Raise, Grow, Harvest, Eat, Repeat A blog for growers, consumers, and backyard gardeners to grow, eat, and connect in the local food system. Sun, 15 May 2005 13:02:08 -0500 https://web.extension.illinois.edu/jsw/eb362/rss.xml Troubleshooting Current/Future Fruit Tree Issues https://web.extension.illinois.edu/jsw/eb362/entry_13413/ Fri, 08 Jun 2018 11:28:00 +0000 https://web.extension.illinois.edu/jsw/eb362/entry_13413/ Troubleshooting Current/Future Fruit Tree Issues


It seems like we made it to spring in Northern Illinois. Growth stages of the fruit trees like pear, peach, apple, and cherry have been moving fast and at this stage, small fruit should have developed on your trees. Both the cherry and peach tree at the Rockford office have started producing fruit. This week, a Fire Blight sample on pear was brought to the office, and I'm going to share both current/future fruit tree issues in Northern Illinois.

*********Keep in mind that these are broad suggestions for what you might be dealing with. Always get proper diagnosis (reach out to me! I'd love to hear from you)******************

Current Issues, late Spring:

No Fruit on Peach and Cherry?

  • Potentially your buds were killed. Temperatures below -9 F will usually result in buds unable to survive.
  • What to do: Hope for a milder winter next year.

Torched limb in "shepherd's hook" formation on Pear and/or Apple?

  • Potentially Fire Blight. Get this properly diagnosed.
  • What to do: Infection on new limbs can be pruned out 6 inches below infection line. Some fungicides available but usually need to be applied during dormancy.

Upcoming Issues, early summer:

Fruit Not Developing on Apples

  • Buds damaged or need more than one variety. We had a very late frost the end of April that could have caused some buds to be killed/damaged. If the trees have never produced apples, make sure you have more than one variety. Apples depend on cross-pollination.
  • What to do: Hope for a consistent spring temperatures but also plant another variety (or crabapple) that blooms at the same time.

A lot of apples last year, potentially less this year.

  • Biennial Fruiting. A fairly common occurrence where your tree has a lot of fruit in one year and then not as much next year.
  • What to do: Thin small fruit out (usually by hand, leaving 1 center apple/pear) and prune better next winter.
These are a couple things to look for. As your fruit begins to develop further, you may run into future problems. I'll share in weeks to come some other issues we hear about in the University of Illinois Extension office.
Grant McCarty
Tomato Cages Vs. Stakes https://web.extension.illinois.edu/jsw/eb362/entry_13399/ Wed, 30 May 2018 15:18:00 +0000 https://web.extension.illinois.edu/jsw/eb362/entry_13399/ Tomato Cages Vs. Stakes

Click Here to View and Download as a PDF

Last week, I held a "Totally Tomatoes, Perfect Peppers" Program in Freeport and was reminded yet again on how you can either be for tomato cages or staking. I'm firmly in a tomato staking corner but the merits of a tomato cage can be there too. So today, let's look at the pros and cons of these.

First, Clean Them!

Before they go back into the garden, you should clean the cages and the stakes. Pathogens that cause disease can overwinter in the nooks and crannies. Cleaning wipes or rubbing alcohol can be applied and the cages/stakes wiped down.

Second, Space Them!

Usually, it's one tomato cage per plant. If staking, I tend to space them with a stake every two plants. If it's a tomato that I know needs support (like a 'Cherokee Purple' or 'Sungold'), I might put a stake after every plant.

Pros for a Tomato Cage:

  1. Very few tomato plants.
  2. Growing a determinate tomato plant (reaches a set height)
  3. A raise bed where space is limited.
  4. Easy to set up

Cons for a Tomato Cage:

  1. Flimsy (though metal/tough ones available now)
  2. Growing an indeterminate tomato plant (so an heirloom-open pollinated tomato)
  3. Many tomato plants in a row (easier usually to stake)
  4. Plant may overtake the cage

Pros for Staking

  1. Indeterminate Tomato Plant
  2. Many tomato plants in a row
  3. Need greater support for your plants
  4. Trellis problematic areas.

