Week 11 (Chicago Week 9)

List of this week's vegetables

  • Broccoli
  • Savoyed cabbage
  • Bell pepper
  • Kentucky wonder pole beans (flat) OR provider bush beans
  • Dragon Tongue beans (purple stripes)
  • Maxibell French green beans (thin beans)
  • Basil
  • Zucchini OR lemon summer squash
  • Patty pan squash
  • White Lebanese squash
  • Cantaloupe
  • Cucumbers
  • Tomatoes
  • Early sweet corn

Learning and leadership, For your farmer and farm 

A nation without strong leaders is as a barren field with no farmer. We look in vain for leadership on the nation’s stage. We know growth to sustain our country and world cannot take place without values and character equal to the tasks. Yet the tasks seem out of control, true public service is lacking.

This past weekend, Dela and I drove north across the state to a place where people believe leadership can be found in the homes of farmers. These folks look for qualities of leadership in farmers’ children. They draw them out with education, and they make it all great fun.

Kamp Kenwood bears the first name of a man who led Wisconsin Farmers Union in the 1940s. He pressed our state’s union members to teach leadership and cooperative business. They responded by gathering together to establish and build this campground.

For more than 60 years, on the shore of Lake Wissota, Kamp Kenwood has been serving this purpose. There are hiking trails that skirt adjacent Wissota State Park. There’s swimming, boating, campfire singing and games.

Yet there is a great educator and camp director who works leadership skills training and cooperatives into the activities. It must be working. For more than 10 years, Dela and I have found strength and leadership in the Farmers Union.

It advocates for renewable energy, country of origin labeling on foods, rural school funding, community supported agriculture. It lobbies state and federal lawmakers for justice and ecology. It presses resolutions against concentrated animal feeding operations, frack sand mining, water pollution, chemical drift.

Anyone can join Wisconsin Farmers Union. It costs $30 a year. And Kamp Kenwood is available for weddings, retreats, weekend getaways. Check out the union’s website, download its newsletter.

In late September, Wisconsin Farmers Union will be flying Dela and me along with others from our state to Washington, D.C. We’ll join 31 states that have Farmers Union membership to meet with Congressional “leaders.”

At least, we hope we find leaders in the nation’s capital. And if not, Kamp Kenwood’s work will become all the more important to us.

Scotch Hill growers go to school – organic seed school

After attending the summer WFU conference at Kamp Kenwood in Chippewa Falls, Dela and I managed to make it on Sunday to a day-long workshop near Madison.

Organic seed school drew mostly graduate students in sciences related to agriculture and horticulture. There were a few commercial growers, too, and six seed companies.

At least 11 of the 40 or so participants are connected to UWMadison’s sweet corn breeding program, which has been under way since 1919. The nursery for this research on 5,000 distinct genetic varieties of sweet corn takes place on 10 acres. And it’s amazing.

Carefully tended, powerfully irrigated, with a small army of well-equipped graduate students and researchers, there was much to see and learn. I thought about our three blocks of three varieties of organic sweet corn at home.

I disked it alone after Micah broke the ground. I planted it back in May and drove through the sweet corn rows twice with a four-row cultivator. The land would have yielded better, were it not so sandy in a very wet year early on. Not only did the nutrients leach out in that sand, but the drought we’ve suffered now for nearly 4 weeks surely contributed to retarded growth and partially filled-out ears.

Reproduction in sweet corn takes place in a very tight time frame. Pollen tubes can grow an inch an hour. Silks can grow two inches per day. Each kernel is the result of two fertilizations. Corn’s ideal body temperature is 78 degrees. One tassel may have up to 25,000,000 pollen grains. But if there’s no wind to pollinate, no rain, or proper temperature, or adequate nutrients – there’s no corn.