March 15, 2000
Compiled by Vern Grubinger, University of Vermont Extension
(802) 257-7967 or

There are two excellent Extension publications available from the University of Massachusetts in hard copy or via e-mail throughout the growing season. I encourage Vermonters and others to subscribe to these. To avoid duplication of information I do not steal, I mean adapt, articles from these sources. The ‘Vegetable IPM Message' covers nutrient management and current observations of pests in the field, pest biology, how to monitor and manage vegetable pests. The Small Fruit IPM Message does the same for berries. Since our neighbors to the south are a little warmer, their pest observations can sometimes be an ‘advance warning system' for northern growers. If you pay for the hard copies of these Messages, you also get the UMass Extension Newsletters. To get the Vegetable Message and newsletter mailed to you costs $35. To get the Small Fruit Message and newsletter costs $30. Make checks payable to UMass, and send them to Marilyn Kuzmeskus, Dept. of Entomology, Ag. Eng. Building, Amherst MA 01003. The IPM messages are FREE if you subscribe via e-mail. Request the vegetable message from: ‘' or request the small fruit message from ‘'.

ARMCHAIR GREENHOUSE ALARM (from David Marchant, River Berry Farm)
I purchased a new wireless greenhouse thermometer alarm system from Gardener's Supply that is just the ticket. Oregon Scientific makes the thermometer which costs only $55.00 (for commercial wholesale accounts). The unit has a sensor that is placed in the greenhouse, and the main unit is in the house. As I sit and drink my coffee, I can see exactly what the temperature is in the greenhouse.  Each main unit can monitor up to three sensors, additional sensors can be
purchased separately. There is a high and low alarm on the monitor, plus it also records max/min temps. The units only drawback is that its range is 100 feet. We have ours set at about 120 feet and it seems to work fine (but this is probably its limit). So if you don't already have a therm alarm set-up, and you can't bury a cable in the frozen ground, this digital wireless alarm unit is the cat's meow. A cheap way to insure against a frozen greenhouse!

Some growers are concerned about growing genetically engineered, or transgenic, vegetable cultivars due to concerns about consumer acceptance, environmental impacts, or food safety. There is an ongoing debate about the validity of these concerns. However, organic growers are not allowed to grow use any genetically modified organisms. Seed catalogs do not always identify transgenic varieties as such. In response to grower requests I have tried to find a list of transgenic vegetable varieties but there doesn't seem to be one, so I'm putting one together. Here's what I have so far - I'm sure it is not yet complete. Note that variety names can be changed, and often they have numbers or Roman numerals after the original name as they are improved. Sweet corn: Attribute, Bt-11. Radicchio: SeedLink. Tomato: FlavrSavr, Endless Summer. Potato: New Leaf, New Leaf Plus. Popcorn: Knock Out.Yellow summer squash: Destiny, Freedom, Liberator, Prelude, Patriot. Zucchini summer squash: Independence, Declaration. Note that yellow summer squash cultivars with the Precocious Yellow gene (Py), including Cougar, Fortune, General Patton, Monet, Multipik, Seneca Supreme, Sunbar, Sunray, Superpik and Supersett are not transgenic.

A recent development for pumpkins is disease resistance/tolerance to powdery mildew. Harris Moran was the first to come out with powdery mildew tolerance in Merlin and Magic Lantern. This year, Harris Moran is producing foundation seed for a Howden biggie hybrid with powdery mildew tolerance. They are also in the process of obtaining a registration for the name Mystic Plus for a sister line to Mystic (a 3-6 pound size) with powdery mildew tolerance. Touch of Autumn from Rogers is a newer small pie pumpkin similar to Baby Pan or Small Sugar that has powdery mildew tolerance. Other new pumpkin hybrids and many other vegetable varieties with disease resistance conferred using transgenic methods have been put on hold due to controversy and acceptance by the processing industry.

(sent in by Ann Hazelrigg, from Discover Magazine, Feb.2000)
The eye of a whitefly is a sophisticated ultraviolet scanner, zeroing in on tasty crops. But it can be stymied by a cheap bit of camouflage: a simple layer of polyethylene film.  Yehezkel Antignus, a virologist at Israel's Agricultural Research Organization, stumbled across this countermeasure while studying ways to protect plants from disease.  He was surprised to find that crops grown in greenhouses roofed with ultraviolet-absorbing polyethylene films had significantly fewer insect-borne viruses. Experimental trials confirmed that the films contributed to a steep decline in some of the worst agricultural pests-whiteflies, aphids, and leaf miners, along with their attendant diseases. Antignus infers that polyethylene obscures the ultraviolet markings pests use to find their host plants. But there are some limitations to the technique. Polyethylene films can confuse bees, too. Antignus has had to adjust the lighting to keep them pollinating. And the films protect only plants grown inside greenhouses. Still, within the sizable world of greenhouse agriculture, farmers have a potent new weapon. Two Israeli companies are now manufacturing insect uv camouflage: Ginegar Plastic Productions makes films, while Meteor Ltd. sells ultraviolet-absorbent mesh.

