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Show #6/3906
Taking An Active Role In Growing What We Eat

Summary of Show

College of the Ozarks
Nicknamed "Hard work U" by the Wall Street Journal, the COLLEGE OF THE OZARKS (COFO) is anything but your typical school. Nestled in the heart of the Ozark mountains, just south of Branson, Missouri students attending the 4 year college attend school tuition free but work in some capacity at the college to pay for their education.
For More Information Click here

Keeter Center
As they pass through the gates of the College, the 1st building we see is a beautiful log lodge. Eric is interested in the story behind this building. This is the KEETER CENTER. It houses their fine dining and lodging as well as the culinary students and hospitality students. This is their workstation. Eric loves the architecture.
For More Information Click here

Fungal Infections
This past winter in Missouri was one of the wettest, coldest on record and proved a CHALLENGE FOR MANY OF THE PLANTS. Spring was cool and wet as well. So they have had a lot of fungal infections, and a rise in leaf diseases, things like that. How do they deal with these issues since many gardeners are moving away from a heavy chemical regimen? There are so many options for dealing with these issues. The 1st thing one needs to determine is your tolerance level.
For More Information Click here

Dealing With Insect Issues
Oftentimes when we see changes in seasons that are atypical we'll also notice an INCREASE IN INSECT POPULATIONS. And that is something they've experienced here as well. Aphids in particular. They're now heading into the Japanese Beetle season and Nathan is noticing an increase with them as well. How does he handle Japanese Beetles?
For More Information Click here

Pruning Tips
Oftentimes that can be a little more maintenance intensive. This area provides a different look. They do PRUNE here more frequently, about 4 or 5 times a year. And they utilize different pruning techniques, different pruning styles at different times of the year. If going for a more formal look they could prune just 1 time a year. But bear in mind that pruning 1 time a year can cause damage to the plants. And, you won't maintain the same structure pruning 1 time a year.
For More Information Click here

Pattern Gardens
The next area visited also is a formal setting. This area has 5 different PATTERN GARDENS. These beds represent the mission or the goals of the college. Those goals are - academic, vocational, Christian, cultural and patriotic.
For More Information Click here

Vegetable Garden
Eric feels one of the more fascinating components of the College of the Ozarks is the student work component and one of the best places to see that in action is the VEGETABLE GARDEN. And the students are here today planting crops and harvesting crops. These crops then go back to the dining hall or will be sold in the farmers market. Both provide the tangible benefit of allowing the students to see what their hands have produced.
For More Information Click here

Cool Season Crops And Warm Season Crops
This is a great time to visit because this is a transition time between the COOL SEASON CROPS AND THE WARM SEASON CROPS. Eric is somewhat surprised because that was a long time ago in the southeast. Right now we see rows of cabbage right next to rows of green beans They grow some of the standard cool season crops, things like cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, beets, some potatoes, kale and mustard greens. These are now being pulled out of the beds, the final harvest of sweet peas is today.
For More Information Click here

Blueberries
1st is a fairly new planting of BLUEBERRIES and they are doing great. There is abundant fruit on the plants now and the students just picked buckets full of ripe berries. The plants look outstanding. Any tips? The soil preparation for blueberries is key. They are an acidic loving plant and in the Ozarks they need to amend their soil to make it more acidic.
For More Information Click here

Strawberries
Nathan also has some beautiful STRAWBERRIES. It, too, is a convenient plant for small gardens or containers. Of course they're growing production strawberries here. But the basics are the same. One of the keys with strawberries is, again, weed control. They are a small plant and don't compete well with other plants. Thus you want to keep them mulched.
For More Information Click here

Hydroponic Gardening
This is a somewhat non-traditional situation. And, is pretty elaborate, it has a HYDROPONIC setup. Many may not have seen a hydroponic setup and may not understand what hydroponics are. Hydroponics boiled down is growing a plant without the use of soil. One uses materials other than soil as a substrate, primarily with water flowing through. How might one start their own little hydroponic situation? Nathan and Eric breakdown the materials used and how the system works. They talk about the medium 1st.
For More Information Click here

