presentation was color-coded photograph of a hand, with the least-likely-to-be-clean zones in bright red.  Every time I’ve washed my hands since, I’ve concentrated on those red zones (my fingernails and between my fingers).

Market board chair Shirley Smith introduced the group to the various purchase options that the market offers, including debit/credit tokens, EBT tokens, Kids’ Bucks and WIC and Senior vouchers.

And then we spoke with the growers about Integrated Pest Management.

It’s always interesting the ask a roomful of gardeners – especially new gardeners – the question, “When does pest management begin?”

As predicted, we got a couple of answers that were a variant of, “When you first see the pest.”beanbugs

But we emphasized that pest management, in fact, should begin before you plant the first seed.  It should be considered when you’re choosing your garden site and when you order varieties.

Even your soil test is pest management, because when you equip the crops with the nutrients they require, they can resist a lot of stressors that might otherwise lead to their demise.

We talked about economic thresholds and how, even if potato beetles destroy up to 30 percent of potato foliage, yield will be the same.

Some other points we covered during the IPM discussion:

  • Floating row cover can be a very effective pest deterrent in certain crops.
  • Trap crops are something to consider, as well. For instance, squash vine borers will choose hubbard squash over pumpkins, and flea beetles will practically ignore tomatoes and peppers if eggplant is around.
  • Biodiversity in the garden can help attract an army of beneficial insects.    monarch

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