Cons for Staking

  1. Do not have as many tomato plants
  2. Not useful for small patio-type tomatoes
  3. Can require a lot of effort to continue to stake, support, and trellis.
  4. Can get expensive if using wood/metal.
So wherever you fall in line (and you can use both! or make your own), know that your tomatoes need some sort of support for them to grow and yield for you.
-Grant McCarty
Local Foods and Small Farms Educator
5 Tips for Selecting Vegetable Transplants https://web.extension.illinois.edu/jsw/eb362/entry_13367/ Mon, 14 May 2018 13:37:00 +0000 https://web.extension.illinois.edu/jsw/eb362/entry_13367/ 5 Tips for Selecting Vegetable Transplants. CLICK HERE TO VIEW AND DOWNLOAD AS A PDF

1. Know it's Features

Most transplants will come with detail on date to maturity (when to harvest), amount of sunlight needed, spacing, and even photos of the vegetable.

"Patio" and "Bush" are two words that can denote good container varieties.

Aim for short maturity dates for melons (less than 100 days) in Northern Illinois.

2. Buy from Reputable Nursery/Greenhouse/Home and Garden Center

You will find similar varieties at many of these businesses.

Plan your visit now as some varieties may be sold out sooner than later.

3. Examine Thoroughly

If a transplant you select has whiteflies/aphids/disease spots, put it back and purchase a different plant. You do not want to introduce these to your garden.

4. Purchase with Planting Date in Mind

In Northern Illinois, May 15-June 1stis when most summer vegetable transplants can be planted; however, check the weather after your transplant date.

If temperatures are in the low of 40s F/into 30s F,plant closer to June 1st.

5. Avoid the bargain transplants

While potentially a good deal, the plant may not be able to recover when transplanted outside.


-Grant McCarty

Local Foods and Small Farms Extension Educator

Facebook: Northwest Illinois Local Foods



Farmers Market Series: Working with Vendors https://web.extension.illinois.edu/jsw/eb362/entry_13108/ Fri, 05 Jan 2018 08:37:00 +0000 https://web.extension.illinois.edu/jsw/eb362/entry_13108/ The winter time is opportune to not only plan your farmers market but recruit vendors. It's important to have a game plan in place for how you will be pursuing and recruiting vendors. If you have a committee of stakeholders, you may find that some of these members may want to be vendors. These individuals may also know of others who could be vendors.

Get the word out. Let community members know that you are starting a new farmers market. See if there are any community events in your area where you can man a booth in order to recruit vendors. You may also find that facebook/social media, newspapers, and in-person are routes you can go.

Sell your market. Vendors are taking a risk with your market especially if this is the first year or there are other famers markets in the area. Because you may not know how many visitors will come to your market, let the vendor know what marketing efforts you will be doing. This can include:

"we will be marketing the farmers market by…."

"we are partnering with these events…"

"our email list of _____ receives notice about the farmers market"

"every other market is a special event and we promote it by…"

If the vendor is on the fence, are you able to address it? This must be within your means. For example, you might give new vendors a discount for their first year.

Pursue an "anchor tenant". Just like malls and shopping centers have anchor tenants, see if you can have an anchor vendor. Is there a grower/local foods entrepreneur that you know will be a big draw on a weekly basis and in turn will attract foot traffic to other vendors? At one farmers market I assisted with, a local dairy scooped ice cream. Other anchor vendors could be restaurants, bakeries, kids museums, etc.

Offer CSA Farm Drop Off Space. Many CSA farms are looking for a drop off location. If you can offer them a booth and even an extension of their farm, this might help other vendors at your market.

Work out the community booth space too! Nonprofits, school groups, and others should be pursued. They may also have ideas of farmers in the area that will want to be a part of your market.