Advantages Of A Hydroponic System
What are the ADVANTAGES OF A HYDROPONIC SYSTEM? Why wouldn't one just plant in soil? There are several reasons. The biggest is crop turn around. The time it takes to produce a crop is drastically sped up. Here they can produce a head of lettuce in 5 weeks with this system, conventionally it would take several more weeks. As well they can produce a steady stream throughout the year, they're not dictated by climate.
For More Information Click here

Build A Hydroponic System At Home
Could one BUILD SOMETHING LIKE THIS AT HOME? Sure. The system here looks like little gutters with a cap on them and a hole. It's really as simple as that. It's a low tech system - gutters and a simple aquarium pump in a 5 gallon bucket, to supply nutrition, would be all that should be required for a small homeowner.
For More Information Click here

Farm to Table
One of the most exciting movements underfoot is the FARM TO TABLE movement. Many restaurants claim to be farm to table, perhaps they bring in certain things from local farms but then supplement the rest on their menu from somewhere else. But the restaurant at Keeter Center is an example of a nearly pure farm to table operation. It is a great example of how the farmer and the chef are working together.
For More Information Click here

LINKS:

College Of The Ozarks
College of the Ozarks

Keeter Center - Fine Dining
Branson's Best Restaurant for Fine Dining

Big Cedar Lodge
Home - Branson Missouri Resorts | Big Cedar | Branson Missouri Vacation Lodging

Plant List

 

Show #6/3906. Taking An Active Role In Growing What We Eat

Complete Write Up

In this Episode GardenSMART visits a college campus in Missouri that is not only renowned for their beautiful garden grounds but also for the way they incorporate community and hard work into every aspect of what they do.

Nicknamed "Hard work U" by the Wall Street Journal, the COLLEGE OF THE OZARKS (COFO) is anything but your typical school. Nestled in the heart of the Ozark mountains, just south of Branson, Missouri students attending the 4 year college attend school tuition free but work in some capacity at the college to pay for their education. The campus has more than 80 work stations with jobs ranging from making fruitcakes to milking cows. Since the schools beginning in 1906 agriculture has played an important role in the work-study program. Today students with the help of Master Gardeners take care of more than 400 acres of manicured lawns and flower beds as well as the colleges' renowned orchid collection. In addition to the landscape and garden maintenance, the college has added a 5 acre garden that produces fruit and vegetables for use in the student run, 4 star, public dining room (and it is great!) as well as produce that is sold on campus at their farmers market. Regardless of the job a student gets, each student is taking an active part in their community, and through sweat and equity, learning the incredible value of hard work and determination.

Nathan Bell is the greenhouse supervisor at the College of the Ozarks and a self proclaimed plant geek and plant expert. And, that makes him one of Eric's favorite people.

Nathan thanks Eric and welcomes him to the College of the Ozarks. Eric wants to know what sparked Nathan's interest in horticulture? He gives the credit to his grandparents. They taught him about gardening and instilled in him that passion in life. Nathan is also a COFO alumni and graduated in 2001 with a Bachelors in Horticulture. In 2003 the current landscaping director called and asked him to return.

Eric has worked in greenhouses much of his professional career and realizes that from place to place the responsibilities, the daily work, can be quite a bit different. What does it look like here for Nathan? Their main goal and purpose is to produce all of the annuals used on campus. They produce about 200,000 a year plus all the perennials and nursery stock, as well as maintain the orchid collection. Orchids are a passion of Nathan's. It's a family of plants he truly loves. He started growing them at an early age and has now become an accredited judge with the Orchid Society. He travels the midwest judging. Eric is impressed. He wants to see more, so off they go.

As they pass through the gates of the College, the 1st building we see is a beautiful log lodge. Eric is interested in the story behind this building. This is the KEETER CENTER. It houses their fine dining and lodging as well as the culinary students and hospitality students. This is their workstation. Eric loves the architecture. It's not something he often sees in the southeast. It has a very old world feel. It is typical Ozarks. It was modeled after an original building that was a hundred years old. This structure opened in 2004 and is a tribute to that historic building.

There is a wonderful landscape that surrounds the building. There are excellent choices in trees, some nice foundation shrubs and beautiful perennials sprinkled in for color. This area is so large it requires the shrubs for structure and the perennials add color. Nathan's favorites are the Day Lilies. They are a tough perennial, and handle many different climate situations. They have done remarkably well in this setting.

