On location: Video and vegetables
Before you can plant vegetables for a field experiment, you will need ... a field to plant them in. Sure, you'll also need a seed or a plant, some tools, some knowledge and a variety of other things.
But definitely before you can plant anything, you need somewhere to plant it. Sometimes the "where" of planting is in a pot, in a greenhouse or in a garden.
Many farm advisors — including some who work with the UC Small Farm Program — are able to plant experimental field plots at one of the nine "Research and Extension Centers" that are operated by the University of California. (Remember this video with colorful carrots and giant radishes? It was filmed at the UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center.)
But other farm advisors don't have access to a field station, so they work with local farmers who agree to allow the farm advisor to use part of their fields to test plants.
For our part of the Great Veggie Adventure, farm advisors with the Small Farm Program are planting vegetables in five counties in different parts of California — some at a Research and Extension Center, and others at cooperating farms.
In Santa Barbara County, Mark Gaskell has worked with a cooperating farm called Growing Grounds. Growing Grounds farm in Santa Maria is a non-profit farm and wholesale nursery that provides horticultural therapy and job training to mental health patients.
Recently I had the chance to visit Mark and get a tour of Growing Grounds from Ariella Gottschalk, the farm's program manager.
Mark and Ariella showed me rows of vegetables and flowers, a brightly painted farm stand and even some chickens. Then they picked some of the vegetables that were almost ready for harvest, to see how well the plants were growing.
When I visited, the farm had different rows of colorful carrots that had been planted during different months. Many of the carrots in the field were still too young and too small for harvest — some were smaller than my pinky finger!
I also had the chance to talk with Mark about some of the basic science behind field experiments like this one. One of the questions I asked Mark was: Why do we need to keep planting those vegetables over and over again, and in five different locations around the state? Play the video above to hear what Mark had to say.
... or have a question? Ask away.