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Vegetable gardens and Cherry Ridge Farm

The community that I live in has a lot of amazing people and farmers, and I have been able to visit and work on a couple other farms and projects. I spent a lot of time working on our vegetable garden here at Whipple Creek Farm. We planted about ten different varieties of tomatoes including beef steak, Cherokee purple, roma and early girl’s. We used pig cage panels to create rows and eventually to help support the tomatoes. We also planted broccoli, silver queen corn, bok choy, lettuce, cucumbers, squash, beans, swiss chard, artichokes and beets. We then used mulch mixed with manure as a weed control.

I worked on another farm about once a week called Cherry Ridge Farm. I  helped out in their greenhouse, harvested vegetables for market, weeded and learned to can and preserve. The owner, David Bebe has a beautiful greenhouse with an aquaponic system with tilapia and a variety of tropical plants like figs and bananas.

There are also different houseplants, crops and seedlings. In the greenhouse I usually weeded the beds and pots, re-potted a lot of plants and seedlings and helped perform other odd tasks. I also helped propagate leaf cuttings of snail tailed begonias. We first made a couple fresh leaf cuttings then cut each leaf into small pieces about a couple inches long and wide. We made small incisions on the veins then lightly dusted them with a plant growth hormone. After that step we stuck them in the soil. These ornamental crops are very important for Cherry Ridge Farms business because they sell them for $10-30 and are very popular with costumers at Farmers Markets.

Cherry Ridge Farm sells their produce and value added products at the Lexington and Rockbridge Farmers markets. They have been experimenting with value added products like syrups, dried fruits and candies, all of which are made on the farm using their own products. They grow their own ginger in their greenhouse and sell it whole but also make a candied ginger out of it. This delicious treat takes a long time to prepare because you need to peel and cut pounds of fresh ginger, boil it, drain the water, add sugar, and wait for it to caramelize. Another product they sell and I helped make is ginger and shagbark hickory syrup. We saved the boiled water from the ginger candies and boiled it with sugar to make a syrup. We did a similar thing with shagbark. You first collect the shagbark, roast it in the oven, boil it and use that water. Other products included English mustard, peppered jellies chocolates with fresh fruit and dried figs. These products were large selling items, increased diversity and were unique.

I really enjoyed working at Cherry Ridge and with David Beebe. I learned a lot about a variety of plants, greenhouse operations, marketing and making specialty products. I acquired many skills that I will definitely implement into my life and career.

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