Building the perfect beet: Seed to Kitchen brings chefs, farmers and plant breeders to the table

Solveig Hanson wants to make a flavor wheel for beets.

As she described it on Wednesday morning to a group of 10 local chefs, the wheel would resemble a flavor wheel for wine, with axes for earthiness and sweetness branching out into more detailed descriptors.FOREQUARTER

Hanson, a plant breeder and researcher at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, wants to answer an important question for famers who grow the beets and the chefs who buy them: What makes a Badger Flame different from a Chioggia or a Touchstone Gold, other than color? And if chefs could choose qualities in a beet, what would they pick?

“I’m excited to see what people come up with,” Hanson said quietly as chefs set to work, blind tasting eight kinds of beets at the Forequarter bar.

Read the complete article found in the Capital Times: 

 

 

Ancient Method Helps Feed Present-Day Communities

In remote villages and rural towns from Guatemala to Costa Rica, horticulture professor James Nienhuis and his former grad student Erick Gutiérrez MS’17 are improving countless lives, one tomato seedling at a time. Their goal is to combat the region’s agricultural afflictions (viruses and soil pathogens) to ease the hardships of growing food and earning a living. They’re doing this with a technique older than the ruins of Tikal.

The roots of the initiative go back about eight years when Nienhuis established Seeds of Hope with a USAID grant. His goal was to combat the whitefly-transmitted geminivirus in Central America by developing genetically resistant cultivars that are still beautiful and flavorful.

Erick Gutiérrez teaches grafting to farmers in the small Guatemalan village of San José Sigüila. Photos: Brenda Dawson, UC Davis

Erick Gutiérrez teaches grafting to farmers in the small Guatemalan village of San José Sigüila. Photos: Brenda Dawson, UC Davis

Nienhuis produced the cultivars he needed to withstand the virus, but other soil pathogens — fungal, bacterial, and parasitic — continued to spoil tomato crops, slashing yields and decreasing the income and nutrition levels among the rural poor.

“Ralstonia (a bacterial wilt) kills the plant once symptoms develop. It causes serious yield losses,” says Gutiérrez, a native of Honduras. “It is very hard to eradicate.”

Matthew Kleinhenz PhD ’96, Nienhuis’ former student, asked if he had tried grafting as a possible solution. Seeing merit in the idea, Nienhuis shifted focus and launched a new program called Seedlings of Hope. The idea was to unite the upper portions (scions) of his virus-resistant cultivars with soil pathogen-resistant rootstocks. Solanum habrochaites, a wild tomato plant that thrives in diseased soil, was a prime candidate to serve as the rootstock.

Please continue reading this story on the Grow magazine website.

2018 Study Abroad Program in Guatemala

UW Community-Based Learning and Sustainable Food Systems in Guatemala offers academics in the areas of Horticulture, Sociology, Environmental Studies, and more. Gain an in-depth understanding of different food systems on a local and global scale.
Develop cultural competency by participating in a community-based project, addressing a community-identified need. Explore the indigenous cultures of Guatemala by interacting with the residents of San Marcos La Laguna.
PROGRAM DETAILS:
• Earn 2 credits of Horticulture 375 or 2 credits of Nutritional Sciences 421.
• Contrast farming and consumer practices in Wisconsin and in Guatemala.
• Contribute to communities locally and internationally by engaging in community-based learning.
• Fulfills the Undergraduate Certificate in Global Health field experience requirement.

Deadline is December 1, 2017.  Program Details

Hort Department Graduate Develops Edible Campus Garden Program

A note from Jessica Kemper, 2014 grad

I wanted to reach out and share a new event happening at the University of Utah!

I graduated in 2014 with a horticulture degree from UW-Madison and am delighted to share that I’ve been working on developing the Edible Campus Garden program situated in the University of Utah Office of Sustainability.

Most recently, our Produce Pickup has been a huge hit! Thanks to inspiration from FH King and their Harvest Handouts and the Campus Food Shed (which I hope we can start to move towards) we’ve begun, on a small scale, to get free and fresh produce into students hands. So far there have been three Produce Pickups and we’ve donated about 50 lbs. of produce a week which has served about 20-25 students. We have a fairly small garden and also sell our produce to restaurants on campus and at the University Farmers Market. The program’s goal is to place 300+ pounds of produce grown on campus into students hands. Got to start somewhere!

I also wanted to share a bit of gratitude for the education I received at UW-Madison, and that the mission is being shared. I am so thankful to find myself in a position where I am making a difference, and I couldn’t do it without my experience at UW!  

