Summer on the Mississippi Demo Farm

Look closely and you can see all those baby grasshoppers on a pepper plant.

After a busy spring of preparations, demonstration farm manager Sam Humphrey got to enjoy the satisfaction of a harvest this week.  He picked the first of his crop of banana peppers and says they tasted delicious!  He is closely watching the tomatoes as they set fruit and the other varieties of peppers he planted, anticipating an abundance of bell peppers, jalapenos, and habaneros later in the summer.

Getting this far hasn’t been easy, though.  The farm has seen big storms with high winds as well as a slew of insect pests.  A big storm in the middle of June tore holes in the hoop house and damaged some tomato and pepper plants inside.

Insect pests threatened to do extensive damage, but Sam has been able to control them using various organic methods.  When aphids threatened his crops, he released 3,000 ladybugs, which feasted on the aphids until the population was under control.  Grasshoppers have been prolific as well, but regular applications of neem oil to the plants make the leaves unpalatable for the insects, and they leave them alone.

The first of the peppers at NCAT’s Mississippi demo farm.

Outside the hoop house, Sam continues to transform a two-acre field of rye grass into 150 raised beds for future vegetable growth.  He is preparing the soil and will add mulch and install drip irrigation to these beds once they are formed.  A crew of volunteers also started constructing the deer fence that will encircle this area of the farm to keep all the carefully tended vegetables safe.  We look forward to sharing more news from the demonstration farm as Sam continues through the growing season.