Vendor Contracts

You should have a vendor contract. This contract should list the rules of the market, your expectations as marker manager, their expectations of market, definition of different vendors,

Drafting the vendor contract. Look to other markets, work with your farmers market association, reach out to companies that offer a website online where your vendors can go. Depending on how your market is set up, you may need to work with a lawyer. Especially if you are holding a farmers market on behalf of a city, business, or other nonprofit entity.

Setting weekly fees. There are not clear guidelines on what fees to charge. Some will charge a standard of $5-15 per week. Others will have a 10-12 week season of $150-200. Most areas in Illinois have farmers markets and these tend to set the limit of what you can charge. Different fees for different vendors is also common.

If you are going above and beyond in marketing/location/foot traffic/events, then you may be able to increase this fees.

Ask for proof of liability insurance, organic certification, state/local licenses. These should be seen and even on file if need be. If they are selling products labeled as organic, you should ask to see this certification.

To visit or not visit? There are some markets that have a clause in their contract that requires a visit to the actual farm. This is usually done before the start of the season and is a way for the manager to make sure that what the grower is growing, they are actually growing. To include this in yours will be based on the size of your community. Many markets know their growers/vendors very well and the visit clause is added to markets where communities are rather large.

Cleanliness standards You will regret not putting standards in place. Cleanliness standards can help you ensure that vendors have a vendor space that is clean and free of trash. Adding to this policy can include restricting vendors from bringing pets or live animals. Depending on where you are located smoking policies may already be in place especially if it is a park or public area. If it is a private area, you may need to look more into this policy. One final piece of cleanliness standard could be related to diseased produce. While imperfect produce can be expected, I have seen some farmers markets deal with vendors bringing in severely diseased produce and try to sell it. Having a produce standard in place may keep this from being a problem.

Add pieces that will help you if things go south. A vendor is always late. A vendor sells a product that is illegal (like wild mushrooms). A vendor does not stay the full time. Add pieces that will help you address problems before they arise.

Allow vendors day of? While accepting vendors the day of can work okay if you are a small market, you run the risk that your market is used as a space for farms to get rid of produce at low prices thereby making your standard vendors upset.

Half-Season for Growers. In Northern Illinois, spring and summer produce doesn't pick up until mid-June. Some farmers markets will offer a half-season option for growers from mid-June to Labor Day (or another iteration). If you do this, your vendor fee should reflect this.

-Grant McCarty and Nikki Keltner]]>
Farmers Market Series: Type of Market and Location https://web.extension.illinois.edu/jsw/eb362/entry_13080/ Thu, 21 Dec 2017 11:37:00 +0000 https://web.extension.illinois.edu/jsw/eb362/entry_13080/ All farmers markets look different. When you factor in time, day of week, location, customers, vendors, and other parameters, a farmers market's purpose and type will be transformed. While your market may have similar vendors as other markets, your location and purpose will unique.

Try early on to determine the type of market you will be. If your market is to provide the community with a gathering space and also sell produce, then lead with that. If your market is to be a place that customers can get in and get out, then make that your type. I've sold at farmers markets where my customers came for produce and left 10 minutes later. I've also sold at farmers markets where my customers remained for 3-4 hours.

How can you differentiate your market? Is it regional produce only? Will your market have no craft vendors? Will you have kids' activities every week? Will there be a community booth for nonprofits? Will you have a breakfast deal every week? Through all of this, work with your county health department to help guide you in understanding what your potential vendors may run into.

Accept that you may not be a "farmers only" farmers market. There are only so many farmers in a given area. Having a ratio to start the season can be useful. You could say that you will have 4 farmers per 1 craft vendor or 2 value added stands per 3 farmers. A mixture of farmers, crafts, baked goods, food trucks, and other local food entrepreneurs can be beneficial in increasing the foot traffic but also having customers linger.