Here is a brief story featured in the universities newsletter this week: @theU

Campus Food Sheds Stocked With Research Excess

Hannah DePorter

UW-Madison student Hannah DePorter stocks a refrigerator in the university’s Student Activity Center with vegetables grown for campus research projects. DePorter founded an initiative called the Campus Food Shed that aims to find a better use for the surplus produce faculty and students grow as part of their agriculture research. Photo by John Hart, State Journal

When Hannah DePorter’s plant breeding and genetics lab at UW-Madison grows beets, only a fraction of what the students harvest winds up being used for research.

Some of the rest goes to local food pantries and to students such as DePorter, who takes beets home to cook and give to friends. But there’s always plenty left over.

“So many of the beets were left in the field to compost,” she said.

DePorter, who will be a senior this fall, wants to change that, so she has started a new program that aims to address twin problems: The food waste that occurs when researchers in agriculture programs throw out or compost the excess produce they grow and the food insecurity that leaves some low-income college students hungry.

Her solution is called the Campus Food Shed, and it will take the form of four refrigerators stationed around UW-Madison that will be stocked with left-over produce for anyone who needs or wants free, nutritious and locally grown fruits and vegetables.

The first location opened in the Student Activity Center on Friday.

In an interesting juxtaposition, the refrigerator sits right next to a bank of vending machines — giving students a choice, DePorter said, between “fresh vegetables for free” and “processed foods that cost money.”

There should be plenty of produce to supply the refrigerators. The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences alone has a dozen research stations around Wisconsin where faculty grow crops. F.H. King Students for Sustainable Agriculture, a campus group DePorter is a member of, also has a two-acre plot, and researchers grow produce on space they rent from private farms as well.

The needs of research projects vary, said Irwin Goldman, a professor in the Department of Horticulture, but in some cases they only require half of what fields produce, if not less.

Without a formal system for what’s left over, researchers often just leave piles of free produce on tables in the halls of the Horticulture Building, Goldman said.

He credited DePorter for saying, “Let’s do something with this.”

Goldman said six researchers have signed on to contribute their crops to the Campus Food Shed, and he and DePorter are looking for others who will join the effort.

‘Great, local food’

Along with the Student Activity Center, on the third floor of 333 East Campus Mall, refrigerators will be stationed in Science Hall, 550 N. Park St.; Moore Hall, 1575 Linden Drive; and the Allen Centennial Garden, 620 Babcock Drive.Campus Food Shed,

Labels will tell visitors what the food is and when it was picked, DePorter said, and volunteers will make the rounds to toss any produce that goes bad.

The refrigerators are open whenever the campus buildings are, and are available to students or anyone else who wants the free produce, she said. There’s no limit to what people can take, and the new initiative won’t reduce how much produce goes to local food pantries, DePorter said.

“We’re hoping that this reaches as many people as possible,” she said.

The fact that they are stocked with locally grown produce means the fridges won’t have much to offer when they first open, since it’s still early in Wisconsin’s growing season, and will probably be less full during the depths of winter.

But organizers say the produce will provide a source of free and healthy food on a campus in which students have directed more attention to the plight of less wealthy peers who sometimes struggle to find enough to eat. A campus food pantry, The Open Seat, opened last year on a floor above the first Campus Food Shed refrigerator.

“It’s relatively small,” Goldman said of the effort, “but it’s great, local food.”

 Story Source:  Wisconsin State Journal, June 17, 2017

Boys Scouts earn Plant Sciences merit badges

Reported in eCALS on 8/22/2016 by Caroline Schneider, CALS Office of External Relations

Last Saturday, Aug. 20, Kevin Cope, a graduate student in Jean-Michel Ané’s lab, organized a Plant Science Merit Badge Workshop for Boy Scouts. The workshop was held in conjunction with the Plant Sciences Graduate Student Council (PSGSC) with help from PSGSC president Chris D’Angelo, a graduate student in Irwin Goldman’s lab. Boy Scouts from across Wisconsin and parts of Illinois attended, and 48 scouts earned the badge. More than 15 graduate student volunteers from several different departments and programs helped with the workshop.

Scouts attending the workshop took part in lectures, hands-on experiments, and tours of the D.C. Smith Greenhouse and the Allen Centennial Gardens. Said one parent who attended the workshop, “My son commented on how much they learned and came home in very good spirits after a long day. We’ve been to many different merit badge workshops…[This] was one of the best run and highest-quality workshops we’ve seen.”