MINIMIZE MICROBIAL FOOD SAFETY HAZARDS ON FRESH FRUIT, VEGETABLES (Adapted from: FDA, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition,

Wherever water comes into contact with fresh produce, its quality dictates the potential for pathogen contamination. Where water quality is good, risk is low regardless of irrigation method. Consider practices to minimize contact of the edible portion of fresh produce with contaminated water. Maintain water quality, by periodic testing of irrigation and wash water for microbial contamination, changing wash water regularly, and cleaning and sanitizing washing equipment surfaces. After harvest, maintain temperatures that promote optimum produce quality and minimize pathogen growth. Keep air cooling and chilling equipment clean and sanitary. Keep water and ice clean and sanitary. Manufacture, transport, and store ice under sanitary conditions.

If manure is used as a fertilizer, it should be managed to minimize microbial hazards, either by passive aging or active composting. Manure treatment and storage sites close to fresh produce fields increase the risk of contamination. Consider factors such as slope and rainfall and the likelihood of runoff into fresh produce production areas. Use barriers or physical containment to secure storage and treatment sites. Protect aged or composted manure from being re-contaminated. When purchasing aged or composted manure, get information about the method of treatment. Maximize the time between application of manure to production areas and harvest. Use of raw manure on produce during the growing season is not recommended.
While not possible to exclude all animal life from fresh produce production areas, many growers already take steps to protect crops from animal damage. Domestic animals should be excluded from fields and orchards during the growing and harvesting season. Ensure that animal waste from adjacent fields, pastures, or waste storage facilities does not contaminate fresh produce production areas. Where necessary, consider physical barriers such as ditches, mounds, grass/sod waterways, diversion berms, and vegetative buffer areas. Control of wild animal populations may be difficult or restricted by animal protection requirements. However, to the extent feasible, where high concentrations of wildlife are a concern, consider practices to deter or redirect wildlife to areas where crops are not destined for fresh produce markets.

Train employees to follow good hygienic practices. Establish a training program that includes basics such as proper hand washing, techniques and the importance of using toilet facilities. Offer protection to workers with cuts or lesions on parts of the body that may make contact with fresh produce. If employees wear gloves, be sure the gloves are used properly and do not become a vehicle for spreading pathogens. Customer-pick and road-side produce operations should also promote good hygienic practices with customers. Encourage hand washing, provide toilets that are well equipped, clean, and sanitary and encourage washing fresh produce before eating.
Clean harvest and storage equipment and containers or bins prior to use. Keep this equipment as clean as practicable. Assign this responsibility for equipment to the person in charge. Discard damaged containers. Store empty containers in a way that protects them from contamination. Block access of pests into enclosed facilities. Develop procedures to track produce containers from the farm, to the packer, distributor, and retailer. Documentation should indicate the source of the product and other information, such as date of harvest, farm identification, and who handled the produce. Without accountability, the best efforts to minimize microbial contamination are subject to failure.

MORE VIEWS ON FARMING FOR A LIVING (responses to comments in the last issue...)
Everyone has different ideas and expectations of what the "farming lifestyle" should be, and this can definitely cause some people to be disenchanted, but for others, it's a love affair. We know plenty of enthusiastic farmers who have wonderful incomes and enjoy teaching the next generation of farmers about the equally wonderful lifestyle farming can offer. It certainly is not to anybody's benefit to misrepresent a farmer's financial reality while glorifying his/her situation,
but happiness is a state of mind, and is not always determined by the bottom line on ones Schedule F. What are some of the things a young, budding farmer needs to make it on their farm?  A few that come to mind are: Realization of the hours that it takes to get any business off the ground, of the different hats a farmer must wear, the attention to detail that is needed for production and marketing, the ability to constantly be changing with the times and demands,
balancing farming/family life, and having a little sense of humor always helps with some optimism! There are many aspects to operating a successful farm and we attribute much of our own success to: location of farm with respect to availability of local markets, making sound business decisions, knowing what crops make good money (via record keeping), attending conferences, and learning tons from other farmers, researchers, and even Extension Agents! From our perspective, we feel farming provides us with the rich rewards of freedom of running our own business, providing us with a more than adequate income, having a close-knit family life, raising children in a wonderful environment, and providing food for ourselves and our community in an environmentally friendly manner.  (Paul and Sandy Arnold; Pleasant Valley Farm, Argyle NY)

Over time the small farmer has always had it rough. It is up to you to make it work or fail. Of course it is hard and the pay is low. If you don't like it get out. Sometimes I think that farmers, and I am one, are always crying: Poor me I am not valued enough'. Wake up and stop dreaming.  No one makes it totally off the land with produce. Folks are always buying in extra produce, baked good, seeds and all sorts of other things to sell for extra money. In the past old-timers have told me about selling produce in season then working out in a variety of jobs in the off season. This is the reality of it is unless you are supported by someone else, i.e., spouse, trust fund, parents, whatever. Those that think their constant pissing and moaning will help are wrong. All it does is waste time. It is not society's job to provide you a living, that is your job! If you don't like the pay, do something else. Farming is great and I will do it hopefully till I die. But as long as I can work I will back it up with other work when the growing is done. (Frank Gorham, W. Rutland)