K-State Extension Professional Horticulture Tour. June 21-25, 2009. Big Brutus, West Mineral, Kansas. We all met in Pittsburg, KS Sunday evening. First tourist stop on the way to Bill and Brenda’s on Monday morning……. Note size of “normal” equipment in the foreground (road grader, etc.).
Download Policy: Content on the Website is provided to you AS IS for your information and personal use and may not be sold / licensed / shared on other websites without getting consent from its author.While downloading, if for some reason you are not able to download a presentation, the publisher may have deleted the file from their server.
K-State ExtensionProfessional Horticulture Tour June 21-25, 2009
Big Brutus,West Mineral, Kansas We all met in Pittsburg, KS Sunday evening. First tourist stop on the way to Bill and Brenda’s on Monday morning…… Note size of “normal” equipment in the foreground (road grader, etc.).
Brenda’s Berries and OrchardsBrenda Olcott-Reid and Bill Reid, Chetopa, KS
Notes: Peaches and blackberries are 75% of their income. Only Brenda picks peaches, takes too much time to teach others to do it correctly. Rest of operation is 95% u-pick. Have a few apples, sometimes let customers pick those, but don’t let the customers up on ladders. Open 7 days/week from 7:30 to noon and 7 to 9 pm, but not open Sunday a.m. Have mostly local customers, but some drive out from Wichita, other cities, some from out of state. Don’t have commercial scale blueberries…too costly to put in to be cost effective, and other growers near-by on more acid soils with good blueberries. Their soil pH is 6.3, on a Cherokee silt loam, or “second bottom” soil, lots of clay, a fragipan. Have 120 acres. As for berries, prefers early bearing varieties over ever-bearing. People don’t want to come out and pick in the fall as much…too hot, have given up on their own gardens. Likes Royalty Purple raspberry variety a lot, is ¾ red, heat tolerant, early, and also likes ‘Revellle,’ also heat tolerant. Don’t like ‘Heritage’ that much (classic red variety). Use a trellis system (see photo) to keep them together, not sprawling. Prune almost constantly….prune out old fruiting canes, head back the primocanes early, and also throughout the season. Birds not a big deal, but stink bugs getting worse, spray once a week for them with product called ‘bifenthorin.’ Bugs create white patch on berry from sucking juice from druplets. Also spray for cane blight, but not much sun scorch problem.
Notes cont: When asked about high tunnels, Bill says “High tunnels don’t make money in Cherokee county. Have to keep their prices low here. The county is the poorest in the state. People here are so tight they squeak. Often have 15 freezers in their garage…one for their deer, one for fruit, one for veg…..that’s just how they do things here.” Population of the county is about 21,000, and on average you can expect 3% of the population within 30 miles to come to u-pick. Need 300-500 customers to get u-pick to work…see details in book. Started with blackberries in 2001, added strawberries in 2002, grew from there except set-back with 2007 Easter freeze. Saw Brenda’s apple breeding project…crosses popular varieties with Co-op disease resistant cultivars. Nice stand of peaches with several varieties to spread out the harvest…like ‘Intrepid,’ Challenger, Carolina Gold, Sure Crop, New Haven, Red Haven, etc…. Blackberry varieties….likes Washita, Triple Crown has good growth, but late. Nachez is ok. Don’t plant Arapaho. Many plant mix-ups from the nursery…at least twice, didn’t get what they ordered. Likes Shingko Asian pear, is resistant to fire blight. Spot spray with roundup for weeds, horse nettle. Saw Bill’s bed-making equipment. Hire people to help prune, pick, at minimum wage mostly.
Price list: (pyo/pre-picked) • Strawberries $2.11/NA per qt • Raspberries $1.64/3.28 per pt • Blackberries $2.11/3.75 per qt • Peaches $NA/1.12 per lb • Sand hill plums $1.40/2.80 per qt • Apples & Pears $0.94/1.12 per lb
U-pickers at the farm (R) Helpful trellis system for blackberries and raspberries (below).
Blueberries (planted in trench filled with sand and peat (L) and Brenda’s apple crosses from seed (above). Crossing things like ‘Gala’ with disease resistant varieites.
