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A guide for small-scale organic vegetable farmers in the Rocky Mountain region


The steady growth over the last twenty-five years in the organic agriculture sector has been paralleled by growth in the number of farmers' markets and community-supported agriculture (CSA) operations, reflecting increased consumer interest in "buying locally". Small organic farms represent the core of the local growers involved and invested in this trend in Colorado and yet have had little research to direct or support their forays into organic agriculture. Agricultural research focusing on organic systems and the challenges in soil fertility management, pest and disease management, and plant breeding appropriate for organic production has lagged. The research in organic production that has been done in the US has occurred largely on the east and west coasts and upper Midwest where climatic conditions are different from that of the arid, inter-mountain west. In 2002 the Horticulture and Landscape Architecture Department at Colorado State University initiated the Specialty Crops Program, and soon after the Rocky Mountain Small Organic Farm Project (RMSOFP) was established to address issues relevant to small-scale organic farmers in Colorado and the region. Within this context a prototypic small organic farm was developed on certified organic land at the Horticulture Field Research Center (HFRC) neat Ft. Collins, Colorado. A variety of research projects have been undertaken ranging from cultivar trials of vegetables, to evaluations of phytochemicals of vegetables grown on organic and conventional plots. This production guide for small-scale organic farmers provides a basis for future research, education, and outreach efforts that can be made available to farmers, extension workers, teachers and students. It is a comprehensive production guide for small-scale organic farmers in the climatic zones similar to those found in Colorado. Topics included are: soil fertility management, tillage, irrigation, and pest management. Detailed production recommendations for melons, tomatoes, spinach and lettuce are presented, with cultivar trial results of melons, tomatoes and spinach. Fifteen organic vegetable farmers from Colorado were interviewed about their production practices, and their comments are included.


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organic vegetables
pest management
Rocky Mountain Region
soil fertility
vegetable production


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