Urban Farming Options:Vegetable Grafting

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Grafting Flyer

The next class in the Urban Farming Options Series, Vegetable Grafting, is next Thursday, June 19, 2014, here in beautiful downtown Fort Worth at the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension office in the Tarrant Plaza Building. After Dr. Masabni’s live webinar which will begin at 9:00 am, we will have plants and supplies handy to try our hands at tomato grafting. You will be able to take your grafted plants home and evaluate their performance. We should be finished by lunch time, but morning snacks and coffee will be provided.

Register online at https://agriliferegister.tamu.edu/Tarrant
Register by phone: 979-845-2604

Grafted vegetables, especially tomatoes, have been a hot topic in horticultural production and even in the national media:

TRWD Green Industry Drought Meeting Report

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now panic and freak out
On Friday May 24, 2013, Tarrant Regional Water District Conservation Program Managers Dean Minchillo and Mark Olson hosted a meeting to provide information to and get input from the Green Industry regarding upcoming irrigation restrictions. They really might want to consider having a few more of these meetings as a drought avoidance strategy because we did have a nice rain Friday afternoon.

Twenty-nine people attended the meeting.  Eleven worked in golf, five for political subdivisions, five for the Fort Worth Botanic Garden (it was convenient!) and that leaves me and seven other people to represent the rest of the green industry.

 2013 is looking a lot more like 2011 than 2012, and Stage 1 restrictions are scheduled to go into effect on Monday, June 3rd,  as lake levels drop below 75%. The west fork lakes, Lake Bridgeport and Eagle Mountain Lake, are already at 61%.  Here’s a quick review of Stage 1:

Outdooring watering is limited to this twice per week schedule:

  • Monday–no landscape watering (this is traditionally a peak water use day–no one quite know the reason)
  • Tuesday and Friday–non-residential locations (this does include apartments, which are residential, but special)
  • Wednesday and Saturday–Residences with addresses ending in even numbers
  • Thursday and Sunday–Residences with addresses ending in odd numbers

This includes golfcourses, parks, sports fields, etc, but large properties who can’t reasonably make it through all their irrigation zones on their designated days can apply for a variance.  Each zone can be irrigated no more than two times per week.  Fort Worth water customers can call Jimmy Burgdorf at 817-392-8740 to request  a variance.  Previously granted variances are no longer valid.

There are exceptions to the restrictions.  Supervised testing, repair, or maintenance of a sprinkler system may be done at any time.  There is a 30 day variance to the restrictions for newly installed landscapes.  Daily watering for 30 days is technically allowed but of course not encouraged.  Golf greens and tees can be watered every day.

The target reduction in water use in Stage 1 is 5%.  That might or might not be achieved this time since year to date use is down about 7% from normal thanks to the regular, though not about average, precipitation we’ve had so far.  July and August are peak demand months. 

Stage 1 restrictions are all reasonable measures that might cause some inconvenience but that shouldn’t result in the loss of trees, turf, or landscape plants.  With the 30 day variance for new installations, no one should be afraid to plant if they need to. 

It’s more complicated as we move into Stages 2 and (heaven forbid!) 3.  The lake level triggers for those restrictions are 60% and 40% respectively.  One really significant thing Dean Minchillo said at the meeting was “The triggers are not changing.  The response could.” 

That’s why it is important to attend these meetings, even if you don’t think that they make it rain.

Here’s a slightly shorten version of Dean’s post meeting e-mail:

Thank you all for attending the TRWD drought meeting on the 24th at the Botanic Gardens.  We had a good group of industry representatives, although, I would have liked to see more landscaper/irrigator folks there. Regardless, the discussion was good and centered mostly around: variances, consumer education, and more use of technology. Below is a brief recap of the meeting, some action items as a result of the meeting, and a list of all who attended.

The golf course industry representatives expressed their desire to establish consistent methodology to measure a 5% reduction in water use. They also shared several ideas and methods to consider.  

Variances for new landscapes and large properties was a concern for several. Micah Reed from Fort Worth talked to the group about Fort Worth’s enforcement procedures and variance process answering a lot of questions and easing some concerns. Also noting that watering by hand, drip and soaker hose were not affected by the restrictions.

