This week on the farm I had to apply some pesticides to remove some caterpillars and aphids from some of the plants on site. The aphids tend to be on the plum trees on the underside of the leaves. So in order to remove these harmful pests we use a plant extract called neem oil. This is combined with water and sprayed on the underside of the leaves to prevent more aphids from harming our plants and reproducing. To make the spray linger longer we use ThermX, which is derived from yucca plants. So far the results have been promising and the problem seems to be subsiding for now. Aphids are a common problem in Florida and are indicated by the presence of ants on plants they normally do not inhabit.
We also have several passion fruit vines that grow around the farm on various fences and trees. However, these fast growing fruit vines are a favorite treat of caterpillars in the area. So combat this infestation we used some organic pesticide specifically designed for caterpillars called BT or Thuricide. This is a toxic concentrate made from bacteria that eliminates the caterpillars naturally. I generally add a tablespoon of the liquid to a gallon of water in the mister and go around the farm spraying the leaves and stalks. This organic pesticide has shown real promise, but the only downside is that compared to inorganic pesticides it needs to be applied more often. I took a picture before and a couple weeks after I sprayed the thuricide and the results are amazing. The first picture is before the thuricide and the second one is 7 weeks after spraying. In the space between the large branches of the tree you can see the passion fruit extended higher up the tree. This vine is our largest on the farm and it has a height of nearly 10 feet.
Additionally, this week we have also made progress on our chicken coop with the help of some volunteers and community members. The trusses have been completed and have been attached to the roof of the structure. The next step is enclosing the space and purchasing the chickens. We plan to use the chickens for farm fresh eggs, this is a much more sustainable option than harvesting chickens for their meat without sacrificing protein. The chickens will also provide feces that we will convert into fertilizer for the farm or to sell. This organic alternative reduces waste on the farm and focuses on closed loop life cycles. The picture below we see farmer Bob and some volunteers assisting with the construction of our coop. As you can see we are nearly complete and this will make the farm more sustainable.
As the weeks go by I continue to learn new and exciting things that will help me with my plans for the future. I hope to one day have my own farm and produce my own food. Additionally, this internship will make my resume more desirable in the field I would like to pursue a career in.