Produce and Specialty Crops - From Farm to Plate
Kentucky farms produce many of the nutritious foods that we should eat daily. The climate means we can grow certain fruits and vegetables across the various seasons. Some fruits and vegetables can’t be grown in Kentucky.
Colorful Vegetables: A Healthy Choice
Eating vegetables is a good choice for your health. Most vegetables are low in fat and calories and have no cholesterol. They are an important source of fiber, which can help reduce blood cholesterol and may lower the risk of heart disease. Vegetables also contain vital nutrients like folate, which helps make red blood cells. Vitamin A keeps eyes and skin healthy, vitamin C boosts the immune system and helps heal cuts and wounds, and potassium, which according to scientists, helps keep blood pressure healthy. Children should eat between 1 ½ to 3 cups of vegetables every day.
Growing Seasons in Kentucky
Produce grows best in Kentucky from April to October. It is difficult to grow produce in the winter in Kentucky due to harsh temperatures. Different vegetables grow at different times. In spring, the temperate weather is wonderful for salads, chard, and asparagus. The summer’s heat is ideal for tomatoes, cucumber, and peppers. Fall yields wonderful storage crops like potatoes, pumpkins, and winter squash. Local vegetables can be enjoyed in the winter by preserving or canning them during the growing season.
A Look at Farming Produce
Growing vegetables requires a lot of care by the farmer. Farmers must observe their crops regularly to watch for insects, diseases, weeds, and make sure they are getting enough water. Wise farmers know it is best to stop a potential problem early, or risk losing all or a portion of their crop. Farmers use tricks like irrigation, which means using special tubes to give plants water when they get too hot. Or, they “scout for insects”, which means hunting for baby insects so they can stop them before they get too big. It is important for farmers to watch their plants and overcome things in the environment that might kill them.
For many years, farmers have taken their products to market or sold them to restaurants or grocery stores. In the last few decades, farmers have added a new tool to sell their produce - the CSA model. CSA means Community Supported Agriculture. A CSA is a subscription-based product, usually weekly, where farmers deliver a variety of produce to families during the growing season. CSAs help farmers get the startup costs they need at the beginning of the growing season to get their produce directly into homes. They are a great way for customers to get high value produce from their local community. The closer you are to the farm, the more likely you are to get the highest nutritional value from the product.
In addition to vegetables, Kentucky is home to a small amount of fruit growers. We aren’t as famous as Washington for our apples, but there are 600 apple orchards here. There are more than 300 peach orchards. Fruit trees take some patience to farm. That’s because it takes a tree a number of years to grow before it starts bearing fruit. First, the farmer gets small trees, or saplings, from a nursery and plants them in neat rows. A group of fruit trees is called an orchard. Then, the tree must grow before it can be harvested. It can take 3 or more years of growing before the farmer can pick its fruit. Once the tree is mature and ready, the farmer will get bigger yields of delicious fruit every year.
Fruit and vegetables are sold by a unit of measurement called a bushel. A bushel weighs differently for each type of produce. For example, a bushel of apples is about 48 pounds of apples. A peck is a quarter of a bushel, or 12 pounds. You can purchase a bushel, half bushel, peck, or half peck. Of course, grocery stores often sell fruits and vegetables by the pound instead.
Many specialty farmers welcome children to visit their farm. Now that you know more about local fruits and vegetables, try to visit a farm or meet a farmer at the market. You’ll impress them with your knowledge of farming, and get a chance to try a local vegetable or two.
Glossary of Terms:
- Irrigation - A system on a farm that helps plants in the field get water to drink when they are too hot.
- CSA - Community Supported Agriculture. A business model where farmers offer a subscription to receive their produce on a regular basis. Customers pay at the beginning of the season and the farmer can use that money to buy supplies. The farmer, in turn, gives subscribers a portion of the seasonal crop - usually in a weekly “share”.
- Nursery - A farm that specializes in growing plants, especially baby plants for farmers and retail customers.
- Sapling - A small tree that is not yet mature and bearing fruit.
- Bushel - A unit of measurement for fruits and vegetables. Its weight varies by product.
- Peck - Half a bushel.
- Orchard - A group of fruit trees
Taylor and Zac Jones brought in their first harvest with just 278 tomato plants. Their grandfather had given them a couple rows in his garden and the pair had been experimenting with the idea of starting their own farm.
