Published Sep 6, 2013

Scattergood Farm Field Day – Harvesting Data through On-farm Research

By Tomoko Ogawa

We gathered together Sunday afternoon August 11, at Scattergood Farm near West Branch, Iowa to learn about the Practical Farmers on-farm research projects that they are conducting this year. The farm includes 10 acres of certified organic vegetable gardens, orchard and 30 acres of pasture for grass-finished livestock.
All the meat protein (pork, beef, and lamb) served at Scattergood Friends School comes from the farm, as well as all the vegetables served between August and December.

Mark Quee, the field day host and Scattergood farm manager/teacher first took us to the field where they are conducting a quick turnaround summer cover crop study. The farm planted six different species of summer cover crops (cowpea, sunn hemp, buckwheat, chickling vetch, sorgham sudangrass and Japanese millet) to test their cover crop quality between cash crops. As they got some rain right after planting them, they had very good germination and growth. Mark noted that they were especially happy with sunn hemp for its weed suppression ability. The next field was where they are conducting a sweet pepper variety trial to compare the variety called California Wonder and Catoriona. Catoriona pepper seeds are very expensive (10 seeds for $9.50) compared to the California Wonder. They are going to take yield data (pounds/number of marketable and cull fruits). He then took us to the field of melons where they are comparing paper versus plastic mulch for weed suppression yield impacts. Last year they compared the paper versus plastic mulch for sweet potatoes, and found out that plastic resulted in better yields at a cheaper cost (and there are some places available to take plastic mulch for recycling).

Between the stops at on-farm research sites, we got to enjoy tasty pears and peaches, which reminded us a stark difference between store bought fruit and fresh fruits off the tree.

After the tour of the farm and on-farm research project sites, we gathered together under the trees for more networking time over a delicious potluck meal, featuring the abundance of Scattergood Farm.