[Image: Kiki Fontenot]
[Image: plastic covers]
News Release Distributed 10/29/13
BATON ROUGE, La. – About 50 people wanting to improve their vegetable gardening skills participated in the New and Beginning Vegetable Farm Training at the LSU AgCenter Botanic Gardens at Burden on Oct. 23.
LSU AgCenter gardening specialist Kiki Fontenot hosted the group along with Southern University agent Chris Robichaux.
“What we try to do is provide training for extension agents and growers who are interested in learning some new skills in production or marketing,” Fontenot said. “We are having more people lately wanting to become involved in small vegetable operations.”
Fontenot and Robichaux serve as representatives of the Louisiana Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program. This is the second SARE training seminar held this year, Fontenot said. The first training was on forage and fruit crops.
Each state has a SARE program, Fontenot said. It can cover a wide variety of operations, but it mainly deals with the small operations.
“You won’t see cotton, sugarcane or any of the big crops represented,” she said. “We’re dealing mainly with people who want to raise chickens or maybe they are retiring and want to do part-time vegetable gardening.”
Fontenot said the next big event for growers and agents is the SARE-sponsored Southern Agriculture Working Group meeting in Mobile, Ala., that brings in agents and growers from across the South.
“Agents, growers and specialists are invited to go to the meeting,” she said. “We’ll have scholarships to get you there if you want to go.”
Southern University county agent Terrence Marshall said he works with small farmers and home gardeners in East Baton Rouge Parish.
“We have more people interested in backyard gardening and small projects like that. But we also work with some farmers who have cattle and other animal operations. A meeting like this provides some good information they can take home and put to use immediately,” Marshall said.
Marshall said more people are wanting to sell goods at farmers markets, and he wants to have the latest information to answer their questions.
Andrew Loyd, LSU AgCenter horticulture agent in Orleans Parish, said he is seeing more people wanting to learn about producing vegetables.
“Many of the operations in Orleans Parish are small. But some of them are selling their produce, so that puts them in the commercial category,” Loyd said.
B.J. Andrews, of Baton Rouge, said since he retired, he is operating a five-acre vegetable operation, along with 10 acres that he uses to run a small herd of cattle.
“Right now we’re raising broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, collard greens, Chinese cabbage, okra and turnips,” Andrews said.
Andrews said he grew up in South Carolina, where his family had a garden. He thought he would never be involved in gardening again because it is hard work.
“My wife always had a small garden – three or four rows. And I started helping her out. When I retired I just expanded the garden,” Andrews said.
The workshop consisted of indoor classroom sessions and a tour of the research area at the Botanic Gardens where participants saw various pieces of equipment used in vegetable operations.
Fontenot let the group know that a large acreage is not a requirement to be successful in the vegetable business.
“We have people right in the middle of Baton Rouge who want to get involved in growing vegetables, and we want to help them learn to do it right,” she said.