(top left): disks for building raised beds, (above) attachment for rotovator for building two raised beds for strawberries, and (left) orchard spraying equipment. Does a lot of spraying for cane blight, use ‘pristine.’ Used to use captan, before that used sulfur, but didn’t recommend sulfur as it kills beneficial mites and can be phytotoxic.
Pecan Experiment FieldChetopa, KS After shaking, pecans are picked up with machine (above). Later are cleaned and bagged using machine on right. Electronic scale was hanging from the ceiling to protect from high water.
Notes: Exp. Sta has xx? Acres? Good land here, river bottom, wide, not narrow like in MO. Doing var. trials, some native, some improved, some named varieties developed by others in OSU, AR, etc. Doesn’t like really big nuts, don’t fill out, medium-sized paper shell do best. Biggest problem getting into the business is waiting the 13 years until first harvest. Doing some intercropping with soybeans (agro-forestry). People often graze under pecans as well. Only get $20 per acre rent for cattle, but saves $12 per acre per mowing. Pecans are probably the most profitable crop for this region of KS, but need at least 300 acres to make a living at it. People aren’t serious if they have less than 40 acres. Not a good back yard tree for nuts, because squirrels will get them all, but get nice shade from it. Trees can live for decades, or even centuries. Only limit for commercial production is if they get to big for shaker to work. They are a low input crop, on a relative basis. Require about 3 sprays per year, compared to apples which need about 7, and even more for peaches. They are mostly mechanized, though not quite as much as field crops. Can still do a lot of work from a tractor. Don’t try to grow pecans near fields with 24D, cotton pesticides also harmful to pecans. They tolerate flooding. Had 3 floods so far this year. River is 1 mile away, but flood plain is 5 miles wide.
Outdoor view of pecans at station (right). High water mark on bathroom in shed (below).
Three Springs FarmOaks, OklahomaEmily Oakley and Mike Appel Transplanter ($2000) and other equipment (chisel plow, disk). www.threespringsfarm.com
Notes: Both have degrees in sustainable ag. Met at Friends University in Long Island, (Quaker Friends World) has a degree program that takes you all over the world. (Emily did MS on seed saving techniques) Lived in Tulsa for a while, started marketing in Tulsa, farmed 3 acres outside of Tulsa. Then moved to this farm 6 years ago. He’s from NY, she’s from OK, so moved here. Tulsa is 1 hr away, and sell at FM twice a week there, plus have a CSA. Tried traditional model, now use a very flexible system. Have 80 members, they buy $200-$300 “share” and then use that as credit when buy at the FM. If they don’t use up their share, food is donated to food bank. Get a newsletter and 10% discount as part of the membership. Both have worked on a farm/CSA in CA, with 800 members, but a lot of pressure to have 8 items in the bag every week. About 25% of their business is through the CSA. Own 20 acres, 5 in cultivation, 3.5 in annual crops, rest in perennials like apples, blueberries and asparagus. Rest of farm in wetland and wildlife habitat. Grow 50 different crops, with tomatoes as their biggest crop. Grow several thousand (20,000) transplants in a very small greenhouse, minimally heated, with small sized cells and high quality potting mix (Ocean Forest). Start peppers in a hot cabinet out in the barn (old cooler with small space heater).
Notes cont: Purchased some equipment, a little tractor (Massy Ferguson) with a rotovator, chisel plow/ripper, 2-row cultivator ($700), disk (to work in residue), and new transplanter ($2000). Used to take 2 hrs to hand transplant a row, now takes 7 minutes, Emily drives, Mike puts plants in. Water tank for starter soln. Use old electric line spools to wind up used drip tape and re-use. Also bought a “Buckeye-Tractor” bed shaper (see photo) for $1500, makes 60” wide beds. Tried to buy a planet jr. from e-bay, but ended up buying a new one. Marketing van takes 45 boxes, that’s all they can take to market. See price list, get good Tulsa prices, but have to include sales tax. Last year put in 450 blueberry plants, constant challenge to keep weeded, cultivate frequently to keep Bermuda grass in the borders, drip tape under the plants. Doing for customer demand, soil is acidic, use poultry/hen litter for fertility. Have a mix of hybrid tomatoes and heirloom (like Cherokee purple), included some heirlooms grafted on disease resistant rootstock. Looked good, except rootstock also sending out shoots, need to prune? ‘Sungold’ popular cherry, growing ‘sun sugar’ now too. Originally thought they’d grow mostly heirloom, but due to pricing and demand have shifted to at least 50% hybrid. Plant successively to have continues crops. Don’t control disease, since have already harvested peak production, just let them die. Steak and weave system. Sell regular tomatoes $3/lb, and heirlooms for $4 per lb.
