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Archive for May, 2012

May 30th delivered a beautiful evening here in eastern Iowa, and the perfect opportunity for a handful of neighbors to join and tend to some gardening detail. After a group of dedicated volunteers worked hard over Memorial Day weekend to weed our potato patch, several more of us met last night for what was dubbed a “Potato Hilling Party.” The idea was pretty simple. Now that the rows had been freshly cleaned, we would pull loose dirt into mounds around the plants. This serves several functions including increased protection for the developing potatoes from the sun, moisture conservation, and better suppression of weeds.

At the time of this work, it had been pretty dry, (though we got a nice, much-needed shower today) and in turn the ground was pretty hard. So to make the task easier, garden director Mike Boyle ran a tiller up and down between the rows which allowed the rest of us to easily rake the loose soil into hills around the plants.

Mike runs the tiller while Ann and Ronnie “hill” dirt around the potato plants.

Judy, Ann, Ronnie, and Mike working in the potato patch.

Working to add a little extra protection just as the first potatoes are starting to blossom.

With such wonderful help, and the lion’s share of the project (pulling weeds) already done, it didn’t take long to finish the job. Our thirteen rows of Kennebecs, Russets and Yukon Golds are in good shape; well protected as we enter the warmer months and set to yield another bumper crop. And it’s probably worth noting that this was all done through traditional gardening methods- which to put it bluntly means relying on elbow grease instead of chemicals. 

At Hardacre Community Garden we don’t use synthetic herbicides or pesticides, and nutrients are spread through compost and organic fertilizers. It might mean a little extra work from time to time, but we’ll take it in order to provide healthy, natural foods and to fulfill our obligation as stewards of the land. The results are quite favorable, if we don’t say so ourselves…

Some beautiful looking cabbage. All of our vegetables are naturally grown, without the use of harmful chemicals.

Once the potatoes were finished our attention turned to the radishes, many of which are prime for the picking.

Ronnie, Mike and Judy picking radishes.

Mike with a nice bundle of radishes.

All in all, a job well done. Once the work was complete, we got a chance to visit and catch up on progress with the rest of the garden. Mike led us across a makeshift bridge to have a look at the new plot on the east side of Crooked Creek. Here he has been hard at it, having recently planted sweet potatoes, peppers, eggplant, melons, onions, tomatoes and more. This will also soon be the site of several rows of delicious Iowa sweet corn.

Volunteers enjoying a chat. The chance to socialize with neighbors is just one of many perks that comes with working in the garden.

Mike gives a tour of the new plot east of Crooked Creek.

This truly was a great evening in the garden. A gorgeous night to get a little exercise and fresh air, to visit with neighbors and even learn a thing or two. (Did you know pickles can be made from watermelon rinds?…  How about limes? All news to me!) Of course, even greater benefits will come in a couple of months when the harvest is shared throughout the community.

And that’s what Hardacre Community Garden is all about.

Sound like something you’d like to get involved with? We have a pretty informal structure when it comes to volunteering. We don’t ask that you make appointments or try to set a schedule. We know people are busy, and plans can quickly change. Instead, we simply invite anyone who wants to lend a hand for an hour or two to stop out at anytime. Generally, someone will be working at the site in the evenings and on weekends, so come by when you’re available- there’s always something to do. And you don’t need to be a green thumb to help out. In fact, we love showing newbies the ropes. One of the many aspects of our garden that makes it such a wonderful asset to the community is the educational opportunity it provides. Rather just a beginner or a seasoned pro, we’ve got a place for you.

There is also an opportunity coming up to stop by and see things for yourself. On Saturday, June 9 we will host an Open House from 9-5. This is a chance for the public to have a look around the grounds, ask questions and share in some fresh garden snacks. The event is being held at the same time as Tipton’s city-wide garage sales, so if you’re out making the rounds be sure and plan to visit.

Additional questions can be left in the comment section below, or on our Facebook page linked in the menu to the right.

Thanks for your interest, and we hope to see you at the garden soon!

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We’re sort of in awe at how far the garden has come along in recent weeks, and how wonderful things are starting to look. Of course this is only the beginning of what we think could turn out to be our best season yet! Here are a few photos from the evening of May 30 to show how things have grown…

Our lettuce cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower has really taken off.

A couple nice rows of carrots.

Garden volunteers working in the potato patch.

Baby broccoli.

Young cauliflower starting to take form.

Get a load of that cabbage!

The kids are back! This year, Hardacre farm will once again host the Tipton High School FFA Market Goat Project. These fine looking little critters are a lot of fun to have around!

