On Saturday, April 14th, the Field School visited Grand Oak Farm in Jonesborough, TN, owned by Dana York. Dana’s family settled at this property in the 18th century, and she returned to revitalize it after retiring from a distinguished career with the NRCS. 2018 will be the farm’s first year in production since Dana’s return, and she and farm manager Camille Cody are committed to sustainable farming practices. They grow a wide variety of crops (including cut flowers), run a CSA program, and will be selling at the Johnson City and Jonesborough farmer’s markets this year, as well as Boone Street Market.

At this week’s Field School, Camille Cody presented Grand Oak’s crop planning and farm management plan for their first year in production. When she moved to the area in 2016, Camille joined our Field School in order to connect with locals in agriculture, and she continues to be involved with the Field School and other ARC&D events. Her expertise is a valuable resource for Field School students: she shared crop budgets, including how she totals cost for seeds, irrigation, potential losses, and labor. After her presentation, she took us on a tour of Grand Oak and showed students the wash station, cold storage areas, irrigation system, fields in production, and her favorite farm tools.

This year, Grand Oak is hosting a field test plot for a type of biodegradable plastic as part of an experiment run by the University of Tennessee. Annette Wszelaki, UT Vegetable Extension Specialist, spoke about the experiment and how new types of ground cover can increase yields (and decrease labor!) sustainably.

Dr. Brian Leib, Associate Professor of Biosystems Engineering and Soil Science at UT, also gave a presentation about irrigation systems and how to engineer one that suits your farm’s unique needs. He discussed the water requirements for irrigation, produce yield and quality benefits of irrigation compared to cost, design considerations, and different irrigation equipment available.

We ended the morning with a talk and live rainfall simulation by Mike Hubbs, TACD Soil Health Specialist.  Mike is a soil health evangelist, and he covered the principles of soil health and how to improve it on your farm.  The rainfall simulator showed the difference in runoff and water retention among conventional tillage cropland, overgrazed pasture, rotational grazed pasture, and no-till cropland. You can read more about his Soil Health Heroes on the TACD profile page: http://tnacd.org/index.php/soil-health/soil-health-heros

More information about sustainable produce production can be found here:

“Sustainable Agriculture: An Introduction” by Richard Earles

“Applying the Principles of Sustainable Farming” by Preston Sullivan

ATTRA Soil Resources

ATTRA Soil and Compost

Dr. Brian Leib’s presentation about irrigation

Camille Cody shares her farm management expertise

Mike Hubbs’s rainfall and erosion simulator

Field School students touring the fields

A view of Grand Oak’s sunny fields from inside the barn

Mike Hubbs preaches the gospel of soil health

It will be exciting to see what Grand Oak produces this year and how it grows in the future!