Notes page 3: Keep careful notes on profitability. Wrote the article for GFM a couple of years ago comparing their prices to Walmart, theirs are lower than Walmart on average. Drop some crops due to lack of profitability (like Edamame soybean), keep others that are marginal since they fill a seasonal niche (like radishes….labor intensive to bunch them all). Also have cut back from 26 week to 21 week marketing season. Was too difficult to get crops to grow in Aug. for the Sept. market. Leads to a simple but comfortable life. “Can’t afford to buy a Hummer every year.” Are certified organic, through OK Dept. of Ag, only $100 per year. Also practice sustainable ag, discussed sustainable principles very well. Some principles include leaving part of land as wetland and wildlife, some also means they don’t hire any labor. They also don’t have livestock…just doesn’t fit into their system at this point. Have a dog and a couple of cats…part of pest control, so mice don’t eat the drip tape in the winter. Buy most of their seed from Johnny’s, don’t find enough time to harvest their own seed, even though that is what they studied. Buy hen litter, but worry about antibiotics uptake in veggies, don’t buy broiler due to arsenic. Do the farming partly as a business, but also as a cause.
“Buckeye Tractor” brand bed shaper (left) and results (below). Inserted long bolts in back to drag the soil and leave planting guides.
Van only holds 45 boxes, so limit for Sat. and Wed. market in Tulsa. Sell certified organic, prices include sales tax. Detailed market records help determine which crops sell well, make most profit.
Blueberries (left) and 5 acres layout (above). Rotate blocks of summer and spring crops, use drip irrig, and attempt 3 cover crops per year plus veg. crops. Use poultry litter for fertility.
Small greenhouse for growing all transplants, lettuce and arugula as late spring crops, still doing well in heat with no irrig!
Notes: Planted some blueberries in 1983, others about 8 years later. Noticed the ones near the road not doing well, but did ok if moved. Thought it might be carbon monoxide from cars. We suggested could be the calcium from the road too. This area in the zone between high bush and rabbit eye blueberry, so mostly planted highbush. Native pH is 6.8, so had to add a lot of sulfur and sawdust when planted. Now at about 4.8 to 5. Planted on 10’ wide rows, 4’ between plants. Would recommend wider rows, easier to mow. This results in 10,000 per acre. Varieties include Blue Ray, Blue Crop (big berries, people like this), Duke (tough skin), and Collins (good flavor, but small). U-pick season from June 2 through July 4, but this year tomorrow is the last day. Told us that he does the mowing, but there are so many branches in the way he wears a heavy pair of coveralls, a motorcycle helmet, goggles, etc, and wouldn’t wish the job on his worst enemy. That’s why he recommends wider rows. He’s a also a bit behind on pruning, which would help open up the rows a bit. Has some family help, but no one chomping at the bit to take over. Has help from his wife, his mother-in-law (in her 90’s) and a daughter living near-by. One grand-son is a little bit interested.
Sends customers down certain rows, but they wander around until they find the big ones. I found the little ones have more flavor.
Doug WaltonKerr Center for Sustainable Agwww.kerrcenter.com (Poteau, OK) • Ate BBQ downtown, even though they did not serve any local food. Is at least locally owned. • Doug talked about his work with local foods, the Oklahoma Food Cooperative, the Muskogee farmers’ market – got a building for it now. • See literature on “buy fresh buy local” campaign and Kerr Center newsletter. • City (Muskogee) has a nice park for a small town (less than 40,000, but a hundred+ acre park with arboretum, azalea festival, rose garden, Japanese garden, etc.