For more photos have a look at our Facebook page, and stay tuned to this blog for new posts coming soon!

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This past Tuesday, May 15, marked the 150th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln signing the Department of Agriculture act into law. Lincoln would soon after refer to the USDA as “The People’s Department,” recognizing the importance of providing a solid agricultural foundation for our quickly developing country. Now, a century and a half later as the USDA celebrates this significant milestone year, Lincoln himself is being recognized for his contributions and vision in creating such an agency.

This spring, the USDA gifted special seed packets to all member projects of their People’s Garden Initiative (named for the Lincoln’s description of the Department.) Each packet contained 10 heirloom “Abraham Lincoln” tomato seeds, with the idea of paying homage to the strong history of community gardening in America while offering tribute to this influential leader. Each of the 1,630 registered People’s Gardens across the nation and around the world have been asked to plant these tomatoes, then track and share their progress using social media throughout the growing season. This will not only provide a connection to our agricultural heritage, but foster a sense of unity in the common mission shared throughout the entire People’s Garden network.

Abraham Lincoln tomatoes are a fascinating strain. Developed and first introduced in 1923 by W.H. Buckbee Seed Company of Rockford, Illinois, the fruit was named for that state’s greatest son. Marketed as “The Giant of All Tomatoes,”  Abraham Lincoln’s were touted as “beautiful dark red attractive fruits, heavy, sweet, solid and meaty…” It was boasted that mature tomatoes averaged a pound in weight, though three-pound whoppers were not uncommon. Despite their size, the tomatoes were said to be “remarkably smooth and free from cracks and seams.” Seeds were sold in packets of 100 with a  catalog price listed at twenty cents a pack.

Though Abraham Lincoln tomatoes entered the gardening world with limited acclaim, the variety quietly gained a reputation as a dependable favorite, even surviving the shift to hybrid strains that became prevalent in the 1940’s. Now, nearly 90 years after it was first introduced, Abraham Lincoln tomatoes are a true garden classic with strong roots anchored deep in our horticultural past.

At Hardacre Community Garden, we’re very excited to join in this global celebration and to be growing Abraham Lincoln heirloom tomatoes this summer. Our seeds were started by local students in the Tipton High School grow chamber, and a few plants were put in the ground last week by volunteers Mike Boyle and Josh Meier in celebration of the USDA’s 150th anniversary.

In conjunction with this commemoration, we will have signs posted in the garden marking our special Abraham Lincoln plants. We eagerly invite all of our friends to seek them out when visiting the site, and to check and see how the plants are progressing. We will also be taking part in the USDA based online campaign, sharing photos and updates of our tomato growing efforts with fellow gardeners near and far. Facebook, Twitter, and this blog will be our primary means of purveying this information, and you can find links to our social media accounts in the column to the right.

 The USDA People’s Garden website can be viewed by clicking  HERE,  and contains further details on both the initiative and Abraham Lincoln Tomatoes.

Of course the greatest reward of this special project, like everything we do, is knowing that the work put into growing these tomatoes will eventually pay off in providing healthy, local food for neighbors in our community. It’s a wonderful feeling to be able to share in such blessings, and we’re always happy to accept an extra hand from those willing to help. If you live in the Tipton area and would like to get involved, please feel free to stop out at the garden on any weekday evening, when you can generally find someone playing in the dirt. Otherwise, contact Josh by leaving a message in the comment section below, or on our Hardacre Community Garden Facebook page at  www.facebook.com/hardacregarden for further information.

Thanks for your support, and for your ongoing interest in Hardacre Community Garden. We’d love to see you out at the farm- and we’re fairly certain  that Honest Abe would approve as well!

 

Above: Hardacre Community Garden volunteers Mike Boyle and Josh Meier plant tomatoes in celebration of the 150th Anniversary of the USDA. May 15, 2012.

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Some of you may have already seen these on our facebook page, but I thought it would be fitting to welcome our new friends with a look around the garden. These were all taken earlier in the week, and as you can see, we’re off to a good start on the 2012 season.

Yukon Gold Potatoes.

Lettuce with a companion row of radishes.

We’re not all about vegetables at Hardacre Community Garden. Here is one of our raspberry bushes, and we hope to eventually turn the grassy hillside in the background into a fruit orchard.

Purple cabbage.

A view of our south field, which will be planted soon, and the historic Hardacre house in the background.

Our beautiful welcome sign painted a few years ago by Austin Coss as part of a Tipton High School art project. (We’ve since settled on the name Hardacre Community Garden due to its historical connotation, and our openness to serving neighbors in surrounding communities.)

