Farming fundamentals

North Farm hosting summer workshops

“Flower Production” is one of the short courses that will run from June to September at the North Farm in Chatham. The course will show participants how flowers can be a worthy addition to any farming operation. (Photo courtesy of the North Farm)

CHATHAM — The North Farm this summer is hosting a series of short courses on topics ranging from livestock on small farms to managing wooded areas.

The workshops explore farming fundamentals and best practices, which will be taught by teams from Michigan State University Extension and Alger County farms.

Although such courses have been taking place at the North Farm during the summer, new this year is the hands-on portion of each workshop being taken to another farm for a tour and activities.

Abbey Palmer, North Farm education coordinator, said in an email the workshops are designed for beginning farmers and homesteaders — people getting serious about small-scale farming.

“With that being said, the audience often includes serious home gardeners who want to learn more, and more deeply, about sustainable agriculture practices,” Palmer said. “People who think, ‘I’d like to farm when I retire’ or ‘I’ve never farmed before but I know I’m interested in it’ are welcome too.”

“Livestock on the Small Farm” is another of the short courses that will run from June to September at the farm. This workshop will focus on how livestock can be a great addition to the small farm or homestead, providing land management services, meat, fiber and income. (Photo courtesy of the North Farm)

Palmer said courses like advanced season extension, raising sheep and pigs, growing cut flowers, and forestry for the farm ecosystem are tailored for the area and its climate.

“These classes are unique because they bring together farmers in our area who can share time-tested practices,” said Palmer, who added that attending these workshops can give participants a wider network of people — instructors and other participants — from which to learn.

The courses are:

“Livestock on the Small Farm,” 1 to 5 p.m. June 10. The workshop will focus on the basics of pig and sheep management for the small-scale producer. Presentations will be given by Ben and Denise Bartlett, Log Cabin Livestock, and Dale Rozeboom, MSU Animal Science.

“Plasticulture: Season Extension 201,” 1 to 5 p.m. July 15. According to North Farm staff, plastic can work to the grower’s advantage by extending the production season in cool climates, and managing weed and disease pressure.

In response to requests for a “next level” season extension course, the course is designed for anyone but particularly individuals looking for new methods. Participants can learn about plastic mulch and weed control tarps from the North Farm’s Collin Thompson.

“Flower Production,” 1 to 5 p.m. Aug. 19. Participants can learn about variety selection, production management, bouquet arrangement and marketing with Shailah Bunce of Rock River Farm, and Jeff Heidtman, Color Blind Gardens.

“Forest Resource Management for Farmers,” 1 to 5 p.m. Sept. 30. Find out about forest resource management, developing a forest management plan and identifying a wooded area’s value. Teaching the workshop will be Dan and Mary Rabine of Reh-Morr Farm, Holly Wendrick of the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program and Matt Watkeys, district forester with the Alger Conservation District.

The cost is $30 for each course or $100 for all four courses. Refreshments and snacks will be provided.

There also is a “farm rate” for multiple attendees from one farm: $45 for each course or $150 for all four courses.

The North Farm, located at N5431 Rock River Road in Chatham, is part of the MSU Upper Peninsula Research and Extension Center. The incubator farm specializes in diversified organic vegetable production, research, education and outreach for climates in the challenging northern latitudes.

Palmer believes earning about good farming practices is beneficial for individuals as well as the community.

“Someone once said, ‘With farming, you only get 40 chances — if you’re lucky,'” Palmer said. “Every growing season is precious. When farmers and gardeners share their experiences with one another, they gain wisdom that saves them from doing the wrong thing for a growing season.

“Best practices around raising plants and animals promote sustainable use of resources and are often based in research. Making decisions for your farm or garden can be hard, and having the right information and being connected to the right resources can make those decisions easier. And when people are able to produce more of their own food, that contributes to food system resilience and local economic growth.”

For more details on the North Farm and the short courses, visit msunorthfarm.org/short-courses.html. or contact Abbey Palmer at 906-439-5058 or at palmerab@msu.edu.

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250.