One of our team members spoke with Mark Frommeyer, the owner of Blue Oven Bakery, a bakery and wheat farm near Cincinnati, Ohio concerning the pathogens that he had experienced on his wheat farm. He said that he had never seen stem rust on his wheat; leaf rust was a common pathogen but was not a significant worry for him. It might stress the plants slightly, but did not greatly decreases his yield. His main concern, as well as the main concern of other wheat farmers in the area is Fusarium graminearum (vomitoxin), which both significantly decreases the crop yield and produces a mycotoxin which renders the entire crop inedible.
Turner Farm is a certified organic farm in Cincinnati. They have some employees as well as an internship program, but source much of their labor from their co-op system. The farm grows a variety of fruits and vegetables, flowers, and livestock. They also have a teaching kitchen at the farm and work to educate the community about health, nature, and sustainable farming and sell at local farmers markets. One of our team members met with Abby, the crop production manager, and Rachel, one of the assistant crop production managers, and talked with them while we transplanted okra and weeded the beet plants.
Turner Farm’s organic certification requires that they plant organic seeds if possible, use no unnatural chemicals or genetically modified seeds in production, and that the land must have been organic for a certain period of time. The employees we spoke with preferred local, non genetically-modified agriculture, mainly for environmental reasons, including reduced chemical dependence, and for food quality. However, operating a farm organically leaves the farm susceptible to diseases and pests. At the time we visited the farm, they were having issues with potato fleas, and mentioned that they had had infections of downy mildew on their tomatoes and onion blight in years past. In order to combat pests, they are able to use some organic pesticides, such as milk, which has fungicidal properties, and some forms of bacteria, as well as other physical methods, such as blow fans, electric fences, crop rotation, raised beds, cover crops, and cover cloths, to prevent pests, weeds, and outside animals. In addition, the farm is able to use organic materials in lieu of chemical fertilizers, including composted chicken manure, fish emulsions, manure, strategic cover crops, and mulches such as sheeps’ wool, old mushroom logs, and leaf compost.
Although Turner Farm’s work requires them to not use unnatural chemicals or genetic modification, their end goals relate in many ways to the end project: both use innovative solutions to reduce dependence on environmentally harmful materials while improving food quality and production.