Saturday, December 12, 2009
organic greenhouse methods in the D.R.
We are wrapping up a two week training process in the D.R. before heading off for a week in Haiti. Our assignment here has been to conduct training sessions in various subjects of organic greenhouse management. We worked with three different local NGO's, each of whom has projects in greenhouse cultivation of sweet bell peppers. The greenhouses are operated by groups of 3-10 growers who work cooperatively. Depending upon the organization, the groups are either comprised exclusively of women, or made up of a mixture of men and women. Each of the three different NGO's with whom we collaborated had its own position on organic practices, ranging from those who were interested in adopting some organic methods as a means of reducing production costs to those who were committed to natural resource conservation and see organic production as a means of achieving that goal. We introduced a range of subjects during our meetings with growers. Topics such as organic foliar feeding applications made of compost tea and organic pesticide recipes were pretty easy for the growers to relate to. We also focused on slightly more complicated topics like solarization for soil diseasse management, mulching for water conservation and soil protection, and cover crops for fertility and crop diversity. Some groups were interested in learning about the requirements for organic certification. Others wanted to learn about seedling production to help them increase their quality control. And with several groups we went over record-keeping uses and processes. If I could come back in a year and see just one of these topics in use, it would be cover crops in the greenhouses. Of all the areas we addressed, this one is perhaps the most challenging for people to comprehend. As farmers, we understand the mental shift it takes to think of a cover crop as an investment in the soil, something you are harvesting not just for yourself but for the long-term health of your farming system. With the monoculture production of peppers year after year in the same soil, cover crops are one of the easiest, cheapest, and most effective means of achieving crop rotations and increased organic matter, among the many other benefits. I'm looking forward to following up with Juan Villar in a few months to see if this concept gets any traction with the growers. It's been a great two weeks! Emily Oakley and Mike Appel Three Springs Farm Oaks, OK