Livesay Peach OrchardPorter, OklahomaKent and Jane Livesay • Website http://livesayorchards.com/index.htm
Notes: Kent runs the farm with his brother Steve (and spouses and employees, etc…). Steve takes care of the farming part, and Kent the business end presumably. They ended up here because their grandfather’s brother bought the farm to the south of this one in 1966. He had a heart attack in 1969, so their dad and brothers moved here to help out with the pruning. Their uncle had 55 acres of orchard plus some cotton. Their father is now 85, and was active in the business until he was 75, drove the truck to Tulsa to sell the peaches by the truck-load. The building that we were standing in was something his father wanted to build. Was an insulated Morton-style building with a kitchen, bathrooms, stage, balcony, tables and chairs, and really seemed to be set up for some agri-tainment or hoe-down or something. His wife brought us some peach pastries, and then peach half-moon pies, hot from the oven with juice. Delicious! He described a somewhat surprisingly god marketing relationship they’ve had with Walmart over the past 12-13 years. They sell to them by the bin, in several stores, but deliver directly to the store, not to the distribution center. They want to peaches to be in good shape when they go on the shelves in the store, and it might not happen if they go through the distribution center. Sells to between 18 and 24 Walmarts in the area, depending on his supply. He gets to sell them under his brand name, they display the boxes, a banner, and last year added a photo and press conference. The problem was that it was the weekend before their peach festival, so they sold out too soon. I asked if they have to be GAP certified to sell to Walmart, and they said it is a new thing this year. They had to fill out a 3- page questionnaire, have a HASSP plan in place, and there were also questions on sustainability. The farm hosts a peach festival on the 3rd Saturday of July, so skip a week at Walmart then. Could cover the season with about a dozen varieties, but has more than 30 in the orchard. Have peaches from early June through Sept. Var. include Red Haven, and Autumn Prince, developed in GA. It is a late peach, but susceptible to bacterial spot. This is not surprising though, since it has to be in the field so long.
Notes cont: In total, has 100 A of peaches, 10 A of apples, 20 A of watermelon, both seeded and seedless. Also has 1-2 A of cantaloupe, and fall pumpkins, which are a challenge in the heat. They host school groups in the fall in this building, and have various activities, and they each take home some apples. Have up to 6000 kids, (at $4 to $6 per kid). They also host some u-pick on the apples and pumpkins, but it isn’t a big part of their business. Through experience have learned to not let people have ladders in the orchard (too much liability). People drive down for the u-pick, and some pick 4 and some pick 20. Last year charged $21 (Per ½ bu?). Sell to Walmart at $19-21 per ½ bu (23 lb), and then saw that they sold them for $0.88 per lb, which is at a slight loss. (must be using it as a “loss leader?”). Sell in the store retail at $24 per ½ bu. Biggest losses so far were the first year they bought the farm, on Jan. 6, and cold temps on Jan. 16th wiped out a lot of trees. The 2007 freeze also wiped out their crops. Peach trees usually live up to 20 years, and then go out due to “peach tree decline” which is a complex of insect and disease pests. Replanted the trees we were standing in 1998, and hasn’t had trouble with planting peaches after peaches. Trees looked very healthy and well-cared for. In the orchard near the highway, see more loss of trees sooner for some reason. Wouldn’t be in business without Hispanic employees. Has had the same primary employee since 1984, with the others coming and going, some from Mexico, most of them friends or family of his main employee. They do all the pruning by had. Tried mechanical pruning once, but was hard on the trees. Have over 10,000 trees to prune. Also do all the thinning by hand. Tried poles, but again hard on trees. Hire helicopters for frost protection when needed. Used 3 times last year, so there was a little bit of “frost thinning” too. During the hard freeze tried some use of heaters in the orchard, but they didn’t do any good, even for the trees close by, so doesn’t use them now. Does a lot of temperature monitoring around the property, watches the air inversions carefully. They aren’t in a frost pocket, but not in the best spot either (fairly flat land).
Notes page 3: Toured the market stand, saw value added products from their peaches (custom packed by another business), their cold room for packing and sorting, and even colder room for storage of pallets before shipping. Must have taken a long time to build up the business to this point. Everything was well kept, and he talked a couple of times about acquiring a new piece of land or orchard over the years as the operation grew. Now owns the peach stand near the highway (see photo) which is in a very visible, high traffic area. Some in our group commented later that Kent didn’t strike them as a business person in his mannerisms; didn’t have a canned presentation, etc, but he seems to know what he is doing by the looks of things.
Farm stand (top left) across the road from entertainment building (above) and orchard (left).
