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Hand harvest of sweet potatoes in a biointensive market garden

November 19, 2008

Connie Lemley operates a 1-acre market garden north of Frankfort, Kentucky. She sells her salad greens at the Frankfort farmers’ market.

Connie is very aware of the high energy use typical of conventional farming systems in North America, and works hard to use less energy-intensive production methods. Apart from a small roto-tiller that she has used to break new ground, she farms entirely with hand tools. She has built up soils with a very high organic matter content through repeated fall applications of horse manure. The most energy-intensive part of her system is bringing her produce to market, which she does with a diesel station wagon that runs on french fry grease from local restaurants. Somewhat dissatisfied with the amount of energy needed to get back-and-forth to town, she is considering buying a large lot in Frankfort where she can continue farming within cycling distance of the farmers’ market.

Connie has been keeping track of all of the inputs used in her sweet potato production system so that we can compare her real-life biointensive production system to the experimental biointensive plots we have established at the Kentucky State University Research Farm. She planted and harvested her sweet potatoes within a few days of us. I visited her farm on harvest day to collect a little video footage.

Michael Bomford provides research and extension services related to organic agriculture and small-scale renewable energy production through Kentucky State University’s Land Grant Program.

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