compiled by Vern Grubinger, University of Vermont Extension
(802) 257-7967 ext. 13, or

Old Athens Farm, Westminster VT
Featuring Organic Greenhouse Tomato Production and Alternative Heating Systems

Mike Collins and Rebecca Nixon own and operate Old Athens Farm in Westminster, Vermont. They sell produce wholesale to food co-ops and natural food supermarkets, at Brattleboro and Londonderry farmers' markets, and through a CSA that pools products from several local farms and takes weekly orders from 100 members. Mike manages 3 acres of mixed  vegetables, berries and herbs, but his main product is organic greenhouse tomatoes, for which he is widely known. He has 10,000 sq. feet in production, and he utilizes production techniques such as grafted transplants, carbon dioxide enrichment, zoned bottom heat, and biological pest control. His greenhouses have a variety of heating systems including oil, propane, and  wood. Recently, he put in a system that allows him to burn unprocessed vegetable waste oil from local restaurants in his wood-fired boiler.

Directions from the South:  Take Exit 4 off I-91, turn left off the ramp, back over the interstate to the intersection with route 5. Turn right, go straight through Putney village, staying on  Route 5 north for about 3 miles. Take the left before Harlow's Sugar House (Pine Banks Rd.).  At 2.8 miles turn left on Daigel Rd. You will see the greenhouses in the second driveway on the left, number 463.

Directions from the North: Take Exit 5 off I-91, turn left off the ramp, go under I-91, then take the first right, Kurn Hattin Rd. You will crossover I-91then after the Kurn Hattin school campus take the first left, Piggery Rd. At the Y, just before you would go back under I-91, bear right onto Pine Banks Rd.  Your first right is Daigel Rd. You will see the greenhouses in  the second driveway on the left, number 463.  Questions? Contact:

(Adapted from an article by Liz Maynard, Purdue Extension)

Early sweet corn planting will be underway soon. The cool soil of early Spring is less than optimal for germination, but some varieties will perform much better than others in cool soils. Generalizations about cool soil emergence have often been made based on endosperm type, that is, whether the variety is su (sugary), se (either homo- or heterozygous sugar-enhanced), or sh2 (shrunken-2 or supersweet). A recent report by Richard Hassell and others at Clemson University shows that differences in emergence among varieties within an endosperm type can be large. Hassell and colleagues tested germination of sweet corn varieties at temperatures from 52 F to 86 F under laboratory conditions. They used 9 varieties of each endosperm type and determined how long it took for 75% of the seeds to germinate. The se varieties used were all homozygous (se/se). At 52 F, only 2 su varieties, 3 se’s and no sh2’s germinated within 7 days. At 64 F su varieties averaged 4.5 days, se’s 4.6 days, and sh2’s 5.2 days to reach 75% germination. Most varieties reached their maximum germination rate at 72 F to 76 F and did not show faster germination above those temperatures. At 72 F nearly all varieties took 2 to 4 days to reach 75% germination.

These average results conform to the expectation that sh2 varieties do not germinate as quickly as su’s or se’s at cool soil temperatures. But the averages cover up differences between specific varieties that are important for success in the field. There was much overlap among the endosperm types. Some su’s performed worse than some se’s and sh2’s; some se’s performed worse than some su’s and sh2’s, and some sh2’s performed better than some su’s or se’s. The best-performing su was NK 99, a variety not commonly grown in this area. It germinated faster than other varieties at 52 F, and at 68 F took only 2 days to reach 75% germination. The least cold-tolerant su was Sweet G-90, which took longer than 7 days to reach 75% germination at temperatures below 64 F. Among the se’s, Precious Gem germinated faster than others at 52 F, taking 6 days to 75% germination. At 76 F Precious Gem took only 2 days to 75% germination, faster than the other se’s at that temperature. The least cold-tolerant se was Accord, which took longer than 7 days to 75% germination at temperatures below 60 F, and 7 days at 60 F. None of the sh2’s reached 75% germination within 7 days at 52 F. The most cold- tolerant sh2 was Morning Star, which at 56 F took 5.5 days to reach 75% germination, and at 76 F took 3 days. The least cold tolerant sh2’s were Silver Dollar and SCH 55146, which took longer than 7 days to reach 75% germination at temperatures below 60 F and 7 days at 60 F.

