Vermont Vegetable and Berry News Ė September 15, 2005
Compiled by Vern Grubinger
University of Vermont Extension
(802) 257-7967 ext.13
vernon.grubinger@uvm.edu
http://www.uvm.edu/vtvegandberry

A TRIBUTE TO BOB WOOD
Jon Satz, Wood's Market Garden, Brandon VT

As some of you have heard, Bob Wood of Brandon passed away on Wednesday September 7th at the age of 74. A life-long farmer and a legislator in Montpelier for more than two decades, Bob touched many lives in Vermont. On the family farm that his grandfather purchased around 1890, Bob chose to continue the tradition of raising primarily vegetables and berries. His folks had taken advantage of the busy Route 7 location back in the 20's, starting a restaurant and offering overnights in cabins by the big mill pond. After Bob and Sally were married, they eventually decided to concentrate on the production and sales of fresh produce. Converting the restaurant to a farm stand, Wood's Market Gardens continued to flourish and serve the community for many years.

In the late 70's, Bob was approached by some fellow named Jim Douglas as a potential candidate for the local house seat. It took a couple of years, but Bob eventually chose to run, and found that he fully enjoyed this compliment to the months when he was farming.  Bob's presence in the House as a farmer and no nonsense negotiator proved more and more valuable as years went by and the number of farmer legislators dwindled.  As for the farm, Bob was very innovative as a young man, developing one of the first irrigation systems for frost protection.  Classic farmer, he loved the challenges of trying to grow a profitable crop in this ever so short season of Vermont.

By the mid 1990's Bob and Sally had thoughts about retiring from full time farming. Wanting very much to see the farm continue, they resisted the temptation to develop the farm and purposefully sought out growers. I met Bob and Sally during the spring of 1998, appropriately with Bob cultivating early corn with an old Cub, and Sally buzzing around in that old Chevy pickup we came to call Grace. After many months, other offers, and support from the Vermont Land Trust, they sold the farm to me in the beginning of 2000. Bob and Sally didn't move far. They kept another house that was on the farm, within view of most of what was going on in the fields. Far from walking away, Bob was always giving of his time and knowledge...and Sally too.  I like to say my first season here was like jumping onto a moving train.

Bob checked in just about every day to see how things were going. Not to tell me how to do it, but simply if he could help.  It was obvious he loved this farm, and he sincerely wanted too see things work out. Now, Bob and I farm a little differently (almost any two farmers grow differently). But Bob's 'conventional' and my 'organic' background presented no problems, just stories and an occasional bet.  We each understood the other's approach and our goals were the same....good fresh food.   Oh those stories.  Few days went by where some great lore of what had happened here some time ago wasn't shared.  Thankfully Sally still has a fair share of tales still to tell. Bob was known as 'corn grower' as a handle with the CB radios they used on the farm.  He was a grower of many things, including the community he lived in and the future of farming in Vermont.  I will miss you Bob. I thank you dearly for sharing.

REPORTS and QUESTIONS FROM THE FIELD (as of September 16)

(Killington) This has been one of our best growing seasons; a nice balance of rain and heat, which provided a no-stress situation for the plants.  Flea beetle made a temporary appearance. Cucumber beetle was not a problem. Bacterial wilt was a small problem in the greenhouse. Woodchucks are troublesome, but I'm working on that. We only grew what I call traditional products, a good balance of products but we didn't have to spend time explaining the product to the consumer.  Business was soft this season, the first time that has happened. Our Governor, Senators, and Representatives are always talking about finding ways to bring in new jobs and business to the state.  I ask what about existing business?  Agriculture, tourism and logging, we need help in doing more business.

(Little Compton, RI) Some much needed rain has come once again to the south coastal growers. The coastal towns from Newport northeastward to the Cape have had a drought from mid-June to late August that we hope will never be repeated. We have walked away from fields of brassicas and only partially harvested many other crops due to premature bolting, sunscald, sudden rapid maturation (as with sunflowers) and then there were the bug problems. The only light in the tunnel is a special permit granted us from the State to dig a pond on a marginal wetland area. Other than all that the farmers markets are strong and winter squashes are looking good.

(Danby) We have had a great blueberry year!!!  Out bushes bore more than they have in a number of years.