We’ve added a new flower bed to the grounds this year, and thanks to the hardwork of Amy Lutz and her Tipton High School landscaping class, there’s a lot more color to be seen around the gardens.

Rhubarb patch.

Onions.

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On May 15, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed an Act of Congress establishing the United States Department of Agriculture. Lincoln would later refer to the USDA as “The People’s Department,” acknowledging the important role farming played in the lives of all American’s. At the time, half of the population lived outside of cities, and agriculture held a prominent position in the conscience of our developing nation.

A lot has changed in the one hundred and fifty years that have since passed. Today, only about two percent of American’s live on farms; and in our fast paced, narrowly focused culture many have developed a disconnect when it comes to understanding the origin of their food. Even though agriculture continues to impact each of us daily, most fail to recognize its importance. It could be questioned what this says, or what perils exist, for a society that neglects due vigilance toward such a basic need.

In light of these concerns, the Local Food Movement has gained momentum in recent years. Drawing from the philosophy that locally grown foods are healthier for both people and the environment, the movement has brought increased awareness of agricultural production and a push to return to more traditional practices. In 2009 the USDA recognized the importance of this growing trend and created “The People’s Garden” initiative. This program seeks to promote responsible food systems by encouraging the practice of community gardening across the nation.

Through this initiative, the USDA recognizes community garden projects as “People’s Gardens” if they fulfill three criteria. First of all, the project must consist of a collaborative effort between local individuals, groups, or organizations. The garden must also incorporate sustainable, ecologically sound practices. And finally, the garden must be purposed for the benefit of a community.

Tipton’s Hardacre Community Garden is recognized as a People’s Garden, and has enjoyed this status since the projects inception in 2009. In qualifying for this label, the garden is entirely volunteer driven and work is done through a combined effort of neighbors from the area. We strive to be responsible land stewards through sustainable practices such as abstaining from pesticide use, planting organic and heirloom variety seed, and reclaiming waste material for construction and other projects. And of course, the fundamental ambition of our work at Hardacre Community Garden is for the benefit of our neighbors in Cedar County and surrounding areas. While anyone is welcome and encouraged to share produce from the garden, the majority of our harvest is donated to area food pantries, care facilities, churches and other neighbors in need. In 2011, nearly five and a half tons of healthy, homegrown vegetables were distributed throughout the community (and we’re pushing to top this in 2012!) We also provide communal benefit by offering our garden as an educational resource and maintaining close ties to our horticultural heritage and local history. Through these efforts, Hardacre Community Garden exemplifies the People’s Garden initiative, and we carry that banner as one of seventy three such projects in Iowa- boasting more USDA People’s Gardens than any other state.

(Note: Our relationship with the USDA is through this recognition/honor. While we are proud to represent Tipton as a member of this initiative and do access resources available through the USDA, we are our own separate entity and not a division of or funded by the agency.)

This year, in celebration of its sesquicentennial and as a tribute to its founding father, the USDA is working with People’s Gardens to honor the past while moving forward into the future. The Department has given each People’s Garden packets of seed containing “Abraham Lincoln” Tomatoes, an heirloom variety developed in 1923 by H.W. Buckbee of Rockford, Illinois. By planting these, gardeners will essentially be growing a piece of history, as this particular seed has been collected and passed across seasons for nearly ninety years. However, in a modern day twist growers have been asked to track progress of their Abraham Lincoln tomatoes and share photos via social media with the greater People’s Garden community. This offers local food enthusiasts everywhere the opportunity to join in unison and commemorate the USDA’s contribution and advocacy of the community gardening cause.

At Hardacre Community Garden, we are also honoring our agricultural heritage with an eye to the future. In addition to taking part in the Abraham Lincoln Tomato project, we are attempting to increase community awareness of our work by developing an online presence. A facebook page was created earlier this spring to be used as a forum in sharing photos and spreading garden information. (www.facebook.com/hardacregarden) And now, 150 years to the day after Honest Abe signed off on the USDA, we are pleased to announce the launch of this, our new Hardacre Community Garden blog.

Through these media we will be able to share stories and images from our garden with friends from down the street and around the globe. It is our hope that through this campaign we will increase our network of support and further our mission of not only providing a source of healthy, locally grown food but also of being an educational asset to the community.

Through this process, we would love to engage with each of you. Please feel free to leave questions or comments on this blog or on our facebook page at anytime. Check back often for updated posts (or sign up for the email notification to the right) and by all means, please help us spread the word and reach a wider audience by sharing this page with your friends.

Thank you for your interest and ongoing support of Hardacre Community Garden. Here’s to a great 2012 season, in both our physical and virtual realms!

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