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Hey Sustainable Agriculture Community! Payton Roper here giving you an update to what’s been going on at the student farm this week. On Monday, it was rainy and pretty miserable outside so achieving any outside work seemed almost impossible. Water really began building up around blocks three and four and the decision was made to syffen the water down the hill to the bottom/back of the student farm so when it’s time to move the row cover there won’t be water flooding the isles. The pump was run by the tractor since other options weren’t available. The asparagus bed is very weedy and needs to be mulched soon. Even though there are not many sprouts coming up yet it should still be something to keep in mind in the next few days! Our handy dandy cold frame was finished and is now on its way to being painted as soon as the water warms up. So, for the time being we may have a cold frame that isn’t painted (which isn’t favored by Organic certification considering its treated wood), but will work until the weather warms up so painting can be a success. In class on Thursday we harvested a ton of greens such as carrots, collards, Swiss chard, spinach, and mustard greens! Also, started bedding our sweet potatoes varieties that have already started sprouting! James gave a great demonstration and explained the three steps of sprouting, bedding, and planting sweet potatoes. Once their ready to be planted we will till in our cover crop and building tall raised beds! An interesting sustainable topic that was brought to my attention by Cheryl was using comfrey on your farm. Researchers in British Columbia analyzed the NPK (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium) ratio of comfrey leaves by air-drying them and analyzing the powdered leaf tissues. They found that the leaves have an impressive proportion of 1.8-0.5-5.3. To compare, kelp meal has an NPK ratio of 1.0-0.5-2.5, and homemade compost ranges from 0.5-0.5-0.5 to 4-4-4 (depending on what ingredients you use). Comfrey is also rich in calcium and many other valuable plant nutrients it mines from deep in the subsoil! Another super cool fact about comfrey is making comfrey tea for pest control. Scientists at Moscow State University in Russia observed that powdery mildew spores that landed on wheat seedlings sprayed with comfrey tea did not germinate, and the wheat seedlings did not become infected. The researchers concluded that the comfrey tea sprays had activated natural defense mechanisms in the wheat seedlings, making them more resistant to disease. This summer, researchers at the Rodale Institute, near Kutztown, Pennsylvania, are conducting controlled experiments testing comfrey tea as a preventive for powdery mildew on sage grown in the greenhouse. How cool! Well I hope everyone is having a lovely week and enjoys their weekend. Sincerely, Payton Roper


Sustainability lecture

Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), Michael S. Regan visited
the campus for a lecture on sustainability. He has held his position since January 2017. The department of environmental quality is responsible for enabling programs that protect air and water quality, public health and develop strategies that addresses NC energy needs. In addition to environmental and public
health programs the office also assists farmers, businesses, local government and the public through
educational programs offered at the department’s facilities or through a state school system.
His speech served as a reminder of our responsibilities as land stewards. A reminder as to why we take much care to select plant varieties, management strategies, farm layouts because our duties serve as a collective effort in protecting environment and public safety. As student farmers in sustainability we are integral to the future standards of environmental quality. This week we were encouraged to enact our responsibility as community citizens and engage in policing the standards of our local land, air and water.

Post by Shaquannah Faison

There’s a fungus among us…


February 26 was another rainy Monday for most but for the Advanced Crop Production class it was the opportunity to learn how to inoculate logs from mushroom farmer, Laura Steward of Haw River Mushroom in Saxapahaw NC.

Side note: One of the many reasons I have loved the Sustainable Agriculture program at CCCC is their use of the community for hands on learning. Chatham County is a mecca for farming! and the surrounding farming community definitely opens their farms to educate future farmers. As student, we are given the opportunity to try lots of different types of “farming” in an effort to find our own farming niche.

Inoculation involves adding a mushroom spawn to a planting area like logs. A mushroom spawn is any substance inoculated with mycelium, the branching, thread-like vegetative part of a fungus.

–mycelium (photo cred: Wikipedia)mycelium wiki

–Equipment needed to Inoculate a loginocultaing set

–inoculator tool picking up Shittake spawntool spawn

IMG_2384 (1)

Shittake Mushroom Sawdust Spawn

Long story short, we cut the ends of hardwood logs then drilled holes a palms length apart in rows (4 or 5 holes per row) until we had holes all around the log. We then took the inoculator tool and added the spawn to the holes and sealed the hole with hot wax. That’s It! Way easier than I imagined! (And just think, after all this hard wind the past few days there are down trees everywhere. Why not learn more about mushrooms and add some extra cash to your pocket.) The logs were then stacked and placed beside the greenhouse in a shady spot and moistened. In the next few months we should have Shittake mushrooms popping up and popping into our CSA box.


cutting the edges off hardwood logs


Laura drilling holes for spawns to be injected into


 hot wax to seal spawns

Interested in learning more about Mushrooms and Inoculation? Haw River has classes! And for general questions James Fry, the farm manager has a wealth of knowledge and books plus he is a certified mushroom forager!

