Start Farming Blog

‘Malwina’ strawberry plant - bred in Germany. Photo: Kathleen Demchak
December 3, 2015

It’s the time of year when many growers are figuring out what varieties to include in their strawberry orders. For an impartial view of the performance of some of the newer cultivars, here are the first harvest year results from a matted-row trial at the Penn State Horticulture Research Farm at Rock Springs.

Compared to leaf or mesclun-types of lettuce, head lettuce takes less labor to grow, has a longer shelf life, and lower food safety risk.
December 1, 2015

Dr. Lewis Jett, West Virginia University, recently gave a talk at the Western Pennsylvania Vegetable and Small Fruit Seminar on the topic of four-season head lettuce production. Dr. Jett has been researching how growers in West Virginia can produce top-quality bibb- and romaine-type head lettuces during spring, summer, fall and winter using high tunnels and other protected growing practices. Dr. Jett's findings and recommendations, summarized in this article, should be applicable for many growers in Pennsylvania.

November 19, 2015

Many of the most successful farmers I know are experts at finding and keeping great employees. As a new farmer, managing employees can be a huge challenge. For the first employee you hire it may seem like more time than it’s worth to figure out how to file all the right paperwork, let alone how to delegate effectively.

November 16, 2015

Healthy soil should be the objective of every farmer. But what is soil health and how can it be improved? In these workshops you will get an overview of the basics of soil health and how to evaluate it, and learn about 14 principles and practices that help to improve soil health. You will receive a copy of the new publication ‘Soil Health in Field and Forage Crop Production’, and be able to observe a live demonstration of the effects of poor and good management on soil health. Soil health specialists from Penn State and USDA-NRCS will be presenting and farmers from your area will explain how they have improved soil health on their farm. Come join us for an exciting exchange of ideas!

November 16, 2015

Join PA-WAgN for our annual One-Day Networking Symposium as we share through a full day of workshops, panel discussions, networking opportunities, and peer-to-peer information sharing.

November 6, 2015

The spotted lanternfly has now been found in one additional municipality in Berks County; an additional township in Montgomery County and has appeared in parts of Bucks and Chester Counties. The additional quarantined municipalities include Boyertown Borough, Berks County; Douglass Township, Montgomery County; Milford Township including Trumbauersville Borough, Bucks County; and South Coventry Township, Chester County.

Photo: Shawn Harquail, CC License
November 6, 2015

Firewood is an important source of heat for many Pennsylvania residents. As the weather turns colder, a lot of folks are gathering firewood for the winter. Unfortunately, firewood is also an important source of invasive problems, and moving it around can spread damaging insects and diseases. You should use local firewood as much as possible.

November 5, 2015

Think of your pasture like your lawn. As we get into November and the temperatures cool off, you will likely mow your lawn a couple times and then you are done for the year. Your pasture grasses are similar; they are a cool season grass whose growth slows and becomes dormant during winter. Manage your grazing like you do your lawn, when you stop mowing your lawn for the year you should also likely stop grazing your pasture.

Different stages of infection of bitter rot on Honey Crisp.
October 30, 2015

Growers can get a jump on fungal and bacterial disease management for the 2016 season this fall. A review of tips to manage apple scab, fire blight, peach leaf curl, cherry leaf spot, bacterial canker, and fungal fruit rots are discussed.

October 29, 2015

Broad mite (Polyphagotarsonemus latus) has been a pest of tropical, subtropical and greenhouse crops for over a century, and has been problematic for pepper growers in PA for the last couple of years. Now we can add blackberries to the list of crops that they frequent.

October 29, 2015

The Penn State Extension Horticulture, Start Farming, and Pesticide Education Teams have produced two new videos on integrated pest management practices and soil health.

Jenny Carleo (r), RCE agricultural agent of Cape May County, discusses tomato crop management with farmer Jen Gleason of Hand’s Stand Market in Rio Grande, NJ.
October 29, 2015

Rutgers University will be offering programs on “ultra-niche” production, which is growing exceptionally high-value crops that can provide a significant source of income to the farmer while using minimal land area. The goal of the project is to teach new and beginning farmers nationwide–virtually and in-person–about the cultivation, marketing and business management of farming 18 “ultra-niche crops, including strawberries, basil, roselle, sweet potato vine, hot peppers and mushrooms.

October 29, 2015

The Penn State Extension Horticulture, Start Farming, and Pesticide Education Teams have produced three new videos on integrated pest management practices for sustainable establishment and management of apple orchards.

October 29, 2015

The National Center for Farmworker Health has created a guide for agricultural workers that describes benefits under the Affordable Care Act. The guide is in English and is available for sharing.

October 22, 2015

USDA’s Farm Service Agency has expanded the Farm Storage Facility Loan (FSFL) program to provide very low-interest financing to farmers to build or upgrade storage for meat, dairy, and eggs.

October 22, 2015

Whether you plan on raising chickens, cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, or horses there are some basics that you should know first before taking the jump into production. Keys to success in raising livestock include knowledge of goals, options, and resources. Knowing these key points will help to shape your farm and make it successful in the long run.

Pine vole damage and runway.
October 16, 2015

As with integrated pest management for insect pests, IPM for wildlife management involves integrating several control methods simultaneously or alternately, and the key to success is routine monitoring. Effective scouting entails assessing wildlife and predator populations, wildlife habitats and behaviors, damage patterns, possible impacts on nontarget organisms and various conditions that may influence control efficacy.

Common hop (Humulus lupulus) Photo: Karan A. Rawlins, University of Georgia,
October 13, 2015

The demand for local hops is creating a renewed interest in growing hops. A team of Penn State Extension Educators and Specialists recently received funding from the US Department of Agriculture’s Specialty Crop Block program to study hops.

October 13, 2015

Not only insecticides but also some fungicides and herbicides are harmful to bees. The following are some general guidelines to protect bees from pesticides.

'Prime-Jan' blackberry Photo: Kathleen Demchak
October 8, 2015

Spotted wing drosophila is present just about anywhere we look these days—even in berry fields where fruit is no longer present.