Thursday, April 1, 2010

Great Kids Farm

Last night I finally got to visit the Great Kids Farm in Catonsville. What a treat!

For those of you who aren't from Baltimore or who haven't heard about Great Kids yet, I recommend checking out this excellent City Paper article from last June. It explains the main mission of the farm as a key component of improving school lunches and forming a connection between education and food.

The goats were absolutely precious and loved a good petting. I think that the only thing that could tear me away from living in a city would be a bigger space for my garden and goats. Or I could just take a lesson from Novella Carpenter, who keeps goats in Oakland.

The chickens were starlets too and let me get in a few good photos. They had laid a few very large eggs which are given to a local school. There were a few hawks circling around hopefully. An electric fence is used to keep away the foxes.

Raising chickens and bees in cities is the new hot thing, since they fit easily in smaller living areas and produce eggs and honey as long as you keep them fed and maintained. Plus chickens will eat the insects in your compost (and get rid of ticks if you live in a suburban area!) and bees will pollinate local flowers. Multiple use! There is even an website for keeping urban chickens if you want more details.

Oh yeah, and there was a field of crops, hoop houses, and two really nice greenhouses as well.

This week's Small Farmer Training class lesson was about planting transplants. We talked about potting soils, potting containers, potential problems like leggy (spindly) plants or dampening off (water-borne fungus).

I'd like to do a longer post on potting mixes soon. Please be aware that peat is a major component of potting mixes, and it takes hundreds of years to develop. Don't just throw away that potted plant after it dies! Coconut coir mixed with compost is a more sustainable potting mix.

One interesting tip that I learned is to pick up your bag of potting mix: if it's heavy it's full of sand. You don't want that. Your bag should be very light.

The University of Maryland Agricultural Extension is an amazing resource, and I'm happy to have it around.

Class meeting in the greenhouse

Micro-greens growing

Fields through the greenhouse windows

There was also a large building for classroom space, where kids can learn about the environment, where food comes from, and healthy eating. There is definitely a buzz around Great Kids Farm, and it's going to be exciting to see how this program develops. It's funny to see animals and small fields of vegetables about five seconds away from shopping centers and housing developments on the other side of the fence. This photo kind of shows the main lay of the farm.

Before I left I ran back to pet the goats one more time. Thanks, Great Kids!
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