Published on 07/12/12

Twilight tour of the University of Georgia's organic farm slated for July 19

By Merritt Melancon

Farmers, gardeners and anyone who wants to know more about where their food comes from should make plans to attend the inaugural Organic Twilight Tour of the University of Georgia’s organic research and demonstration farm in Watkinsville, Ga.

“Even with the heat, production and related research projects will be in full swing.” said Julia Gaskin, sustainable agricultural coordinator at the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

The Durham Horticulture Farm, at 1221 Hog Mountain Road in Watkinsville, will be open for tours of the organic growing operation from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on July 19.

The open house will also be a chance for farmers and gardeners to learn about some of the newest research being conducted at the farm.

Researchers and students will give talks on disease control in squash and cucumber plants, the farm’s tomato variety trials, summer cover crops and their benefits, as well as tips on growing summer vegetables and sweet corn. There also will be information available about the university’s certificate program in organic agriculture.

The organic farm is used to provide hands-on learning for students in the organic agriculture certificate program. This past spring you could find students working with Robert Tate, the organic farm manager, weeding or transplanting lettuce from the back of a tractor. These experiences compliment what students learn in the classroom and give them the basic knowledge of growing vegetables.

The farm also hosts several research projects, including one led by UGA Extension vegetable specialist George Boyhan. Boyhan is trying to develop a profitable cool-season vegetable rotation for Georgia farmers. Cool-season vegetables, such as onions, broccoli and strawberries, have less pest and disease problems. The study includes rotating these vegetables with summer cover crops that can help reduce weed and nematode problems as well as supply nitrogen.

Miguel Cabrera, a professor of crop and soil sciences, and graduate student Lisa Woodruff are working on another project predicting nitrogen release from cover crops to benefit cash crops such as clover. Knowing the nitrogen release rates of cover crops is critical for growers who want to minimize their off-farm input costs while they maintain good crop yields.

The program will be beneficial for sustainable producers who may want to brush up on the latest research, but it will also be interesting for non-growers who are just curious about organic farming practices.

"I think that all farmers might be interested in the program, and I think the public might be interested in seeing how their vegetables and produce are grown," Gaskin said.

The event is co-sponsored by the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Department of Horticulture and the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education.

For more information about sustainable agriculture at UGA’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences visit For more information about the open house, email Gaskin at

Merritt Melancon is a public relations manager with UGA's Terry College of Business and previously served as a public relations coordinator for the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and UGA Extension.

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