This past winter in Missouri was one of the wettest, coldest on record and proved a CHALLENGE FOR MANY OF THE PLANTS. Spring was cool and wet as well. So they have had a lot of fungal infections, and a rise in leaf diseases, things like that. How do they deal with these issues since many gardeners are moving away from a heavy chemical regimen? There are so many options for dealing with these issues. The 1st thing one needs to determine is your tolerance level. If it's just 1 or 2 small problem areas, it may not be that big a deal. Get out in your garden, scout around, see what you have. If one notices fungal issues emerging, if getting brown patches on the grass or if some shrubs are failing due to a high fungal environment you might need to resort to a spray. But it really comes down to sanitation. Here, when they prune their hedges they make sure they're not leaving clippings. Especially something that's diseased. Remove diseased material quickly. Also develop an understanding of what plants perform best in a site. Noticing what does well during extreme heat or extreme cold, extreme wet or extreme dry are important observations. Eric thinks it's fun to develop this understanding. He oftentimes isn't that disappointed when something dies because that is part of developing the understanding of what will grow and what won't. Some plants are just not suited to a specific location.

Oftentimes when we see changes in seasons that are atypical we'll also notice an INCREASE IN INSECT POPULATIONS. And that is something they've experienced here as well. Aphids in particular. They're now heading into the Japanese Beetle season and Nathan is noticing an increase with them as well. How does he handle Japanese Beetles? Well, they are a swarming insect, thus fairly easy to detect as long as you're looking for them. Does Nathan use Japanese Beetle traps or are traps more of a "calling card?" He finds them to be more of a calling card. Conventional sprays do work. But if it's just 1 or 2 it's not that big a deal, but if a swarm it will most likely require treating them.

As the guys are leaving the area Eric notices the beautiful water features. Eric finds water features to be a great foundation to any garden. This is large waterfall system in a park-like setting. It provides a nice, quiet environment; the sound of water in the background seems to encourage people to get out, take pictures, etc.

The next area is a particularly beautiful area of campus. It's a junction where many of the main byways meet. It's the heart of the campus and academic area, meaning the students frequently pass through. Here they have a much more formal design. In the 1st area they were striving for a more carefree feel with the day lilies splashed in among the shrubs and formal design. Oftentimes that can be a little more maintenance intensive. This area provides a different look. They do PRUNE here more frequently, about 4 or 5 times a year. And they utilize different pruning techniques, different pruning styles at different times of the year. If going for a more formal look they could prune just 1 time a year. But bear in mind that pruning 1 time a year can cause damage to the plants. And, you won't maintain the same structure pruning 1 time a year. Every time one prunes a plant it is at the expense of the growth because you're removing biomass. And that doesn't make the plant look particularly good for a period of time because you're cutting off a lot of leaves and a lot of the color. Eric has found in his garden it's often times easier and really less work to go through and do 4 or 5 light prunings a year. This helps maintain the plant structure, as opposed to getting in there and making a giant mess with 1 big, deep pruning. Pruning more often keeps the plant looking good, they never look like you've just butchered them and you don't sacrifice as much growth. There are a lot of advantages to multiple prunings throughout the year.

The next area visited also is a formal setting. This area has 5 different PATTERN GARDENS. These beds represent the mission or the goals of the college. Those goals are - academic, vocational, Christian, cultural and patriotic. Those are the areas they want to develop in students. So, 5 different beds and each has a symbol that represents one of those 5.

How would one go about building a pattern garden? Oftentimes a pattern garden can appear to be a great challenge because one is trying to make a figure out of plants. Nathan walks us through the process. Once the bed is prepped they will draw everything out before they start planting. Nathan uses strings and a tape measure to then lay these gardens out. It's really just measurements and laying out a grid. They then plant along those lines. The biggest challenge is making sure everything is even and neat. There is no margin for error, everything must be on line. The College of the Ozarks is different than many other universities and these beds are here to remind the students of those 5 principles. The university is unique in that every student must work on campus and in exchange for that, all tuition fees are waived. So, COFO provides a very economical way for a student to get through their studies. Eric likes the fact that gardening here has a deeper significance than just pretty plantings. The pattern garden is a great way to remind students of the COFO objectives as they walk through. And remind the students of the pride they take in their work.