It was also mentioned that more should be done to educate home owners regarding proper irrigation scheduling and how much water to apply through run-time suggestions and/or evapotranspiration (ETo) rates. Also, the topic of recommending the use of more low volume irrigation equipment along with drip irrigation and soaker hoses.

Action items:

1. Have variance process/procedures included in the drought plans as well as contacts for addition information on variances.

2. Increase education to homeowners on the benefits of using drip and low volume irrigation and proper irrigation techniques and scheduling to meet twice weekly watering schedule

3. continue to work with the golf course community on defining reduction percentages and variance processes to meet the variety of golf courses and irrigation processes.

Dean’s contact information is:

Dean Minchillo ǀ LI#16715, Conservation Program Manager, Tarrant Regional Water District

P:  817.720.4368 ǀ C: 817.682.7370



Please do let him know what you think and thank him for asking.

Upcoming Programs for Urban Farmers

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Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Tarrant County Commercial Horticulture will be offering two great programs for urban farmers and those who are considering an urban farming enterprise in April.

Friday, April 12, 2013:
This program will feature an interactive webinar session with Dr. Joe Masabni, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Vegetable Specialist, entitled “Starting an Urban Farm.” After we discuss some of the challenges of our local resources, we’ll visit Gnismer Farm to see strawberry, asparagus and other spring vegetable production. Lynn and Cynthia Remsing will tell us about how they market their produce on and off the farm and show us some of the innovative ways they grow a lot on a few acres with limited man and woman power.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013:
Drs. Marco Palma and Francisco Abello, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Ag Economists, will be in town to offer their MarketReady program. This class addresses the market development risks and relationships small farmers and ranchers must manage as they seek to make supplier relationships with restaurants, grocery, wholesale and foodservice buyers. While significant opportunity exists to build on the demand for local products in local markets, many farmers are hesitant or unprepared to meet the transactional requirements required by these buyers to manage their own food safety, insurance, product quality, and traceability risks. MarketReady addresses these issues and seeks to educate and help our fabulous food suppliers succeed in today’s markets and continue to be profitable, in order to keep farming. The training is based around best business practices identified by buyers in these markets that are actively seeking to engage local suppliers. MarketReady will help farm vendors selling dairy, fruits, meats and vegetables design a better business strategy to succeed.

Urban Farming continues to grow in popularity around the country and in Tarrant County, demand for locally produced food is definitely great than supply. PennEnvironment has released a new study that outlines how sustainable farming benefits the environment, economy, and public health–and offers a blueprint of state policies to improve the food system. The report, Healthy Farms, Healthy Environment: State and Local Policies to Improve Pennsylvania’s Food System and Protect Our Land and Water (pdf) explains the myriad benefits of sustainable farming and offers policy solutions to take advantage of the growing consumer market for locally grown and organic products. The report identifies successful programs in other states and urges Pennsylvania’s legislators to bring their success to the Commonwealth, as well as calling on state officials to renew funding for and expand successful sustainable agriculture programs. Some of the finding of the report include: Organic growing methods have been shown to reduce polluted runoff and energy consumption in agriculture, while boosting the carbon content of soils, according to experiments at the Rodale Institute organic farm laboratory in Kutztown, Pennsylvania. Consumption of fresh, local food – as opposed to processed food or produce from halfway around the globe – can reduce the amount of energy used in preserving and transporting food. For example, farmers can grow and market fresh peas with 60 percent less energy than frozen peas, and 75 percent less energy than packaging peas in an aluminum can. Sustainable farming can also help farmers keep farmland in production, despite development pressure, by increasing farm income – thereby protecting open land and the valuable ecosystem services it provides.

Register online at https://agriliferegister.tamu.edu
Location Search: Fort Worth
Register by phone: 979-845-2604

IR-4 Survey

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The mission of IR-4, more formally know as Interregional Research Project #4, is to facilitate the registration of sustainable pest management technology for specialty crops and minor uses. Since all horticultural uses are minor in the big picture of pest management, IR-4 is instrumental in expanding labels to include ornamentals, fruits and vegetables.

