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January 16, 2017

Fauquier Education Farm schedules 10 workshops

Contributed Photo
The series opens Jan. 29 at the visitor center, but the other nine workshops will take place at the Fauquier Education Farm on Meetze Road east of Warrenton.
By Jim Hankins
Fauquier Education Farm
Executive Director


We live in an age of information overload. Most of us carry around smart phones that allow immediate access to information on any topic we might want to learn about. This is an incredible gift to curious minds, but it has its limits.

Real world learning remains valuable in our lives, being able to see for ourselves in person and interact directly with complex questions and answers, these types of learning experiences are difficult to replace.

The Fauquier Education Farm teaches by doing. We are a demonstration farm that explores and contrasts different cultivation methods and crop varieties to help educate our community of motivated gardeners and farmers. We are constantly experimenting and trying to showcase cultivation methods that enhance production and sustainable resource conservation.

We collaborate with our state universities to provide a real world setting for the information they want to get out to the agriculture community. Our variety trials of different types of vegetables help us teach the home gardener what might grow best at their home, or be a hot sales item at the farmer’s market. We are an outdoor teaching lab available for anyone who wants to learn.

The Education Farm Workshop Series is our primary means of showcasing these demonstrations. Each year we host 10 workshops that directly relate to what we are doing at the farm. These workshops allow us to devote a specific time to present the demonstration and explain what we are doing, and how, and most importantly why.

This gives the folks attending the workshop a chance to see everything we are doing in person and ask any questions they might have. We frequently invite outside speakers or collaborators to join us and bring even more experience to the discussion. Sometimes we even have taste test to compare the quality of different vegetable varieties, otherwise why grow ten types of watermelons unless you can decide which taste best.

All of these workshops are free and open to everyone. We have had folks driving from across Virginia to attend. You can pick and choose which might be of interest to you with no expectation that you come to all ten workshops. There is no need to register so bringing along friends at the last minute is always welcome.

Our first workshop of the year, “It’s Time to Start Planning,” will be held at the Warrenton Visitor Center on Sunday, Jan. 29, from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. This has become a very fun workshop as we guide you through an entire year of garden tasks.

We will give you a full planting schedule, letting you know the best times for each crop. We also tell you about the varieties and methods that have worked well at the Education Farm, and we will also announce the other upcoming workshops. As an extra bonus, we will have plenty of free seed catalogues from our favorite vendors for you to take home.

The rest of the workshops will take place at the Fauquier Education Farm on Meetze Road, just east of Warrenton. They are held from 6 to 8 p.m. to make it convenient for the after-work crowd. These workshops are held rain or shine and involve some walking over uneven ground; so dress appropriately. We have an excellent covered teaching barn, but strolling out to see the garden is an important part of each workshop. The full schedule is listed below.
Of course, the very best way to learn is to get your hands dirty. You can always learn more by becoming directly involved and volunteering at the Fauquier Education Farm. We will start planting in mid-March and will need lots of volunteers then. It is a great way to learn about gardening, meet some really wonderful people and give back to your community.

Everything we grow in our demonstrations is donated to local food banks. In 2016, that totaled 34,715 pounds of high-quality, fresh produce, delivered to those in need. For more information about the farm and how to volunteer please check out our website at fauquiereducationfarm.org

This year’s workshops
The Fauquier Education Farm Workshop Series is a learning resource for farmers and home gardeners of all experience levels. You can pick and choose any workshops that may interest you with no expectation that you need to attend them all. These workshops are free, open to everyone and do not require registration.

For more information, contact Jim Hankins at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or 540-533-6500

• Jan. 29, 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. — “It’s Time to Start Planning.” Join us as we go through a full calendar year in the garden, with tips on what should be planted when and how to maximize your gardening success. We will also roll out all the upcoming workshops and learning opportunities at the Education Farm and let you know how you can become an important part of it all. We’ll also have free catalogues from our favorite vendors for you to take home.
This workshop will take place at the Warrenton Visitor Center, 33 N. Calhoun St. Warrenton.

All other workshops will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Fauquier Education Farm.

• May 25 — “Cover Crops, Grow Your Own Nutrients.” Join us as we partner with the Natural Resources Conservation Service to discuss using cover crops to protect and improve your garden soils. We will have several different blends of cover crops, both fall and spring planted, for you to see in the field. We will also discuss using No-Till methods of establishing cash crops.

• June 1 — “Row Covers and Low Tunnels.” There are very few things you can do in the field that can help some crops more than using row covers and low tunnels. They provide insect and frost protection but also do a great deal to improve plant health and vigor. We’ll be using row covers on a much wider variety of vegetables than ever before so come see how we’re doing it.

• June 7 — “The Colorful World of Cauliflower.” We will explore to world beyond white in this important and easy to grow cool season crop. Cauliflower now comes in a range of colors from vivid purple to golden orange. We’ll have them growing in the field, along with the standard Snow Crown, so we can talk about the do’s and don’ts of planting a rainbow in your garden.

• June 29 — “3D Deer Fencing.” It’s heartbreaking to plant a crop only to lose it to these 4-legged pests. We will show you a simple and cost effective means of putting up electric fencing to help protect your garden and ensure that you get to eat out of it before the deer destroy it all.

• July 12 — “Tomato Variety Trial.” Come see our field trial of 12 different tomato varieties. We’ll have our favorites and try out several new varieties in our quest for the perfect BLT. We will also compare production techniques, like no-till, plastic mulches, and we’ll talk about how to use a Florida weave.

• July 20 — “Cantaloupe, Muskmelons and Honeydew.” We’ll be growing at least 12 varieties. We will talk about weed and pest control, as well as all the other do’s and don’ts of raising rich sweetness in your garden. Of course, with all those varieties in the field there must be some taste testing included too!

• July 26 — “Uncracking the Secrets of Eggplant.” We will have several different varieties of this often difficult to raise vegetable, and we’ll show you how to make it seem easy. The variety and colors make this a really rewarding crop in your garden.

• Aug. 10 — “The Good Guys.” Much of the conversation about insects in the garden centers around how to kill them, but there is another way. This workshop will introduce you to some of the insect predators in the garden and how to encourage them to work on your side.

• Sept. 14 — “Sweet Potato Variety Trial.” We have five different varieties of this really nutritious vegetable. We’ll showcase how we use plastic mulches to help control weeds around the often quite large plants, and we’ll dig some of each variety to see how each is producing in this side by side trial.
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