Eric feels one of the more fascinating components of the College of the Ozarks is the student work component and one of the best places to see that in action is the VEGETABLE GARDEN. And the students are here today planting crops and harvesting crops. These crops then go back to the dining hall or will be sold in the farmers market. Both provide the tangible benefit of allowing the students to see what their hands have produced. The vegetable gardens were started 5 years ago. They were originally designed to supply the restaurant, primarily with tomatoes and green beans but COFO quickly learned they needed to expand, thus have more than tripled the size.

Last year they started a farmers market. These gardens supply fruits and vegetables to the farmers market which is open 1 day a week to the general public. The students then sell those products, allowing them to interact with the general public.

This is a great time to visit because this is a transition time between the COOL SEASON CROPS AND THE WARM SEASON CROPS. Eric is somewhat surprised because that was a long time ago in the southeast. Right now we see rows of cabbage right next to rows of green beans They grow some of the standard cool season crops, things like cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, beets, some potatoes, kale and mustard greens. These are now being pulled out of the beds, the final harvest of sweet peas is today. The beds are being cleared and they will transition these beds to summer crops like green beans, tomatoes, summer squash, zucchini and yellow squash. These crops will remain until fall. Vegetable gardening on this scale is still relevant to our viewers even though their gardens may be smaller. What are some of the challenges Nathan encounters? Weeds are an issue, insect disease pressure, water relationships are all worth noting and likely a consideration no matter the size of ones vegetable garden. The system they use is intensive. They plant things close together to try to alleviate weed problems. If they can get a crop to cover the soil there isn't as much weed pressure. The bed shape is worth noting. By making the beds longer but somewhat narrow that makes it a little easier to harvest because they can reach in quite easily. If they can shade the soil that markedly decreases the amount of needed water because it decreases evaporation. So they save on water and if weeds don't have sunlight the weed seeds don't germinate, because they're not able to compete with the plants they do want.

In the Ozarks they have very thin soils. The berm around the beds helps produce a nice growing environment for their plants. The berm is also needed because they use drip irrigation. The drip system also helps conserve water.

Most don't have the space to plant a full fledged orchard but there are any number of small fruiting plants that will work on a patio, or that will work in containers. Even if you just have a 5 by 5 space there are practical plants that produce things we can eat or in this case things the students can sell or take to the dining hall. They're standing by 2 great examples. The 1st is a fairly new planting of BLUEBERRIES and they are doing great. There is abundant fruit on the plants now and the students just picked buckets full of ripe berries. The plants look outstanding. Any tips? The soil preparation for blueberries is key. They are an acidic loving plant and in the Ozarks they need to amend their soil to make it more acidic. So, they add lots of organic matter, peat moss or compost, for example. In the southeast, where Eric lives, on any site where they have recently cut pine trees the PH will be exactly right. With these plants it is important to know the PH of the soil. Get the PH right, find an area with a lot of sun and your blueberries should thrive.

Nathan also has some beautiful STRAWBERRIES. It, too, is a convenient plant for small gardens or containers. Of course they're growing production strawberries here. But the basics are the same. One of the keys with strawberries is, again, weed control. They are a small plant and don't compete well with other plants. Thus you want to keep them mulched. Straw is one of the better things to use. Also, tacking the plant down, allowing the runners to take hold is most helpful in getting a good, thick stand. Strawberries multiply by sending out a little shoot with a baby strawberry plant. It isn't going to root in until it makes good soil contact. We can expedite the process by just tacking the runner down allowing it to make good soil contact. A good strawberry bed for homeowners can last 2 to 3 years and can produce quite well before they need to be replanted.