These results for specific varieties are given as examples of how germination at cool temperatures can vary within an endosperm type. The study was done with just one seed lot of each variety, so the results for specific varieties should not be considered definitive; different seed lots of the same variety can differ in their ability to germinate at cool temperatures. However, germination percentage reported on the seed packets was at least 90% for all varieties, so the seed lots represented quality typically available to producers. Other sources of information about performance of sweet corn varieties at cool temperatures include your own and others’ field experience and reports from other trials, such as variety reports that include data on emergence and early vigor. The take-home message: don’t make assumptions about germination ability in cool soils based on endosperm type, and use all information available to evaluate varieties for adaptation to early season plantings. Reference: Hassell, R.L., R.J. Dufault and T.L. Philips. 2003. HortTechnology 13(1): 136-141.


Information presented at a recent 3-day conference on commercial organic vegetable production is now available in a 162-page book with articles from researchers, educators and farmers. The first section covers soil and nutrient management. In addition to three farm profiles, papers cover soil life; interpreting soil test results and estimating nutrient availability; tillage practices; and the use of compost and cover crops. The second section covers weed management, including weed biology, cultivation tools and strategies, mulching, and a system combining the use of cover crops and tillage. The third section on insect and disease management covers the impact of soil quality on disease and insect resistance; disease management strategies; the use of organic insecticides; and identifying and encouraging beneficial insects. A guide to relevant web sites, publications, and contacts is also included. Organic Vegetable Production, NRAES-165, is available for $28 per copy  (plus $6 shipping) from NRAES, Cooperative Extension, PO Box 4557, Ithaca, NY 14852-4557. Major credit cards accepted. Call (607) 255-7654 or visit

(submitted by Jake Guest, Killdeer Farm)

It turns out that farm vehicles used on Vermont public roads may not be required to be registered. That could relieve many growers of the burden of keeping all their ‘junkers’ registered, but they would still require some kind of liability insurance. Under Vermont law, 23 VSA Section 370 (a) says "farm tractors" and "farm trailers" may be operated on the highway without registration. Subsection (b) says that (a) shall not be construed to prevent "unregistered farm trucks...when being used exclusively for farm work: (1) from being moved upon a highway within the confines of the farm; or (2) from being moved upon highways from one farm to another."  The question is whether a farm van or similar vehicle qualifies as a "farm truck" which, rather unhelpfully, is defined in 23 VSA Sec. 4(72) as a "motor truck".  Supposedly, the Department of Motor Vehicle's interpretation of "farm truck" is basically a vehicle that is used to carry things exclusively for farm use. You will probably want to have some documentation of this statute on hand for your local police officers, and it would be wise to get their approval in advance. If you have questions, contact Neil Schickner, Legislative Joint Fiscal Office, Vermont State Legislature. (802) 828-5977 or


The Citizens Network for Foreign Affairs (CNFA) is seeking volunteers who have experience with vegetable production to help Ukranian vegetable growers with a diversity of crops. Project trips are up to 3 weeks long, and airfare, food, lodging and translation service costs are covered.  This a great opportunity for someone interested in experiencing other countries and cultures while helping small-scale vegetable farmers earn a decent income. In Ukraine, some new canneries have opened near farms, providing new markets with almost unlimited demand in the next three to four years. Local growers are starting to produce cucumbers for pickling and tomatoes, cabbage, onions, carrots, squash and pumpkins for canning. For many farmers, this will be their first year of commercial vegetable production and they lack practical production experience. With CNFA volunteer support last year, over 140 cucumber farmers, many of whom were previously unemployed or earning less than $10 dollars per month, have seen their incomes rise to over $320 dollars. This year’s projects hope to replicate that success. If you are interested in participating, contact Eric Wallace at or call toll-free 1-888-872-2632.


By the end of April, a new video called ‘Farmers and their Innovative Cover Cropping Techniques” will be available. It features 10 vegetable and berry farms in 5 northeastern states that have experimented with, and refined, a wide variety of creative cover cropping practices. These include: using several kinds of winter cover crops, growing winter rye for strawberry mulch, using (and selling) field peas with oats as spring cover, hairy vetch and rye strips grown between crops and using this to suppress potato beetles, using a soil spader for incorporating cover crops, maintaining permanent ground cover for wheel tracks, growing a living mulch cover crop between plastic mulch that is kept in place for 5 years, growing buckwheat, Japanese millet, and Sudex as summer smother crops, sowing white clover strips between crops, use of cover crops for no-till vegetable production, and more.

Production of the 70-minute video was funded by the Northeast SARE program. The video was produced in collaboration with University of Vermont Extension and Workhorse Creative Media. Keith Silva, who worked on 2 previous videos for the Center, was the videographer and editor. His extensive experience with agricultural issues, gained in part through his work on UVM's daily 'Across the Fence' television program, was really helpful to this project.

Copies of the video, on VHS or DVD, will cost $15 each, including postage. For more information, or to download an order form, please visit then click on ‘videos’