(Stamford)  Summer's finally winding down. Still, it has been very hot and dry overall. Just one cold night so far. It was reported that some of the higher mountain towns saw a frost. Farmer's market has several more weeks to go this season. Still picking pole beans, peppers, and eggplants. Winter squash is in, all look good. Spaghetti squash is always a popular one with many people at market. One of my favorites too! A final harvest of field grown tomatoes is next on the list. Heirloom tomato yields have been abundant over the past two weeks. Direct market sales with heirlooms have been good but sometimes working with chef's can seem impossible. What part of "they're ready now" don't you understand? Plum tomatoes have produced well. Two heirloom varieties, Speckled Roman and the yellow Roman Candle were both very unique in color and shape, and along with Classica F1 have provided a good crop this season.

(Central VT) I have several fields of pumpkins. Two fields are bumper crops with harvest at 90 percent, no rot no problems. However I have a field 20 miles away where at best I will harvest 20 percent.  These pumpkins have holes all over them, they look like someone shot a bunch of BBs at them.  They are soft and oozing until they enlarge and the pumpkin collapses. All varieties are affected, the worst is Howden and the larger pumpkins then Racer and then the pies with the least. The pumpkins are good size and weight with good population. There is a ring of green around the holes, so I surmise that these holes were made when the pumpkins were green. There is no insect present at this time.  Whatís going on!?

Editorís reply: My guess is that you have had feeding on the fruit by cucumber beetles and/or corn rootworm beetles (shaped like cucumber beetles, but the southern corn rootworm, also called spotted cucumber beetle, has spots, the female western corn rootworm has less prominent stripes that do not go all the way down the body, and the northern corn rootworm is pale green). Any or all of these can feed on fruit as it is developing. Once they make feeding holes, then decay-causing organisms can enter the fruit. The feeding was probably several weeks ago so all you see now are the holes. The  Pumpkin Production Guide has a good photo (#8-14 on page 126) of beetle feeding damage on fruit. If you don't have this book you should! $39 including postage from my office, or direct from www.nraes.org

(Southwest VT) I have had real problems this year with some of my bell peppers with large necrotic spots on all the fruit. My diagnosis is sunscald, apparently followed by a fungal infection. Interestingly, it is really only affecting the Red Knight variety, not Ace. I know that sunscald is supposed to be more of a problem with limited foliage cover, but the Red Knights actually have more foliage than the Ace plants. Any thoughts on this? I have had this problem in prior years with other varieties such as Fat and Sassy. Could I be dealing with something else entirely?

Editorís reply:  Blossom end rot (BER) can easily be mistaken for sunscald - and there varietal differences in susceptibility are known, which I'm not sure is the case with sunscald but could be. As with tomatoes, BER results poor movement of calcium through the plant due to irregular water supply during early stages of fruit formation. Liming the soil to the proper soil pH helps but watering frequently, avoiding root damage by cultivation, and avoiding excess potassium and magnesium fertilization are other considerations.

(Southeast VT) Mexican bean beetle has been a big problem in my green beans this year.
How can I manage them organically?

Editorís reply: A recent UMass vegetable newsletter described the use of the beneficial insect, Pediobius foveolatus, which is commercially available for Mexican bean beetle control and has a good track record among Northeast growers: Pediobius, pronounced pee-dee-oh-bee-us is mass-reared and sold by the NJ Dept of Agriculture and is also available from other beneficial insect suppliers. This small, non-stinging, parasitic wasp attacks and kills Mexican bean beetle larvae, especially the young larvae. Wasp larvae feed inside the larvae, kill it, and pupate inside it, forming a brownish mummy. Twenty five or more adult wasps emerge from one mummy. Control continues and gets better as the season progresses and successive generations of the wasp emerge and search out new bean beetle larvae. This makes it well suited to our succession-planted snap bean crops. Timing is important, because the wasps prefer to lay their eggs in young MBB larvae. The release rate should be at least 2000 adult wasps per field (or per acre, if more than one acre is grown); 1000 adults costs $25 plus shipping for overnight delivery. Sources: NJ Insect Lab, Tom Dorsey, 609-530-4196. ARBICO 800 -827-2847 (AZ), The Beneficial Insect Company 336-973-8490 (NC),  Rincon Vitova 800-248-2847 (CA), The Green Spot 603-943-8925 (NH).

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