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



What’s going on down on the farm?

The program that surrounds the student farm is called Sustainable Agriculture and its main focus throughout the course studies is “sustainability”.  Our farm practices are all about these practices by growing everything organically, as not to poison the environment and the people who consume our vegetables that are grown there. Everything is done with sustainability in mind.

Exactly what is “sustainability”? It has been defined in a couple of ways.

Definition No.1: Sustainability is the ability to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

This is the definition of sustainability as created by the United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development. While it is not universally accepted, the UN’s definition is pretty standard and has been expanded over the years to include perspectives on human needs and well-being

Definition, No.2: Sustainability is the capacity to improve the quality of human life while living within the carrying capacity of the Earth’s supporting eco-systems.

This definition has been provided by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the work of which is driven by the fact that global production and consumption patterns are destroying nature at persistent and dangerously high rates.

We have a new way down on the farm to keep our farm sustaining itself with a new choice in our soil mix. Our old mix worked really well but a lot of the components were not really sustainable products, such as the peat moss and the perlite we used. James Frye, who manages the farm, made a discovery by talking to a friend. He heard about a product called leafmold that could be a sustainable way to make our mix and still grow great plants for the farm. This mix also calls for more worm castings, which we produce right there on the farm already. It completely cuts out the perlite that was necessary for the old mix for drainage.

You are probably wondering what leafmold is all about. Leaf mold is the result of letting leaves sit and decompose over time. It is dark brown to black, has a pleasant earthy aroma and a crumbly texture, much like compost. In fact, leaf mold is just that: composted leaves. Instead of adding a bunch of organic matter to a pile, you just use leaves.

Benefits of Leaf Mold

You may be wondering why you shouldn’t just make compost. Why bother making a separate pile just for leaves? The answer is that while compost is wonderful for improving soil texture and fertility, leaf mold is far superior as a soil amendment. It doesn’t provide much in the way of nutrition, so you will still need to add compost or other organic fertilizers to increase fertility. Leaf mold is essentially a soil conditioner. It increases the water retention of soils. According to some university studies, the addition of leaf mold increased water retention in soils by over 50%. Leaf mold also improves soil structure and provides a fantastic habitat for soil life, including earthworms and beneficial bacteria.                                                        

These are all the reasons we use this in our seed starter mix because seedlings need to retain as much moisture as possible and we just add the extra worm casting for the nitrogen they will need to get started. The better start our plants have, the better they will do in the field once they are transplanted.

Hope you enjoyed this information, do some research on your own to find out how to start your own leafmold pile, I already did!

Sherry Carroll


Merry Christmas to all!

The farm and campus are quiet, the vegetables are tucked under row covers here and there, the CSA boxes are empty and flattened, another amazingly productive semester on the Student Farm at CCCC comes to a close. Fifteen years as a two-year degree program in Sustainable Agriculture; so many wonderful, hard-working, dedicated and fun students have worked the soil at the Student Farm. So many equally hard-working and dedicated instructors, staff and volunteers who continue to move this once unique, now “trendy” program forward.

Every CSA box is like the very best Christmas present- planned in advance, labored over, selected carefully, and packed with care. Every shiny red, yellow or orange carrot is a gift that tells the receiver “we care about you and your good health”.

I am humbled and awed by how our students take what they learn here and make it into something of their very own. I am encouraged by the desire in our students to be a part of making the world a place where everyone has access to healthy food, farming is an honored and a respected profession, and good stewardship of the natural resources that we all share is just part of what we do.

This has always been a team effort and I am ever-grateful for all the support that the Student Farm has received from our dedicated CSA members, students, staff and volunteers.

Looking forward to the coming year knowing it will nourish both mind and body!

In good cheer! Robin

What’s in the CSA Box for Wednesday December 13, 2017

First, we would like to give a shout out and a word of appreciation to one of our farm assistants that labors all year long to help keep insect pests under control on the Student Farm.  This little fellow is very quiet and unassuming  – often so much so that we don’t even know he is around.  But through the course of the year, month in and month out he works diligently and serves as an important member of our biological pest control team on the farm!


Despite our current snap of cold weather continue to have a good supply of cool weather vegetables for our CSA members.



blog veggies 3





csa box

Here’s a quick rundown of what will be included in this week’s CSA Box:

Sunburst Sweet potato



Mustard greens








Salad mix



Cabbage or Endive

Head lettuce

Brussels sprout bombs



Posted by Mike Tate, December 13, 2017

Weather conditions affect harvest

Weather challenges greet us toward the end of this season’s CSA. Infrequent temperatures changes have affected a few crops, and some were completely lost (tomatoes, cucumbers and squash). We will completely harvest crops like spinach and salad mix to have as much to offer as possible in the CSA boxes in the final week. Some of the crops like collards, carrots, and beets have winter hardiness and are able to withstand temperatures below 20 ° F. We will see.

Post by Shaquannah Faison

11/30/17 What’s in the CSA box this week?

There are some unique veggies in the box this week. The fall harvest is still going on the farm and we have got some treats for you. There are two kinds of head lettuce, Picat Butterhead, and Cimmaron Romaine. There is also some Ginger, cilantro, and turmeric.

24252291_10215683712672200_839304926_nblog veggies 3blog veggies1

The other veggies in the box are:

  • Ginger
  • Leeks
  • Garlic
  • Purple top white turnips
  • Watermelon radish
  • Kohlrabi
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Kale
  • Carrots
  • Beets
  • Fennel
  • Brussel Sprouts
  • Chervil
  • Collards

Here are a few things you need to know about kohlrabi:

  1. When raw, it tastes like a slightly spicier version of broccoli stems, like a mix of broccoli stem and radish. When cooked, it’s a bit sweeter, especially if caramelized. You can cut it into cubes or wedges and roast it, or slice or cut into matchsticks and stir-fry.
  2. The leaves are edible (and loaded with iron); add them to a salad or saute with garlic as you would mustard or beet greens.
  3. Kohlrabi is a good source of fiber, vitamins C and B6, and potassium.

There is more information on this veggie at :

You also need to know about the turmeric in the box so here are a few hints on how to use it:

  1. Use Fresh Turmeric to Add a Health Kick to Smoothies. …
  2. 2. Make Indian Golden Milk (Haldi Ka Doodh) …
  3. Use it as a Substitute for Mustard or Saffron. …
  4. Turn White Rice into Golden Rice. …
  5. Dehydrate Leftover Turmeric Root. …
  6. 6. Make a Turmeric Omelette. …
  7. Substitute Fresh for Dried Turmeric in Curry Paste Recipes.

Now I have a couple of recipes for you to check out. Here are the links and I hope you enjoy them.

Roasted root vegetables with fennel, garlic & thyme


posted by Sherry Carroll



Whats going on down on the farm?

CSA boxes are packed on Wed. Mornings,  but not this week due to theThanksgiving Holiday. Big boxes were packed last week to hold members through.

Lately,  we’ve been focusing on getting ready for winter.  We harvested the last of the crops in summer blocks, (including sweet potatoes), built beds to be ready for spring,  and sow cover crops. More and more Fall crops have been maturing, as well as those in our late summer high tunnel,  so there is more diversity of produce available.
We also got the North and Eastern sides of the pack shed mulched-and have inoculated the wood chips with Wine cap mushroom spawn.
 We are getting in a new Delaware rooster this week as well,  and have found a good home for “Ranger”, who has been doing a very good job of taking care of the flock in the meantime.
From this point on, we will have plenty of harvests left to do,  but most of the other time sensitive duties are winding down quickly.
Sherry Carroll