Tuesday, August 28, 2012

2012 Fruit and Vegetable Field Day

Ajay Nair
Department of Horticulture, Iowa State University

The Department of Horticulture in partnership with Iowa Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association and the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture organized a Fruit and Vegetable Field Day at the Horticulture Research Station, Ames IA on 23 July, 2012. The event was coordinated by Dr. Ajay Nair, Assistant Professor in the Department of Horticulture. Other researchers who participated include Drs. Jeff Iles (Dept. Chair), Kathleen Delate, Paul Domoto, Gail Nonnecke, Mark Gleason, and Mr. Malcolm Robertson. 

This education and outreach event was designed specifically for fruit and vegetable growers and featured research-based information on a variety of topics including biochar application in vegetable production, row covers, plasticulture, cultivar trials, organic production practices, high tunnel fruit & vegetable production, apple root stocks and training systems, and cover crops. The event gave growers an opportunity for a real time assessment of new, innovative, and sustainable research initiatives in the area of fruit and vegetable production. Although geared towards commercial production the event was attended by small scale growers, master gardeners, and home owners interested in enhancing their production skills and diversifying their gardens and acreages. The event showcased the HORT 465 course which is a student-run vegetable enterprise geared towards developing student entrepreneurial and business skills. Graduate students from the Department of Horticulture (Brandon Carpenter, Leah Riesselman, and Dylan Rolfes) actively participated in the event by engaging growers in their research projects and answering their questions.

The event also hosted local growers (Berry Patch Farms and Rinehart Farms) who set up booths to sell farm fresh produce. Field day participants also had a chance to visit with representatives from USDA sponsored Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education program and the Leopold Center for Sustainable Education.

The morning session of the field day was followed a post-lunch panel discussion where growers, researchers, agriculture professionals, and extension personnel interacted with researchers from the Department of Horticulture and Field Extension Specialists to discuss current and future needs of fruit and vegetable industry in Iowa. Afternoon keynote speech was delivered by Dr. John Lawrence, Associate Dean, ISU Extenstion and Outreach. He stressed on developing strong grower-researcher relationship to address ongoing issues and challenges, and develop new ideas for fruit and vegetable research in Iowa.