The IR-4 team recently opened a new survey to help them focus their
research efforts on diseases, insects, and weeds. They will target those
diseases, insects, and weeds that impact crop production but do not have
enough, or any, good tools. The information garnered between now and
next August will be used at a workshop next fall to set research
priorities for 2014 & 2015.

You can complete the survey on line at

The survey only takes a few minutes–about 7 for me–and could help you solve your most difficult pest management problems.

EarthKind Landscape Short Course

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Professionals who manage residential landscapes, parks, commercial properties and golf courses are encouraged to attend the Earth-Kind Landscape Short Course Dec. 10-14 in College Station.
Experts including your own Laura Miller and lots of smarter speakers from the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service will address landscape issues at the five-day course at the G. Rollie White Visitor Center, 7707 Raymond Stotzer Parkway.
Continuing education credits will be offered. Registration is $575 prior to Nov. 23 and $675 thereafter. Single-day registration is available for $135 before Nov. 23 or $150 thereafter.
Topics include the principles of Earth-Kind landscape, basics of botany, lawn care basics and diagnostics and control of lawn problems. Also on the agenda is the identification and use of trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals, and the control of problem insects and weeds.
Participants will also hear about pruning, planting, transplanting, fertilization, mulching, soil testing, drip irrigation and rainwater harvesting. Landscape diseases, phytosanitation, tools to stay competitive in a tough economy, laws and regulations, and pesticide safety also will be discussed.
More information is available at http://greenviion.wordpress.com/earth-kind-education-events/

Texas Fruit and Nut Orchard Conference

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This one and one-half day educational program was developed for prospective and existing commercial fruit growers, hobby growers, master gardeners, and extension agents desiring training in basic orchard management, IPM, recommended fruit varieties, Earth-Kind practices, and fruit marketing. Pecans, high tunnel strawberries, figs, pomegranates, citrus and olives will be discussed on the all day Thursday and Friday half-day conference.
Participating speakers include: Larry Stein, Jim Kamas, Mark McFarland, Russ Wallace, David Appel, Sheila McBride, Allen Knutson, Sam Feagley, George Ray McEachern, and Monte Nesbitt. Dale Ham, Ham Orchards at Terrell, Texas, will discuss successful fruit marketing.
Registration is available online through Oct. 2, 2012 at https://agriliferegister.tamu.edu with registration fee of $75.00/person

Oklahoma Greenhouse Production Short Course June 20-21, 2012

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Click the link for more information about the Greenhouse Production Short Course featuring Steve Upson from the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation talking about hoop house production techniques and much more at the OSU-OKC (that’s Oklahoma State University-Oklahoma City, Texans) Horticulture Center.

Beekeeping Qualifies as an Agricultural Use Enterprise

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The new tax code change that now qualifies beekeeping as an agricultural use enterprise in Texas open-space land appraisals has generated a lot of interest, said Dr. Chris Sansone, Texas AgriLife Extension Service entomologist in San Angelo.
Sansone said that in a recent update, Deborah Cartwright, director of the Property Tax Assistance Division from the state comptroller’s office ( http://www.window.state.tx.us/ ), announced the Texas Legislature added beekeeping as another agricultural use for purposes of open-space land appraisal.

