Monday, October 24, 2011

Farm Lab Friday- Field Trip- Part II

celery transplants inside a modern greenhouse

(LINK to Part I)

As I mentioned in my first Farm School post this week, we took a field trip to Greenheart Farms.  They are a leading commercial transplant producer. They start vegetables, ornamentals, and specialty plants.  As you can see from the picture above, they have grown and sold literally billions of plants.  The above celery plants are pampered in a modern greenhouse with retractable top and sides.  They receive water, nutrients, and chemigation through the sprinklers above the tables.  It's a state of the art facility.

 This room was full of several varieties of roses and although the room (greenhouse) was about as long as a football field, this was only half of it.  It kept on going...  Notice that everything is constructed of materials that can be sterilized to help eliminate pathogens.
 Across from the roses there were acres of greenhouses full of plants.
 The greenhouse on the right houses the celery we saw in the first picture.  As you can see, the greenhouse roof and side curtains have been pulled down to protect the celery from overheating and to maximize sun exposure.
 This is a greenhouse full of cottonwood trees that Greenheart has grown from seed.  These baby trees are destined for a special project that Greenheart has undertaken for the Federal Government (Bureau of Reclamation).  These trees will be transplanted onto federal lands near the Colorado River as part of a program to rehabilitate damaged federal lands and bring back the indigenous flora and fauna to an area that had been cleared of native vegetation many years ago.  This is the kind of program I like to see, rehabilitation leads to sustainable ecosystems again.  I plan to drive out and see it.  I hope it helps native wildlife populations in the area recover as well.
 This was my FAVORITE greenhouse.  Besides growing all those awesome transplants, specialty plants for unique rehabilitation programs, and lots of pretty ornamentals, they also supply chain stores like Home Depot with BEAUTIFUL poinsettias each Christmas.  This room was full of them and so were all of the greenhouses on the left side of the picture below.  They are growing approximately 200,000 poinsettias for this Christmas season.  That's just 200,000 more reasons to love this company...
 Wow!  That's a lot of poinsettias.  They even sell them to local non-profits for fundraisers.
 This is Austin.  He's a fellow student.  Austin is the one responsible for those fantastic looking hydroponics lettuce plants I showed off in a previous week.  He's quickly becoming a hydroponics guru.
 After our tour, Professor Nunez arranged one last stop.  We stopped at Grimmway Farms' Cal-Organic field in Cuyama Valley.  The machine in this picture is a field packing operation.  It was interesting to watch harvesting in action.  We watched hard working field hands cut purple cabbage heads and hand them up to workers inside this contraption.  Those on board, prepped and packed the cabbage in boxes for shipment.  They work so fast and hard in hot, humid conditions.  I know I couldn't keep up.
  Here is a look across one of the fields.  It was hard to believe how perfect these organic vegetables looked.  We saw very minimal evidence of insect damage, and the heads were HUGE.  Grimmway has organic production down to perfection.  I'd sure like to go to work for them someday to learn from the best.
 Have you ever wondered why veggies like lettuce and cabbage are all about the same size in the store, but seem to vary in size in your own garden?  I have the answer.  Field hands only harvest large, fully ripe cabbages.  They leave the smaller ones for the next pass through the same field later, in a few weeks.  It's not magic.  There were many smaller cabbages left in the field for later, just like at home.
 Here, Professor Nunez was talking to us about how much the organic industry has advanced over the years.  He said that it used to be the case that you could tell which fields were organic just by looking at them.  They were weedy and full of pest damage, but TODAY, you can't tell.  In fact, If you ask me, they're not just competitive, these specimens were superior to the conventional crops I often see in my grocery store.  Look how big that broccoli crown is.  It's HUGE.  It was likely a Greenheart transplant.  They contract with Grimmway and their Cal-Organic label.  Mr. Hertel (Greenheart Farms Sales Manager) said that about 25% of their business is now organic.
 We did end up back at our small urban farm at the college, eventually.  Look at the size of our plants.  They're growing great thanks to the tireless work of our professor.  He pops in often to water and manage the crops.  
These plants have really taken off in the last three weeks.  Those are my size 10 Nikes next to those immature cabbage plants.

Well, that's all for this week.  Next week, we are harvesting some of our lettuce and donating it.  I'll write about that later.  I had a great time.  This trip was very informative on the commercial production end of plant science.  I am fortunate to be in a great class, with some really nice people; and we are blessed to be learning from the smartest, most experienced crop scientist I have met.

Until next time.  Have a great week!

Thanks for visiting, I hope you stop by again. I like comments.


  1. Oh my, what a FUN field trip you guys had! You are right, organic has come a long way baby!! LOVE all those poinsettias! :)

  2. Candy,
    I wanted to take all of the poinsettias with me. Had a great time too. Thanks for reading and commenting.


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