-victoria e-cotten, student farmer

“This week on the farm”

This beautiful weather has turned the CCCC Sustainable Farm to planting spring crops. It is an exciting time of the year as we come out of the early wet season. Things are drying out nicely and there’s lots to get done. Our little seedlings that have been babied and cared for are now hardened off and ready to go out in the field. The advanced class was able to transplant a majority of the Kale, Collards, Broccoli and Cauliflower that will be needed for the farm’s CSA. The basic crop production class spent their time Thursday planting a variety of different onions and the peas that they planted are sprouting. If this weather persists, it is sure to be a productive spring! Stay tuned for what’s going on next week. Keep planting and thanks for the read!

Social Sustainability on the Farm

The three pillars of sustainability are environmental, economical, and social responsibility. When it comes to farming, it is pretty clear as to how to achieve environmental and economic sustainability- but being socially sustainable is not as apparent. This, of course, looks different on every farm. Here is what is looks like at the CCCC Student Farm:

The student farm values community outreach and food accessibility. There is a work-trade CSA available to all members of community. Anyone who donates 4 hours of volunteering to the farm receives a CSA box. This provides food access to people in the community. CSA shares are often pricey because you are paying for high quality, local and often organic produce. These prices make it difficult for people on the lower end of the pay bracket to afford fresh produce. In addition to breaking down the price-barrier, the work-trade CSA serves as a middle ground from like-minded community members to congregate and learn from one another.

The teachers and farm manager, James Frye, are mindful and receptive to the feelings, interests, and well-being of all of the students and volunteers. One way to ensure that a farm is socially sustainable is by checking-in on the well-being of all parties involved in the farm’s functioning. Farming is hard work. Historically, there has been a power-struggle between farm workers and farm owners. Even today there is a big movement for workers’ rights in agriculture. That is why labels like Equal Exchange exist. On the student farm, James is aware of the student’s and volunteer’s limitations. Throughout my time at CCCC I have seen students who have recently had surgery, were pregnant, have disabilities, etc. who were still able to engage with the farm in a way that suited their restrictions. The openness and adaptability from the teachers and staff is what makes our farm socially sustainable.

Extra produce from the farm is donated to Community Lunch at St. Bart’s in Pittsboro. CCCC typically has salad greens to give to the church. The greens get turned into a delicious salad which ends up of the plates of many grateful community members. Community lunch could not function without the support donations like those coming from the student farm.

The teachers in the sustainable agriculture program go above and beyond to connect the students to key players in the community. Just last week I asked Jeff Gannon, my Basic Farm Maintenance teacher, for contacts for local saw mills; he was happy to pass those on. Robin Kohanowich, the CCCC sustainable ag ring-leader, has connected so many students to jobs, housing, and professional development opportunities. All of the teachers are committed to strengthening our local food system.

The social aspect of sustainability can be the most difficult to navigate. Fortunately the student farm serves as a good model for running a farm with social responsibility. If you’re not convinced, you can always come and stop by the farm and see what it is all about. All are welcome, after all.

By: Jennifer Greenlee

The Dinosaur Farmer

The Student Farm Lab at CCCC has been working with the Livestock Conservancy in raising Delaware chickens (a breed developed by George Ellis of Delaware in 1940). Delaware chickens are currently listed on the third level of the conservation priority, labeled as ‘watch’.

Outside of the preservation of genetic resources, Delawares are raised as dual-purpose birds (although originally developed as broilers). The typical male market size is 8lbs while the female’s is 6lbs. Their eggs are brown in color and range in size from large to jumbo. They are characterized as being calm, docile, easy to raise birds– although they are certainly curious! They put on meat easily, and will be good layers if not overfed.