Sign says “no swearing,” and we didn’t hear any. Value added products in stand too (below)
Peaches on pallets ready to ship out (above left), 2nd farm stand near busy highway (above) and photo of highway (left).
Notes page 1: Drove up a long driveway to the top of the hill to reach the farm, which had an impressively designed (but as yet unoccupied) house, some outbuildings, and lots of piles of things that looked like possible “projects.” The farm produces two things – beef and strawberries, and we got to see both. Bobby Doyle is 73, a retired school teacher (ag?) and administrator. Bought the farm 12 years ago when he retired. His soil type seems to be “gravel” with lots of larger rocks (see photos). He manages to till and plant strawberries into this stuff on the contour on a hillside below the house, and also in a patch on top of a hill fenced off from the beef cattle. Uses a “ripper” as a plow, and also has a fairly sturdy looking cultivator as well. Plants on the bed system, with about 2 ft between rows of starter plants, and pickers walk down the wheel tracks between every other row. He doesn’t like using the “wide bed” system because it wastes berries, and is hard to reach the center of the bed. Irrigates the strawberries from the creek, at a rate of 1” per hour for four hours once a week. Has a 4 to 6” pipe running up the hill from the creek to water those too. Uses a pump (40 or 80 hp?) to pump the water 150’ up the hill from the creek which is fed by 3 springs, which feed the stream from an aquifer. Can only run 120 sprinklers for 5 hours a day. Figures out it costs about $7000 per acre to establish strawberries (including plants, labor, etc). Figures he can harvest up to $30,000 worth of berries per acre in a good year ($3 per qt, 10,000 qt per acre?). He wholesales them at $20 per flat, and retails at $24 (8 qt/flat?). We forgot to ask where his market are. He did mention that in Bentonville they get $5 to 6 per qt. Uses a product called “Quadris” to control anthracnose and red steele, but is getting expensive, at $1048 per 2 ½ gal. Can keep a patch going about 7 years, but renovates them with tillage beginning in year 3 or 4. This allows the replacement plants, or daughter plants to fill in. He believes the cause of decline of yield is because when plants are young, the crown and root are close together, and each year they are farther apart, so the crown has more trouble getting nutrients from the roots. He also believes that the rocks in his soil break down and give his strawberries an especially good flavor. (Note: neither of these ideas is confirmed by any science we are aware of).
Notes page 2: Sets out his strawberries in March, using standard varieties like Ovation, Early Glow, Darselect, etc. New variety “Record” (?). Stated that “labor is a producers worst nightmare.” He figures it takes about 10 people to pick a patch. Brings in workers from 6 am to noon to pick, and pays them $120 in cash. About 70% of his employees are Mexican. He also has detailed figures on how long it takes to weed a row of strawberries, and how much he makes over his labor costs, so seems to keep good records, and much of it he has memorized. Pays $6 per hr for weeding, takes $30 for someone to weed 4 rows, for example, needs to week 5 times per year. Uses chicken manure for fertility. Even though he has lots of hay, he didn’t seem to be mulching anything. Will abandon strawberry patch after few years, and then plow up a new patch, so that probably helps with disease control. Then got on a wagon to see the beef side of the operation and the patch of strawberries on the hill. Buys registered angus cows, 6 year old “reject” donor” cows for embyo transfer. These are high quality breeding lines, and sometimes he keeps selling embryos from them (gave example of one he bought for $1300 because she had a prolapsed uterus, but she kept producing embryos every 45 days for several years, sell for around $400 per embryo, so he made several thousand off of that purchase. Most of the cattle he breeds to a bull the first year on the farm, and from then on he uses AI. At end of tour, saw a new addition to a barn which includes a show ring for selling cows and bulls of the farm, hay storage, and the new house up close. Turns out he bought rose quartz from a mine in SD and had it shipped here for the house. Has spent over $30,000 just for the quartz. Told his wife he’d build her a house here, has lived here 12 years, been working on the house for 8, and plans to move in this Christmas. He gave us a brief tour inside, and it is very impressive, and nearly done, sort of. Jane, his wife apologized for not having lunch for us, as the person she’d asked about doing a BBQ backed out, so we went into town for Chinese buffet.
Note high-value “cull cows” in the background. Nice view from hilltop.
More gravel-soil on hill. Plant on right was from renovation. See distance between crown and root.
