Monday, February 28, 2011

Fruit School with Professor Barkslip

Bill Whipple's business card should be a pear. Yep, that's right. A real, actual pear.

You see, when I first met Bill last September, it was mid-day at the Heritage Harvest Festival and I'd already chatted with approximately 3 million people. My brain was fried and my capacity for meeting new folks and actually remembering them was pretty much tapped out.

And then Bill walked over.  Granted, it could have been his striped suspenders that made him unforgettable, but most likely it was the crazy delicious pear, grown organically on his land in West Virginia, that he sliced up and shared with us. It was the most amazing piece of fruit I've ever tasted: juicy, tender, fresh and flavorful. I've never had anything like it. Which is why I think he should ditch the cardboard cards and just carry pears.

The best part about this whole story, though, is that Bill, a.k.a. Professor Barkslip, will be joining us in April to teach a two-day intensive Fruit School class. Now you can grow your own business cards, too!

If you're interested in growing fruit in your home or community garden, thinking about starting an orchard or adding fruit trees to your farm, you should not miss these classes. With an emphasis on organic production, Bill will take you through tree care, pruning, rooting, and grafting, and you'll leave with enough plant material to practically pay for the class.  These workshops are perfect for new beginners and old hands alike. You will learn:
  • basic skills and pruning strategies to care for low-input home, farm and community orchards
  • hands-on experience rooting and grafting, plus take-home cuttings and seed starts
  • skills to convert ornamental trees into fruit producing mega-giants in three years
Professor Barkslip's Fruit School
Date: April 16 & 17, 9am - 5pm
Location: Educational Farm at Maple Hill
Cost: BEFORE MARCH 19: $60/day, $120/weekend. AFTER MARCH 19: $70/day, $140/weekend
Register: or (434) 286-2176

It is recommended that you sign up for the full weekend as the material builds upon itself, but if you can't, here's the breakdown:

April 16, 2011
Fruit tree care and pruning workshop (for the home, farm, and public space):
This class will be half talk and half walk and will cover site analysis and selection, proper tree selection, orchard floor prep and care, and caring for the established orchard. Like all the classes at fruit school, emphasis will be on using organic methods. Bring your favorite pruners and saws if you have them for the hands on portion of the class!

Plant rooting and propagation (for the low budget fruit enthusiast):
This class emphasizes low tech, organic methods of plant production though seeds, layering, rooting, stooling, and division. This is by far the easiest and cheapest way to bring the nutritional abundance of plants into your life. Great activity ideas for kids as well!

April 17, 2011
Bench grafting and cloning around:
Learn to graft your own fruit trees! This is nothing short of magical when you learn to stick a branch of one tree onto another and it grows. Discussed and illustrated will be the whip and tongue, and the cleft grafts, rootstock varieties, seedlings versus clones, aftercare, and setting up your own nursery for income diversification. Included in the class is one rootstock, choice of several varieties of budwood, and aftercare materials. There will be plenty of rootstock for sale to do multiple grafts if desired. You are encouraged to bring your own varieties of apple tree cuttings to graft or to swap and share with other participants.

Top working and advanced grafting (Have your flower and eat it too!):
This class will hurl you headlong into the world of top working countless varieties onto existing trees. Within three years you can have a barren ornamental tree in production with 40 varieties! We’ll learn about compatibility, timing, and the world of countless grafting techniques including chip and T- budding, side grafting, rind graft. We’ll touch on festooning and arborsmithing as well. Also emphasized is the essential aftercare of the top worked tree.

Sponsored by Local Food Hub and Blue Ridge Permaculture Network.

image credit: bmann/Creative Commons

Friday, February 11, 2011

Sway your Sweetheart with Season Extension: Eliot Coleman at UVA

Barbara Damrosch and Eliot Coleman -- aren't they dapper?
Looking for something romantic to do this weekend?  Well look no further: join Charlottesville's garden and farm community this Sunday at a lecture and demonstration by one of America's most innovative and well-respected organic farmers: Eliot Coleman. I mean, what speaks of love and longing more than a full, warm greenhouse overflowing with vibrant, growing life in the long, cold days of winter?

Not buying it?  Ok, but you should still check this out, because if you've browsed a seed catalog or two in the decade, then you've probably seen Coleman (or one of his self-designed tools) among the pages, boasting a basket overflowing with utterly perfect, organically grown vegetables.

Known as the king of season extension techniques, Coleman has become the champion of the small organic farm in an age of large-scale industrial agribusiness, because, he says, small farms and market gardens simply grow better food. At his Four Season Farm in Maine where he's been farming for more than 30 years, Coleman supplies his community with tasty, fresh, organic food year-round. Year-round! In Maine!

Virginia, surely we have something to learn from him!

So if you've got some time this weekend, please join us. It's even free, so you'll be a cheap date. I'll leave you with a favorite quote from Coleman:  "Information is like compost; it does no good unless you spread it around.”

To recap:
Organic farmer Eliot Coleman will give a lecture and demonstration workshop at the University of Virginia's Hereford Residential College on Sunday, February 13, 2011.

The lecture is from 1 to 2:30 p.m. in the Green Room in Runk Dining Hall. The workshop will take place from 3 to 4 p.m. at Hereford College's mini-farm on Hereford Drive. Directions here.

The events are free and open to the public. Free parking is available at the site.

Sponsored by Hereford Residential College, UVA Dining Services, Local Food Hub, and the UVA Food Collaborative.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Upcoming Event: SPIN Farming comes to Virginia

Goodbye lawn, hello farm!
SPIN Farming is coming to Virginia! 

Local Food Hub is excited to announce a daylong SPIN Farming workshop on Saturday, March 12 from 8am–4pm at our Educational Farm at Maple Hill in Scottsville, VA. The workshop and demonstration will be conducted by SPIN expert, Linda Borghi, and will include planning, design, production, and marketing, as well as hands-on work in a future SPIN plot on our farm.

Haven't heard of SPIN Farming? Well check it out: S-mall P-lot IN-tensive (SPIN) Farming is a non-technical, easy-to-understand, and inexpensive-to-implement farming system that makes it possible to earn income from small plots by growing vegetables.

These methods can work whether you are new to farming, or want to farm in a new way. Why?
  • The revenue formulas and organic-based techniques make it possible to gross $50,000+ from a half-acre.
  • You don't need to own acres of land! Use your backyard, your front lawn, or rent/barter a small piece of land adequate in size for SPIN-Farming production.
  • It works in the city, it works in the country, it works in the 'burbs.
So if you've been dreaming of having your own organic farm or just making some extra money with those green thumbs of yours, this workshop is for you!

Register today -- space is limited!

SPIN Farming Workshop
Date: Saturday, March 12, 2011
Time: 8:00am - 4:00pm
Location: Local Food Hub Educational Farm
Cost: $100 (includes class, SPIN How-To guide, access to list-serve, and tons of hand-outs)
Register: | (434) 286-2176.

image credit: andrea dunlap/Creative Commons