Delaware hens and rooster, acting as educators on the Student Farm Lab. Also pictured: Arucana and Crevecoeur

The Student Farm uses a movable coop to house our chickens– and electric netting to create their pasture. Periodically the netting is moved to create new forage spaces for the chickens to peck and scratch. Eventually, the entire coop will be rotated to a new area of the field (by tractor). In addition to having fresh eggs everyday, our chickens leave us with another valuable resource–their manure. Poultry manure is high in Nitrogen(.9%), Phosphorus(.5%), Potassium(.8%), Calcium(.4%), and Organic Matter(30.7%). These nutrients will nourish our crops and help maintain healthy soil. To make sure that fresh manure is not coming in to contact with harvested crops, chickens are rotated 120 days before a crop is harvested.

Can’t get enough of these birds? Click the video link below to learn more about detecting desired qualities for the chickens you keep, as demonstrated by Jeannette Beranger (from the Livestock Conservancy) with the Delaware breed.

Meanwhile on the farm, we have been preparing for spring. In the past couple of weeks, students have direct seeded root crops (radishes, turnips, and beets) and greens (spinach, arugula, mustards, lettuces, and asian greens) in to hoop houses. Broccoli, fennel, parsley, kale, cabbage, cauliflower, and other transplants have been started in the greenhouse, using a custom potting mix of leaf mould, blood meal, and worm castings. These cool hardy crops will be able to be planted in the next couple of weeks, despite the last frost date being around mid-april.

The fields remain wet from consistent rainfall. Its a good time to start getting organized for the oncoming season.


Spring seedlings in the greenhouse


Interested in raising chickens, but you aren’t sure what breed to start with? The Livestock Conservancy provides this handy chart, describing the temperament of different breeds, what they provide, and the ‘expertise’ level that is required:

If you are interested in learning more about the Livestock Conservancy, and the work that they do, visit their website:

(Numbers for nutrient content of poultry manure from

Blog post written by Laura Maule

Late winter on the farm – Good time for a check in on the student orchard!

The cold and wet weather we are experiencing this winter has provided many lessons on being flexible with the tasks you plan to accomplish on any given day. Unexpected low temperatures and soggy soil have made use of heavy equipment(i.e. the tractor) less than ideal, delaying our ability to get beds ready for spring planting. This provided the perfect opportunity to head over to the student orchard and assess the condition of the trees planted there.


Brrr…It was a very cold morning.

The student orchard can be found by following the pathway behind the north parking lot and turning down the earthen path, over a wooden bridge and into the clearing where the orchard sits. Currently, there are 3 apple trees, 3 pear trees, and a smattering of blackberry and blueberry bushes. Our assessment started with looking at apple trees and deciding which branches needed to be pruned to encourage the type of growth we are looking for. The apple tree above has many suckers, new branches coming from just above the ground, from the grafted rootstock, as well as waterspouts, the thinner branches pointing straight towards the sky. These outgrowths are less than ideal, as they represent wasted energy that we wish had been used by the tree to develop larger roots and more growth on the main scaffolds which will support all the delicious apples we want to produce.


The apple and pear trees we pruned, arranged in a row from east to west, they are situated at the top of hill gently sloping to the south.

This just happens to be the perfect time of year for a little tree surgery. The cold temperatures suppress the potential fungal and bacterial infections that these trees are susceptible to when pruned, giving the trees ample time to heal up their wounds before the warm weather brings with it the pests.  With a little bit of effort to shape the trees, they should be a good position to grow well this spring and summer. There is a good chance we will get fruit on them this fall*fingers crossed*.



A spirited debate ensues over the merit of anvil shears vs. bypass shears. Farm manager James questions why anvil shears were ever invented in the first place, you certainly won’t find a pair on this farm.

James, our farm manager, demonstrated proper pruning technique, when and when not to use certain tools, and how to keep them in cutting shape. Did you know the 4 – D’s of pruning? – dead, diseased, damaged, and directionally challenged. These are the conditions of any tree material you should consider prior to loping anything off. Thankfully for us and our trees, most of what needed to come off fell into the last category of directionally challenged. This just means new growth that is heading in erroneous directions, that if left to mature could block sunlight to other branches. In a worst-case scenario, these confused shoots could rub up against a neighboring branch potentially causing a wound to form which could lead to infection.

As the weather warms and tasks on the annual vegetable side of the farm rapidly multiply it would be easy to let taking care of these fruit trees get lost in the shuffle. The shaping we were able to do today will set these trees on a good path for a productive spring. Check back on the blog for more updates on the spring planting season ahead!

– Eric Knight

CCCC Student Farmer