Eric finds it nostalgic to step back into a greenhouse. His 1st job was in an old, glass greenhouse. Those greenhouses just had benches, some of the fancier had rolling benches. Even so a lot of good memories. This is a lot fancier, it doesn't have wooden sashes. Eric knows this is Nathan's work home, where he spends his day-to day activities, running and maintaining the college greenhouse system. And, this is a somewhat non-traditional situation. And, is pretty elaborate, it has a HYDROPONIC setup. Many may not have seen a hydroponic setup and may not understand what hydroponics are. Hydroponics boiled down is growing a plant without the use of soil. One uses materials other than soil as a substrate, primarily with water flowing through. How might one start their own little hydroponic situation? Nathan and Eric breakdown the materials used and how the system works. They talk about the medium 1st. In most cases that is perlite, or some kind of volcanic rock. Here they use a rockwool plug, which is a volcanic product. It is totally inert. They take a seed and plant that seed directly into the rockwool plug. The plant will then live its entire life in that plug in the system. It doesn't have soil thus are delivering nutrients to the plant via an ebb and flow type of water system. Water is pumped in with all the necessary nutrients and that then must be drained out at some point ensuring they don't create an anaerobic growing environment. The system produces and regulates the water PH as well as the nutrient content. Lettuce, like they have here, has a low nutrient content. The system automatically regulates the amount of nutrients in the water and will adjust as needed. The electroconductivity or EC is basically the salt load in the water. If the electroconductivity or EC is too salty it will burn up the plant. PH let's us know effectively the balance of the different nutrients. That is adjusted according to what one is trying to grow. In the case of lettuce they're looking for a PH around 5.8 and an EC of 1.8. These numbers really aren't much at all. Lettuce just doesn't require much input.

What are the ADVANTAGES OF A HYDROPONIC SYSTEM? Why wouldn't one just plant in soil? There are several reasons. The biggest is crop turn around. The time it takes to produce a crop is drastically sped up. Here they can produce a head of lettuce in 5 weeks with this system, conventionally it would take several more weeks. As well they can produce a steady stream throughout the year, they're not dictated by climate. The accelerated growth time has a lot to do with the fact that the plant is never lacking for water and it is never lacking for nutrients. In a traditional soil environment that is almost impossible to control. This method takes the guesswork out of what the plant is getting and when. They are trying to reduce all stresses. If they can reduce all stresses on the plant it can then achieve maximum growth. Hydroponics are often thought of as a synthetic system. Many use synthetic fertilizers. Is there a way to run an organic hydroponic system? Sure. There are those methods. One can use an organic fertilizer that runs through the system. Or, one could use both options.

Could one BUILD SOMETHING LIKE THIS AT HOME? Sure. The system here looks like little gutters with a cap on them and a hole. It's really as simple as that. It's a low tech system - gutters and a simple aquarium pump in a 5 gallon bucket, to supply nutrition, would be all that should be required for a small homeowner. It's simple and that's the beauty of the system. It may look elaborate but in essence it's pretty simple.

Eric and Nathan visit the fine dining restaurant at the Keeter Center to see the hydroponic foods in use. The chefs enjoy the hydroponics, it's easier for them to process. Because it's grown without soil, it's a cleaner product, they can rinse it and it's then good to go. This is a fascinating way to grow plants and Nathan has done a great job with it.

One of the most exciting movements underfoot is the FARM TO TABLE movement. Many restaurants claim to be farm to table, perhaps they bring in certain things from local farms but then supplement the rest on their menu from somewhere else. But the restaurant at Keeter Center is an example of a nearly pure farm to table operation. It is a great example of how the farmer and the chef are working together. The dishes we see are created in the kitchen but the products come directly from their farm less than 1 mile away. It's exciting for the students working in the garden or the students working in the dairy and the creamery to come here to the restaurant, look at these beautiful dishes that the chef has prepared and know they took an active part in the process. It provides both ends of the spectrum a lot of pride in producing this quality product. Eric feels strongly that fresh food is important and farm to table is important. These are vegetables and products grown in season, they were picked when they were fresh, thus more nutritious and more delicious. And that is really the cornerstone of what happens here at the College of the Ozarks. It's tremendous to know the seasonality of your food, to pick it and harvest it, then prepare it and know it is as fresh as is possible.

For Eric there are few things more gratifying than taking an active role in the things he eats. Whether it's getting to know your farmer, enjoying a CSA or carving out a little space in your garden for fruits and vegetables that can be enjoyed fresh and in season, he finds all extremely gratifying. It's been enjoyable visiting the College of the Ozarks and learning how they're addressing this farm to table issue and how they're educating the future of this country. Thanks Nathan for spending the day with us. The College of the Ozarks is truly a special place.

LINKS:

College Of The Ozarks
College of the Ozarks

Keeter Center - Fine Dining
Branson's Best Restaurant for Fine Dining

Big Cedar Lodge
Home - Branson Missouri Resorts | Big Cedar | Branson Missouri Vacation Lodging

Plant List

 

   
   
 
   
   
   
   
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