John Biernbaum is a professor in the Department of Horticulture at Michigan State University. He has spent most of his career working with farmers to develop practical solutions to the challenges faced by small-scale organic farmers, with research into high tunnels, compost production, organic transplants, intensive vegetable production, and organic soil management.
We dig into the economics and practicalities of worm compost, including methods for low-input, low-energy worm composting through the winter. And we take a look at how farmers can do a better job of transplant production by optimizing the greenhouse environment and developing a transplant production action plan.
I’ve worked with John in a variety of capacities for about fifteen years now, and I am always impressed with the practical, farmer-focused approach he takes to research and teaching.
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Quotes from the Show
[To make change, don’t] spend too much time trying to fight or change something, just show something that’s different.
In normal farming, we’re constantly harvesting and extracting nutrients form the soil, so we have to get those back there. But there’s a lot of material that’s coming off the land that could go back on the land.
[referring to food scraps] that’s not waste, that’s residue, that just needs to be recycled.
A compost pile is really exciting to me, but it’s not exciting to other people. When you add the worms, it’s sexier, it’s got more flash to it.
North Farm, Michigan State University’s farm on the Upper Peninsula.
John Biernbaum’s horticulture department page has an extensive collection of resources on high tunnel production, transplant production, worm compost, and more.
John was recently elected board chair for the Michigan Organic Food and Farm Alliance (MOFFA), where he is working with others to organize the Michigan Organic Intensives on March 10 on the MSU campus.
John will be at the Missouri Organic Association Conference on Thursday February 4 to do an all-day high tunnel session.
And he’ll be at the Northern Michigan Small Farms Conference on January 30 doing a session on High Tunnel Crop Selection and Scheduling and a session on Soil Management for High tunnels.
I talked about using a beneficial insect blend from Hydro Gardens == to inoculate our transplant house against aphids and other problem insects.
John says that what he would do better as a beginning farmer is to wear better ear protection. I’ll make a plug for these noise-isolating ear buds for hearing protection and the ability to listen to the podcast at the same time.