Agricultural Mediation and Conflict Resolution

Tonya Harris, Executive Director and Loraine M. Della Porta, Esq led a 30-hour Mediation/Conflict Resolution Skill Training course at the Center for Mediation & Collaboration of Rhode Island.

Tonya Harris, Executive Director and Loraine M. Della Porta, Esq. led a 30-hour Mediation/Conflict Resolution Skill Training course at the Center for Mediation & Collaboration of Rhode Island.

Agricultural mediation programs can significantly reduce resolution costs and personal angst for conflicts between agricultural producers, their creditors, neighbors or others directly affected. Benefits of mediation include significant savings over litigation, bankruptcy hearings and administrative appeals. Mediation can help repair relationships between parties, while the traditional legal process often leaves all parties financially burdened and emotionally drained.

Mediation helps all parties involved to settle disputes with terms and a settlement they come up with themselves. Neutral mediators work in-person or over the telephone to help participants resolve conflicts. Unlike drawn-out, expensive court proceedings, most mediation only needs a few meetings to resolve a conflict. Participation in mediation is voluntary. In the American court system, parties in conflict give up all control of their decisions.

[Learn more about agricultural mediation here.]

Building family traditions at Schrempps Christmas Tree Farm

Dawn trimming trees at CSchremmps Christmas Tree Farm

Dawn at Schrempps Christmas Tree Farm

Joe Schrempps sold his first Christmas tree in 1986. Generations of local families have been making their annual pilgrimage to Schrempps Christmas Tree Farm in CLinton, CT ever since.

Joe always loved working outdoors and enjoyed a long career in the nursery industry. When he retired in 1979, Joe renovated an abandoned dairy farm in Clinton, Connecticut. He cleared the unproductive apple trees, hauled away the biggest rocks and started planting Christmas trees. Every year he added another block of trees. The 17-acre farm now has over 16,000 Christmas trees.

Andy and Dawn Piazza live near the farm and help their Uncle Joe manage the Christmas trees. Both Andy and Dawn have off-farm, full-time jobs. After their workdays and on most weekends, they each grab a pair of hedge trimmers to hand prune their trees. “This is our second full-time job. It takes pretty much the whole season to trim all the trees,” said Andy. [ Learn more here.]

Cost-effective coolers for farms, breweries, wineries, florists, caterers, restaurants and grocery stores

CoolBot at Wishing Stone Farm

Inside CoolBot at Wishing Stone Farm

Over 18,000 CoolBots use standard window air conditioners to turn super-insulated rooms into walk-in coolers. Farmers, florists, breweries, wineries, pubs, caterers, restaurants and grocery stores use CoolBots.

CoolBot cooler systems cost less to install compared with conventional compressor-cooled walk-in refrigerators or coolers. Conventional coolers use more electricity, have higher repair bills and tend to dry out greens and vegetables more than CoolBot cooled coolers.

CoolBot controllers cost about $300. Ron Khosla of Huguenot Street Farm in New Paltz, NY invented CoolBots.

CoolBot systems are ideal for users who access their cooler less than five times per hour and want to maintain a cooler temperature of 37 degrees F or above. These users will save the most electricity compared to using conventional coolers. Users who seek 36 degrees F will need to open the door less often and be patient while the temperature drops to 36. These users will save some electricity compared to using a conventional cooler. Users who need coolers to maintain temperatures below 34 degrees F should use conventional coolers with compressors.

Anyone can build a super-insulated room. Learn how and read more about CoolBots here.

NOFA/RI Advanced Growers Workshop

Will BonsallAuthor and grower, Will Bonsall will lead a workshop called “Getting more food from less space & Cultivated crops that don’t need cultivation” on Sunday, November 9 at 1 p.m. Learn about intensive growing and nurturing unusual shrubs and trees. This workshop is open to the public and will be held at the Watson Institute at Brown University in Providence, RI.

Will Bonsall of the Scatterseed Project, will describe a “System” (as opposed to a single crop) of growing a number of specialty crops in less space, using a combination of companion cropping and intensive spacing. This is Will’s version of the John Jeavons Bio-Intensive, non-raised beds. Will has farmed with these techniques for many years, fine-tuning as needed. His practices work for most crops, but especially for compact vegetables.

Will Bonsall will also discuss his less common permacrops including hazelnuts, hardy kiwis, medlars, elderberries and blackberries. He will focus on strategies for growing and processing these permacrops.

Learn more and register here.

Select and grow the best varieties of high quality storage crops

Squash and Pumpkins“The best way to put great vegetables into storage is to start with the right varieties. Then grow, harvest and handle crops the right way,” said Jan van der Heide, Northeast Sales and Product Development Manager for Bejo Seeds. van der Heide led a workshop called “Putting a Good Quality Crop into Storage” at the New England Vegetable & Fruit Conference.

Fall and winter crops grow more slowly and have smaller cells, hard skins and dense flavor and nutrients. Most late season crops are eaten cooked.

Growers should plan ahead for storage crops. These crops take 80 to 130 days to reach maturity. Most growers do not have time for a second cash crop on field growing storage crops. With fields tied up for the season, growers should earn a good return on that crop. smart growers plant a cover crop after harvesying their storage crops to protect and build soils before planting a new cash crop.

Growers should choose varieties specifically selected for storage qualities. Learn which varieties van der Heide recommends and read about his harvest recommendations and storage tips here.

4-H & FFA competitions benefit students, livestock & communities

Washington county fair 2014 - cover storyLocal and regional fairs with 4-H and Future Farmers or America (FFA) competitions build competitors’ skills, self-confidence and leadership skills while educating fair visitors about agriculture. Competitors and audiences may become be our next generation of farmers and ranchers.

4-H competitions offer students valuable feedback on their agricultural projects and a chance to compete with peers. Students face public speaking angst while improving presentation skills. Prizes offer incentives for future efforts, pay for additional projects and contribute to college educations.

Prize winning livestock often bring high prices at auction. 4-H animals are accustomed to working cooperatively with people, and may be easier to manage that other livestock.

Livestock competitions may include beef, dairy, goat, sheep, equine, rabbit and poultry classes. Learn more here.

Successful urban farmers use intensive agriculture

Andy Pressman

Andy Pressman

There are many benefits to farming in urban areas. Most urban farmers are close to markets and customers. They often spend less time and money transporting goods to customers than rural growers. Urban sites generally offer easy access to potable water. Most urban farmers have fewer wildlife problems than their rural counterparts. Urban environments tend to be 6 – 8 degrees F warmer than rural areas. This is partly due to the heat island effect of pavement and sidewalks.

Urban farms may be on abandoned or open lots, neighborhood backyards, city parks or rooftops. Many urban farmers grow on multiple sites and use intensive farming techniques.

Learn more here.