Notes: His business is just out of town on the main HW. Burl is the “older” brother, in his 80’s now. He started his business in 1972, but retired later (also from teaching?), and plans to keep doing this basically forever. Neither brother seems to have an heir that wants to take over their businesses, so not sure what will happen after they are gone. They expect everything will be sold at auction asap, so are a little discouraged by that. Sells greenhouse plants, hanging baskets, mums, cut flowers, as well as veggies and fruit crops. Picking blackberries now? Had some tomatoes in a high tunnel, which he said they started picking June 4 (?). Has 1450 plants. Variety is Bush Celebrity, (which Ted says you can’t get anymore), so they might be regular Celebrity (not bush). Ted says Mt. Glory is a replacement for Bush Celebrity too. Did a walking tour of his operation, saw tomatoes in a high tunnel (he likes high tunnels), blueberries, blackberries, etc. planted on the contour. He doesn’t waste space, so planted onions and other crops in-between the rows. To irrigate, he runs water down the row in a flood irrigation (?!) system, until about an inch accumulates. His soil seems to be the same gravel that we saw at his brothers’ place, but the plants looked surprisingly good in it. Also saw his greenhouse where he has grown transplants, hanging baskets, ornamentals, but some hadn’t been watered for a while, so were looking pretty rough. When first started selling in the 70’s, the only farmers’ market was in Dallas (xx miles away?), now there are markets all over. Says market possibilities are limitless, so if you are young, go for it! At his store, has gone from selling 250 lb of seed potatoes to 2300 lb, from 2 ½ bu of onion sets to 14 bu of sets, from 2000 tomato plants to 22,000 plants. There is a big gardening trend now, so get in on it. Can sell a tomato plant for $3 when all you have invested in the plant is a few cents for the seed, the pot, and the potting soil He isn’t organic, but sees organic plants selling for $5. He sells his blackberries and strawberries for $2 per pint, though some get $3. [note: Ted is selling his blackberries, raspberries and blueberries for $6 per pt]
Notes page 2: He doesn’t recommend growing beans, okra or raspberries unless you pick them yourself. Can’t good labor to do a good job picking them all, so the next time through the field you are picking over-mature fruits, which is a waste of time. He said people ask him if he could sell more than he is now, and the answer is “yes.” When asked if he could grow more, the answer is “no,” he’s doing all he can now. Doesn’t want to retire because “the government will get it all.” Owns 33 rentals, and was going to sell those, and his tax advisor warned him that he’d be paying 49% in taxes, so he didn’t sell them. Comments on extension – depends on who is in the position. The one before “wasn’t worth a damn, never returned soil test results, etc.” But the one in place now is great, very cooperative, helpful. He now has 3 inputs that he recommends; use “marthon” (a pesticide?) on non-edibles, soap as a pesticide on edibles, and always get the best soil/potting mix money can buy. Had a bad soil mix once from Wamart, “Miracle Grow” brand, though the fertilizer products are ok. He doesn’t see young people going in to this business. His grandkids all want $18 per hr jobs with 8 hour days, rather than the 14 hour days he puts in, even though he has about $500,000 invested in it so far. Tells his grandson he can make 4 times the money they are now, but they don’t want to work that hard. Says he farms because he loves it, but also makes $ from his rental properties. When asked if he had any ideas for getting young people involved in farming, he said “let them go hungry.” Said that he read that the average age of farmers is 58, and 60% of production comes from farmers over 78 years of age. There are 3 million acres of farmland going under concrete every year, and the country is vulnerable to collapse. He sees tough times coming, possible food shortages. [note: these were comments from Burl and his brother at the end of the tour when we were asking questions.] Someone asked why there was a sign that said Stilwell was the strawberry capital of the world? He said that in 1964, the county had 4100 A of strawberries. Then the price dropped from $0.14 to $0.10 per lb, and most went out of business. Now there are only 7 growers and 17 acres of strawberries in the county, but they keep the sign up anyway. Labor is too scarce in the county to go up to the levels they used to be, and also can’t be grown on “old” land, but do better after pasture or timber. He said he’d like to continue growing 3 to 4 acres of strawberries for the rest of his life.
Does some cut flower production, cultivates, grows crops between blackberry rows.