Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Rows of greens welcome workshop participants at Green Edge Organic Gardens

Amesville, OH - A chill in the February air didn't deter workshop participants at Green Edge Organic Gardens – nor keep the leafy greens on the farm from growing. 

Thirty-six new and seasoned farmers from across Ohio journeyed to the organic farm located in rural Amesville last Thursday to learn firsthand how Green Edge produces fresh, organic specialty crops all year. The workshop was the second in the “Season Creation” series from Green Edge with coordination from Rural Action Sustainable Agriculture.

Green Edge farm manager Dan Kneier explains high tunnel growing to a group of participants. Photo by Matt Moore.

At the farm, participants learned how Green Edge manages to produce specialty crops – including multiple varieties of kale, chard, carrots, and spinach - year-round inside high tunnel growing structures from farm manager Dan Kneier. They learned from Green Edge co-owner Kip Rondy how and when Green Edge staff starts seeds, plants seedlings and irrigates, harvests, washes and delivers their organic produce during even the coldest months of the year.

The key to season creation at Green Edge is the use of high tunnels – passively heated and ventilated green house structures – to cover rows of crops in order to control the growing climate, plus the added use of plastic and cloth row covers when temperatures fall below freezing.

Green Edge co-owner Kip Rondy guides a group through one of the farm's many high tunnels on Thursday. Photo by Matt Moore.

High tunnels extend the active growing season for farmers (or create an entirely new growing period), conserve water use, reduce the need for pesticides and manage surface run-off – all of which benefit farming communities economically and environmentally. Earlier starts and delayed ends to the season mean more produce and better prices for growers; controlled growing environments mean less water run-off and decreased pesticide use.

“It’s so exciting that the Athens area has created these agriculture models that are drawing farmers from across the region to learn from us,” said Rural Action Sustainable Agriculture coordinator Tom Redfern. “Once again the old adage is true: the best asset we have in southeast Ohio is our resilient, innovative population – Kip, Becky, Dan, Miranda and the whole Green Edge staff are an example of this.”

AmeriCorps volunteers helping out on Thursday. Photo by Matt Moore.

Following morning tours on the farm, participants moved to the local Grange Hall in Amesville for a locally-sourced lunch prepared by Bob Fedyski, Local and Institutional Foods Consultant at Rural Action, with the help of Rural Action AmeriCorps volunteers. Hearty stews featuring turkey from King Family Farm and vegetables from Green Edge, Mitch’s Produce and Shade River Organics, homemade rolls from the Lodge at Lake Hope and a whole spread of pies from Lucy Fussner were on the menu. 

Serving up savory local turkey stew to a participant. Photo by Matt Moore.

The afternoon presentation at the Grange Hall gave participants a further sense of year-round growing. Kneier explained planting schedules, crop threats, high tunnel construction costs, incentive programs, business models and addressed other questions posed by participants.

They also learned from owners Kip and Becky Rondy how the farm has developed since its beginning to now serve Columbus and Athens retail locations, CSA (consumer supported agriculture) members and a number of restaurants. Their financial growth has allowed the Rondys to hire full and part time farm staff, as well as host a success apprentice program for beginning farmers. 

The entire room full of eager learners and future high tunnel growers. Photo by Matt Moore.

At the end of the day, attendees went home with folders stuffed full of valuable information, ready to build their own tunnels, extend their range of growing and get a little more money in their pockets. And Green Edge took another step as innovative agriculture leaders and educators in the region.

“We have valuable ideas to share with people,” said Redfern. “We need to continue to claim that value and show it off.

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