Graphic with person walking between field rows of low growing crop. Image reads Organic Growers School, Holistic Crop Management. February 15th to March 22nd.The Organic Growers School’s upcoming series, Holistic Crop Management, is a six-part webinar series, which includes live virtual meetings, resources, and videos. Webinars will feature farmers and agricultural resource specialists. 

Holistic Crop Management kicks off on February 15th! You can purchase individual sessions or the whole series. Sessions include Tools from the Holistic Management Framework, A Holistic Approach to Soil Health, Managing Pests, Managing Disease, Managing Weeds, and Holistic Decision-Making. Read more about the 6 classes offered here.

During this series, you’ll learn to:

  • Manage for Your Farm’s Future

Growing a viable farm business is sustained by continuously learning the land and your products. In this workshop series, growers across Southern Appalachia and beyond will gain tools to manage their crop production for whole-farm success.

  • Apply Regionally Specific Tools

The Holistic Crop Management series focuses on the growing regions of Southern Appalachia, but farmers from any region will gain valuable knowledge and are encouraged to join. Webinar sessions will feature farmers and agricultural resource specialists. Through curated group activities in the virtual setting, participants will build a network with experienced growers who know farming and the land.

 

Flexible Workshop Structure

The curriculum uses Certified Naturally Grown standards as the guidelines for holistic principles. Each session will consist of discussion-based exploration of soil health, pest management, disease control, weed maintenance, and several components of the Holistic Management framework.

Here’s a sneak peek video from the Managing Weeds Holistically section.

 

What is Certified Naturally Grown?

This partnership with Certified Naturally Grown will set farmers up for success by supporting their understanding of practices that will help them meet CNG farming standards. This course is separate from the certification process but will lay the path for CNG certification if farmers choose to take that route. 

CNG was founded by farmers in 2002. It started in New York as a regional program but grew to become a national organization within just a couple of years. Today more than 700 producers in 46 states are CNG.

Most CNG farmers sell at farmers markets, CSAs, and local independent grocers. In recent years, some farmers markets and grocers have begun to prefer or even require their vendors to hold certification, and list CNG as one of the certification options. These markets appreciate that CNG helps them verify high standards, without excluding local farmers because of high costs and burdensome paperwork. Find out more about Certified Naturally Grown.

 

Meet Merlon Harper from Deer Creek Farm

We’re excited to share this interview with Merlon Harper from Deer Creek Farm who is proud to be CNG Certified. Merlon will be leading “Managing Pests Holistically” on our HCM series. She will also explain more in depth about CNG certification, the benefits of CNG, and how it has helped her farm business, her journey stewarding her family’s blueberry farm, and more!

Merlon Harper is a farmer who operates Deer Creek Farm, a small family-owned blueberry farm located in Covington, GA. She left the corporate world to become a full-time farmer in honor of her father and grandfather who were both cotton farmers from the Mississippi Delta. She is inspired to produce the highest quality blueberries and vegetables possible for her community.

She is a member of Certified Naturally Grown (CNG), where farmers produce clean crops without the use of synthetic chemicals or GMOs. Deer Creek Farm is also a member of the Community Farm’s Market, which supports organic farmers who provide fresh produce to local communities. 

Merlon is proud of the unique appeal of Deer Creek farm, it offers visitors a self-picking experience of over 12 different cultivars from the Rabbit eye blueberry variety. Over the years Deer Creek Farm has developed several value-added products made from the blueberries picked on the farm. Merlon fostered a relationship with Kroger, offering organic blueberries on their Kroger digital farmer’s market platform. The overall vision is to continue to grow and offer new and unique produce and experiences.

Merlon adds, “We also make and sell delicious refreshing blueberry iced tea, muscadine iced tea along with other tasty treats made from our blueberries and muscadines. Our season begins in May, check our website to see what is available. This year, we are looking forward to offering “pink lemonade blueberries”, yes pink. They are the sweetest but most difficult cultivar to grow.”

J: What brought you to farming?

M: I always wanted to grow and consume my own food, instinctive from watching my parents grow a large percentage of the food we consumed as children. My father was a cotton farmer and so was his father, so I suppose farming is in my blood. My husband and I were lucky enough to find property that was perfect for a homestead and to farm.  We grew vegetables and started a blueberry orchard.

 

 J: What do you love about growing and your farm?

M: I love working outside, it makes me happy, I feel connected with nature, it’s therapeutic. I get great satisfaction when I hear customers from my community say that Deer Creek Farm has some of the best blueberries they have ever tasted.

 

J: Why did you choose CNG certification?

M: I wanted to be part of the organic movement, producing clean naturally grown fruits and vegetables.  The USDA organic certification process was costly and complex, CNG offered a viable economical approach to achieve the same goal.

 

J: How has CNG certification helped you and your farm?

M: CNG provides opportunities to learn from peers during inspections and through observations. CNG offers educational seminars and classes that have provided me with valuable information. For example, I never knew or thought that I could grow a banana tree in Georgia and a peer farmer explained to me when and how to use manure on my blueberries.

 

J: Describe the certification process.

M: The application process includes the completion of paperwork to describe your farm, crop production, and the inputs used for fertilization, pesticides, etc., applicants must schedule and receive a peer inspection.  The feedback from the inspector is reviewed and evaluated before receiving acceptance or denial. Annual dues are paid if certified.

J: What are some examples of holistic management practices that you use on the farm?

M: Deer Creek farm follows an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program to control pests. We use cultural, biological, and mechanical tactics, as the first line of defense against pests. We only use pesticides that are all-natural as the last resource.

 

J: Any advice for farms wanting to become CNG certified?

M: I encourage everyone who is passionate about growing organic to join. it’s like belonging to a family, everyone wants to help you grow and thrive. CNG provides an outstanding helpful resource. You will also have recognized certified credentials.

You can schedule a visit to Deer Creek Farms by heading to their website

Place orders online at deercreekfarmga.com   for pick-up and limited delivery areas. Follow them on Instagram @DeerCreekFarmGa or Facebook at @DeerCreekFarmGa Merlon says, “Don’t forget to try the tea, you’ll thank me later!”

 

 

Author: Julie Douglas

Julie is the Marketing & Communications Associate. She is the owner and Clinical herbalist at Wildkrafted Kitchen, a holistic healthcare company in Asheville, NC. Julie is a medicinal herb grower, ethical wildcrafter, educator, and formulator of internal and external medicines. After graduating with an AA focusing on Photography and Ceramic art, Julie went on to pursue their passion for sustainable small-scale agriculture in Washington state where she apprenticed on various organic farms. After discovering their affinity for medicinal herbs, they moved to Asheville to study Holistic Herbalism at the Blue Ridge School of Herbal Medicine. Julie’s main goals are to make alternative healthcare accessible to marginalized communities, decolonizing herbal medicine, and be part of mutual aid networks which strengthen and empower the community.

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