Location and visibility is crucial for a successful farmers market. As most markets can attest, the closer to people the better. This may mean your market is on the campus of a large employer in town. Your market may be downtown where there is always foot traffic. Your market may be in the parking lot of a busy shopping center where there is a lot of car traffic.

Consider the ease of vendors to get to and unload their booth. Consider also how easy it will be for customers to walk to or park at the market. Signage can sometimes overcome the visibility issue but it may be hard to do if there are other challenges your market is dealing with.

Address parking challenges…and perceived parking challenges early on. Sometimes communities want a farmers market downtown but there is an impression that there is no parking and/or hard to find a parking space. Even if you think parking is not an issue, customers may think it is. There are solutions, which can include working with the local municipality to offer free parking for the first hour or free parking during the farmers market. If you are doing this, make this a part of your marketing material.

Other location needs may include:

Restroom Access

Electricity for vendors

Internet connectivity

Hand-washing station

Shade/sun/wind protection

Liability Insurance/Other policy insurance

Vendors may need electricity for what they are selling. Many of them are also using card readers in order to sell their produce and could benefit from internet connectivity. Depending on your location, you may need a much more robust insurance/liability policy that the market covers. Much of that will be based on where the market is located. A city owned parking lot vs. a privately owned shopping center may have different insurance policy needs.

Finally, I would suggest a location you can control. It is inevitable that you might be dealing with a problem during the farmers market season. This could be a group of disorderly visitors to the market or dogs/pets being brought in. Are you able to put into place farmers market rules that allow you to control a problem that arises? The more public a space is, the less control you may have.


Grant McCarty and Nikki Keltner

Farmers Market Series: Time, Day of Week, and Season https://web.extension.illinois.edu/jsw/eb362/entry_13019/ Fri, 01 Dec 2017 13:45:00 +0000 https://web.extension.illinois.edu/jsw/eb362/entry_13019/ Now that you've decided that there is a need for a farmers market in your area, you now need to consider elements that can make or break your market. Time, day of week, and length of the farmers market season are crucial to a farmers market being successful and robust.

In most cases, a 3 hour farmers market is a common one that we see.It won't take up a whole day for vendors to be there. You are able to staff it appropriately. It can led into events before or after the market. Whatever length you decide on farmers market, factor in an hour before and after. This will not only be the farmers market manager's commitment but also vendors. If you decide you want your farmers market to be 3 hours, this will mean that it becomes a 5-7 hour commitment.

The earlier your farmers market starts will mean the earlier the vendor's day starts too. Many crops need to be harvested the day of, and this will mean a long day for a vendor.

Timing should also be dictated by your expected customers. If you are wanting to attract families, a farmers market during the day might work. For workers ending their day, a late afternoon/early evening may work better. If you want food trucks, a market leading into lunch might be good. If you are wanting people to come downtown to shop and also eat out, a farmers market in the evening might work. In Northern Illinois, we have seen farmers markets at many different times. Much of the timing comes back to the cities and towns they are located in.

No day of the week works best for a farmers market.Much of it will depend on your objectives. If you want people to come to your downtown, a market on Monday should be avoided since restaurants/shops will be closed. If you are working for a village/city, you might choose to have a farmers market on a Saturday when there is free parking. Maybe you tie your farmers market into other events happening during the week. A farmers market that follows a Wednesday event?

Avoid the dueling farmers market if you can. Placing your farmers market on the same day as another established market in the area may be hard for you to compete for vendors and customers. It may hurt all involved if you decide to hold your market the same day as it might mean splitting the customer base. There are some farmers markets in bigger cities where they can hold them on the same day and there is enough distance for this to work. In smaller communities, this isn't always the case.

Ask potential vendors what day they would like. You may find that they need another day to sell their produce which can help decide the day of the week.

Most farmers market seasons are dictated by the growing season to determine their length.In Northern Illinois, this means that farmers markets run from mid-May to November 1st. How often to then hold the market during this time is up to you. For a first year market, you might decide once a month or every other week before leading up to every week in your 2ndyear. A limited farmers market season can also be good the first year.

