Nicholas School Internship Blogs

Farm Tour
by -- July 1st, 2011

Welcome to the Campus Farm! I promised more information about the farm, and here it is: everything you’ve wanted to know about the Campus Farm.

It seemed to me that the best way to introduce you to the farm is to both tell you and show you. Read on below for more information about our growing practices, and take a look at the slideshow for a virtual tour.

Potatoes, ready to harvest!

Potatoes, ready to harvest!

Red Russian kale

Red Russian kale

Butternut squash-to-be

Butternut squash-to-be

Fields of basil

Fields of basil

Cherry tomatoes

Cherry tomatoes

Edamame seedlings

Edamame seedlings

Arugula seedlings

Arugula seedlings

Sweet potato plant

Sweet potato plant

Okra

Okra

Yellow pepper

Yellow pepper

Bell pepper

Bell pepper

Honeydew melons

Honeydew melons

Volunteer sunflower

Volunteer sunflower

Cukes

Cukes

Green beans (variety: bronco beans)

Green beans (variety: bronco beans)

Baby watermelons

Baby watermelons

Farm workers

Farm workers

Roughly one third of the plowed acre is currently in production. Our summer crops are green beans, potatoes, watermelons, cantaloupe, honeydew, cucumbers, tomatoes (heirloom and cherry), basil, peppers (hot and sweet), okra, sweet corn, edamame, arugula, sweet potatoes, zinnias and sunflowers (just because they’re pretty).

We’ve also begun to plant our winter crops, which so far include: butternut squash, acorn squash, spaghetti squash and pumpkins.

As a small organic farm, we use as little machinery as possible and most of the work is done by hand. We don’t use synthetic fertilizer or pesticides; instead, we use organic alternatives.

When it’s time to plant a crop, we first have to prepare the bed. Bed prep involves weeding (if needed), an application of composted horse manure, feather meal (for nitrogen), and wood ash (for pH and other nutrients). Once applied, we use a tiller to incorporate the amendments. Finally, we smooth a bed with a rake.

After the bed is ready, we can plant our seeds. We measure, dig, plant, and cover the holes by hand. Most of our rows have a drip irrigation system; for those that don’t, we water by hand as well.

And then we wait! In this hot weather, seeds germinate fairly quickly. Once seedlings emerge, we keep a watchful eye out for pests, which have included birds and bugs, be sure water consistently, and prune if necessary. In a couple of months, presto: gorgeous veggies.

The process may sound simple, but there’s always something to take care of on the farm. Weeds grow like, well, weeds. We lost our summer squash crop to pests, and discovered that crows love digging up corn seedlings. As summer progresses, we’re planning for fall and even next spring.

The farm is always changing, growing, and producing beautiful and bountiful food. (In all honesty, I never cease to be amazed by how much food we harvest!)

The Campus Farm sells to the Duke dining halls. If you’re on campus over the summer, you’ve likely eaten some of our green beans, cucumbers, or potatoes. I bet they were delicious, too.

So, there you are: the Campus Farm in a nutshell. I hope I’ve satiated your hunger for farm information – at least for now.

1 Comment

  1. Robert C. Holt, Jr.
    Jul 6, 2011

    Go, Farmer Noelle!
    You bring back a lot of memories of growing up on a farm. I loved it, and still do but my farming days are just, as I said, memories. Thanks for sharing!
    Much love, Poppa Holt

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