Around the third week in November, several Kentucky farm families open their gates, barns, and fields to folks who appreciate the experience of cutting a fresh, homegrown Christmas tree. A tree grown and nurtured in Kentucky soil, with Kentucky hands.
Seedless watermelons were invented over 50 years ago, and they have few or no seeds. When we say seeds, we are talking about mature seeds, the black ones. Oftentimes, the white seed coats where a seed did not mature are assumed to be seeds.
Lee County residents are learning low-cost methods they can use to improve their health through gardening. Ted Johnson, a University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service agent in the county, installed several raised bed gardens at the extension office. He offers classes to residents throughout the growing season to show them how raised bed gardening is easy, economical and healthy.
As a self-proclaimed foodie and a lifelong gardener, it was no surprise that University of Kentucky student Anna Townsend answered the call to share her knowledge when the Campus Kitchen at the University of Kentucky formed in 2014.
Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles today celebrated the passage in the Kentucky House of Representatives of landmark legislation that aligns Kentucky’s industrial hemp research pilot program with the federal Farm Bill and adds important law enforcement provisions. Senate Bill 218 now goes to Governor Matt Bevin for his signature.
On the foundation of an old gestation barn, boxwood thrives. On the former nursery site, a new propagation greenhouse stands, its tables made from grates recovered from the farrowing house. The former finishing barn is now used for storage.
High tunnels are a low tech version of more elaborate, and expensive, greenhouses for production of produce crops. Dr. Shubin Saha, UK extension vegetable specialist says this form of “protected agriculture” is expanding, giving consumers more variety of products in more months of the year, and providing premium income for producers of these crops.
On a late fall day, volunteers laid the framework for what will be a bustling place full of fruits, veggies and children come next summer.
The Metcalfe County community garden is an outreach of the county’s office of the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service and its farmers market. It is a direct result of the growth of the market and the expansion of extension efforts on local gardening for children.
Fall is the time of year in which many festival-type events are held, mostly in honor of food. The Browning Orchard Festival is no different but along with it being a celebration of the foods that are grown there, it is also a classroom for the agriculture programs at Morehead State University (MSU.)
It used to be nearly impossible to drive through Kentucky in August and not see tobacco growing in a field. In the summer of 1998, the leaf crop accounted for 25 percent of the state's farm cash receipts and was grown by 46,000 farmers statewide.
In the world of Kentucky agriculture, it doesn’t get much more traditional than tobacco and horses. The state leads the nation in burley and dark tobacco production while the equine industry ranks number one in horse sales.
Faced with a pathogen, important signaling chemicals within plant cells travel different routes to inform the plant to turn on its defense mechanisms, according to a recent University of Kentucky study.
Until 2014, Kentucky farmers hadn’t grown industrial hemp in more than 50 years. Since then, University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment researchers have taken on many projects with the crop. With research for pharmaceutical use of hemp components coming into focus, farmers are realizing a real challenge—harvesting the giant plants.
There is no doubt Kentucky agriculture has a long history in producing the best tobacco in the world and growers have done so for generations.
There are thousands of uses for industrial hemp, everything from automotive parts to pharmaceuticals.
Long considered a symbol of longevity in Asian culture, the shitake is a gourmet mushroom.
Soil scientists in the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment are getting promising results from several treatments that appear to be breaking down the fragipan, a cement-like layer common in many soils in Western and Central Kentucky.
Industrial hemp is a variety of Cannabis sativa that is different than marijuana by its use and chemical makeup. Industrial hemp refers to cannabis varieties that are primarily grown as an agricultural crop little to no drug component.
In what can be seen as a twist on tradition of sorts, the Kentucky Horticulture Council (KHC) would like to see farming become more citified.
Kentucky’s tobacco industry is on the brink of a revolution. Recent studies indicate that tobacco can be used for HIV prevention and Ebola treatment.
There are thousands of uses for industrial hemp, everything from automotive parts to pharmaceuticals.
Western research has found that ginseng increases blood flow and memory function, and can be used as an aphrodisiac. In the Far East, people drop ginseng roots into teas, tinctures and soups to cure a variety of ailments.
Making jet fuel from tobacco is a technology under study at the Kentucky Tobacco Research & Development Center in Lexington, in partnership with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California, Berkeley.
Kentucky may be known for its bourbon, but there’s another adult beverage with deep roots here – wine. In fact, the first commercial vineyard in America was established on the Kentucky River in 1799, and by the mid-19th century, the Commonwealth was the third largest wine-producing state in the country.