The health department may determine your market season too. License that certain vendors need may only cover a set amount of months. Starting and ending the farmers market during this period so as the vendor does not need another license may be what you have to do.

Once day of the week, time, and season are all established, spend some time thinking about what the commitment will look like before beginning promotion. Are you able to commit to this setup if that's your role in the farmers market? Will the time work for the customers you are wanting to attract? By planning now, you've got some time to consider if time/day/season will work for you and others. Once you've decided on these and you begin marketing the market, it can be hard to change them during the season and you'll need to wait until the season is over.

Next week, we'll continue the farmers market series

Nikki Keltner and Grant McCarty

Farmers Market Series: Determining the Need https://web.extension.illinois.edu/jsw/eb362/entry_12997/ Fri, 17 Nov 2017 15:19:00 +0000 https://web.extension.illinois.edu/jsw/eb362/entry_12997/ After visiting a number of farmers markets this past summer, you may find that you are now thinking about starting your own in your community. Many towns and civic groups want to start a farmers market. They see that it could spur economic development, provide community pride and awareness, bring attention to the local foods community, among many other things it can do.

Starting a farmers market though is not always easy. This should not be a "build it and they will come" but build it because you are addressing the need. Sometimes this need is that there are many restaurants/businesses that could use a farmers market to connect with farmers. Your market could also provide "incubator space" for food trucks and value added products. In fact, sometimes the long-term growth in businesses have started through a farmers market.

To first determine if there is a need, plan for a winter farmers market. These one-time events can be what help you realize if there is a need for a farmers market in your community. By testing the waters, this can allow you to find individuals who are interested in being a part of your market and creating a group of stakeholders that can help your market be a success. You still have time to get this off the ground this winter.

From this successful event, you might then plan for your spring farmers market. It is very hard to get a farmers market going in the spring if you start working on it in late march. Planning a farmers market should begin now and you can spend the winter meeting, planning, and marketing your farmers market.

You should also consider what your commitment is. If you work for a city/village, you might find that part of your job can be to setup a farmers market for your community. If you are a community member who will be purchasing at the farmers market, your role might be to help market/sell this farmers market. It's important early on to know what role you can play and what role you cannot play.

Strong and robust farmers markets have committees to guide the market as it develops and throughout its duration. These committees can include team members such as farmers, businesses, city officials, nonprofits, downtown development groups, and others. Try to balance out this group as too much of one can sometimes push the farmers market in a direction you may have not envisioned. The purpose of this initial group can be in guiding the setup of the markets and general logistics. Overtime, the committee can offer valuable feedback in the direction the market can go.

Your committee can help give your farmers market a mission statement. Within this mission statement, you might state that your farmers market "provides local food entrepreneurs opportunities to grow their businesses" or "provide the community with locally grown and raised food". By having a mission statement early on, this will lead to a more successful farmers market since you have a mission to lead you forward on. It can also help guide you when it comes to changes that happen in years to come.

Logos can sell your farmers market story. A logo can identify your farmers markets from others in the area and provide community members with a greater idea of the story you are wanting to sell them. This logo might incorporate area landmarks, produce, meat, and other items. The logo could be something that you revisit in a couple years once your market has gotten off the ground.

One final piece in the beginning stages of the farmers market you are planning is to go ahead and identify who you hope your customer is going to be. This should be narrow. The customer you envision coming to the farmers market may be a "stay at home parent with young children who is looking for local and sustainable produce". This customer could also be "young professionals who value local food". In both of those examples, you already see that having a customer in mind will guide your decision in the hours, day of the week, and physical location of the farmers marker you set up.

Next week, we'll talk more about setting up your farmers market.

Grant McCarty, Local Foods and Small Farms Educator,  and Nikki Keltner, Program Coordinator