Tax Code Section 23.51(2) was amended to include in the definition of agricultural use “the use of land to raise or keep bees for pollination or for the production of human food or other tangible products having a commercial value, provided that the land used is not less than five or more than 20 acres.”
“The second option states that the food or products must have commercial value, not commercial production,” Sansone said. “While human food and products must be produced, the law does not require that they be sold commercially. Commercial production of agricultural products, such as livestock or crops, is not required for land to qualify for open-space land appraisal under current law. The other option requires that the land be used for raising or keeping bees for pollination.”
Sansone said the Texas Comptroller’s office recommended that each appraisal district consult their local AgriLife Extension office concerning the number of acres and hives needed to fulfill the requirement.
“A bee yard or apiary can be run on a pretty small scale,” he said. “Bees forage over a large area, sometimes well over a mile depending on available resources. Central Texas is not the optimum for beekeeping because of the lack of a consistent pollen and nectar source compared to the Houston/College Station areas. Sansone said the website:
http://www.ent.uga.edu/bees/pollination/managing-bees-pollination.html offers a good overview of managing bee populations.
“There may be some differences in how the different County Appraisal Districts apply the regulation, and I suspect that some burden may be on the property owner to justify the use of land for bee pollination and to show how the bees are an agricultural enterprise,” Sansone said. “Property owners should think about a landscape plan of the property that shows how different plants and plantings would contribute to the bees’ foraging. Property owners may also be required to provide a basic marketing plan on how honey, and related products such as beeswax candles, soaps, etc. could be sold. They may also discuss renting the hives for pollination services.”
Sansone said local appraisal districts will determine the number of hives that are required on a per-acre basis and other requirements for beekeeping as an agricultural enterprise.
Marvin Ensor, AgriLife Extension regional program director at San Angelo, said AgriLife Extension agents in Kerr, Hays, Blanco and Gonzales counties have already been contacted by their local tax appraisal offices, and he expects more counties will be contacted as news of the new code change spreads.
Sansone said Paul Jackson, chief apiary inspector for the state with the Texas Apiary Inspection Service, is an excellent resource person for local appraisal districts needing information. He can be reached at: http://tais.tamu.edu/ .

Horticulture Field Day at Henrietta Creek Orchard

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Denton County Horticulture Agent Janet Laminack and I, along with Steven Smith and Steve Upson of the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation and Ray and Sue Short at Henrietta Creek Orchard invite you to participate in a Field Day at the Orchard on Friday, April 20, 2012 from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm. This is a great year to look at fruit trees, and you can also see how they irrigate from their pond, learn about beekeeping, and just meet other farmers. Please let me know if you have any questions. Lunch will be provided and registration is available at

Do You Need Another Number?

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You might. Farmers, ranchers and timber operators who produce agricultural and timber products for sale will need a special registration number to claim sales tax exemption on purchased taxable products used for their operations beginning Jan. 1.

The registration number was made a requirement by House Bill 268, which passed in the recent legislative session. The new registration process has implications for agricultural producers. 

“While purchases of feed and seed are not subject to sales tax, it is important that agricultural producers obtain an identification number because many of the inputs required for production of crops and livestock are subject to sales tax,” said Dr. Larry Falconer, Texas AgriLife Extension Service economist in Corpus Christi. “Being ineligible for the sales tax exemption would cause a sizable increase in cost of production.”

Producers can get a registration number through either a mail-in application or an online application.

The application for a registration number should take less than 10 minutes to complete, according to the comptroller’s office. Online registration is available at GetReadyTexas.org, Online applicants will receive a registration number immediately.

Commercial Horticulture Program Advisory Committee member Sue Short at Herietta Creek Orchard applied online yesterday.  “The process was quick and easy.  It took me longer to make copies for the truck, my purse, the desk and all the places we thought we might need it.”

A paper application may be downloaded from the website or call 800-252-5555 to receive a form by mail.

“Beginning Jan. 1, anyone who wants to claim the agriculture or timber sales tax exemptions for qualifying products will need a registration number to show retailers instead of simply signing an exemption certificate at the time of purchase,” Comptroller Susan Combs said in a statement. “The new registration process takes the burden off retailers to verify whether a purchaser is eligible for exemption. And it narrows the pool of purchasers claiming the sales tax exemption to those actually involved in production of agriculture and timber products for sale.”

For agricultural producers, the new legislation will affect many purchases of particular items used in production of commodities. The new legislation requires a registration number to claim tax exemptions when buying items such as machinery and equipment, fertilizers, insecticides, irrigation equipment, and off-road motor vehicles used for farming and timber production. Those entitled to make tax-free purchases of taxable qualifying products include :

– farmers and ranchers who raise agricultural products to sell to others;

– fish farmers and beekeepers who sell the products they raise;

– custom harvesters;

– crop dusters;

– commercial nurseries engaged in fostering growth of plants for sale;

– timber producers, including contract lumberjacks.

The primary owner or operator of a farm, ranch or timber operation may receive one registration number that can be used by anyone authorized by the registrant – including family members or employees – to make tax exempt purchases of qualifying products for the business.