This is the second time Kevin, who serves as vice president of PSGSC, has organized this workshop with the student council. They plan to continue offering this merit badge workshop in the future so that young men interested in plant science can learn more and enjoy the facilities that UW–Madison has to offer. They are also interested in expanding the workshop to involve young women and welcome ideas about how to do that. Contact Kevin at kcope@wisc.edu with any questions or suggestions.

Horticulture Grad Student Wins Writing Contest

This past spring, CALS agroecology graduate student Kitt Healy won second place in the Water Sustainability and Climate Project’s Our Waters, Our Future writing contest, which sought short stories about positive futures for water and people in south-central Wisconsin. As part of Healy’s award, her story, “The Incarnation of Nelmi Jane,” is featured in Madison Magazine’s June online issue.

The contest was an effort to encourage imaginative thinking about desirable and possible futures for the region. It was a collaboration of the UW-Madison’s Water Sustainability and Climate Project and Center for Limnology, Sustain Dane, the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts & Letters, and Madison Magazine.

Contest submissions came from all over Wisconsin and were judged in part based on their scientific plausibility, a call made by a team of four scientists from UW-Madison.

Wisconsin-based literary leaders Peter Annin, journalist and author of Great Lakes Water Wars, and poet Fabu, Madison’s third poet laureate, along with Madison Magazine, made the final decision on the first- and second-place winners.

“The Incarnation of Nelmi Jane has beautiful poetic lines woven throughout the story. It combines the realities of not taking good care of our water with the hope that new life and better understanding bring,” said Fabu of Healy’s story.

The contest ran from November 2015 through January 2016, and the winners were announced in March.

Read Healy’s story here.

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Greenhouse Wins Rural Development Initiative Award

The Flambeau River Community Growing Center in Park Falls, Wisconsin, which was founded with the help of CALS horticulturalists, (Mike Geiger and Dr. Sara Patterson) has been selected to receive a Top Rural Development Initiative award from Wisconsin Rural Partners, Inc.

Wisconsin Rural Partners, Inc. (WRP) is a statewide non-profit organization that develops rural networks and leaders, and provides a voice for rural Wisconsin. WRP is the federally-recognized State Rural Development Council for Wisconsin.

This is the sixteenth year that WRP has recognized Wisconsin’s Top Rural Development Initiatives. The program is designed to identify, highlight, and share innovative models, practices and programs that have a positive impact on rural Wisconsin communities.

Here’s the description of the Flambeau River Community Growing Center from the WRP news release:

 

Flambeau River Community Growing Center, Park Falls
It started in 2012 with the idea of using waste heat from the Flambeau Mill to heat a greenhouse which could provide higher educational classes, a food source for the food pantry, and community gardens. Through a collaboration with UW- Madison, the Flambeau Mill, UWEX – Price County, and the Flambeau River Community Growing Center committee, a nonprofit 510(c)3 organization was established. Today, the vision has been realized and the growing center provides educational classes, and community support through the availability of raised beds for community members and through the provision of fresh foods for the local food pantries.

Originally posted at ecals.cals.wisc.edu/2016/05/17

CrazyLegs Team

The “HortLegs and More” team participated in the CrazyLegs Classic race the eighth consecutive year.

The HortLegs and Moore team. Front Row (left to right): Pingdong Zhang, Xiaobiao Zhu, Bo Zhu, Yuan Lin, Tao Zhang. Middle Row (l to r): Axel Ramirez Madera, Joe Gage, Kevin Coe, Jiming Jiang, Susan Wielgus. Back Row (l to r): Alex Marand, Paul Bethke, Tom Frank, Dennis Halterman, Hainan Zhao. Not pictured: Irwin Goldman and Yan Bin.

The HortLegs and Moore team. Front Row (left to right): Pingdong Zhang, Xiaobiao Zhu, Bo Zhu, Yuan Lin, Tao Zhang. Middle Row (l to r): Axel Ramirez Madera, Joe Gage, Kevin Coe, Jiming Jiang, Susan Wielgus. Back Row (l to r): Alex Marand, Paul Bethke, Tom Frank, Dennis Halterman, Hainan Zhao. Not pictured: Irwin Goldman and Yan Bin.

Sowing Seeds . . . Growing Communities

Just as some seeds yield tomatoes, carrots and lettuce, others grow community and partnership.

In a greenhouse in the northern Wisconsin town of Park Falls, all of those seeds are taking root with the help of CALS horticulture graduate student Michael Geiger, horticulture professor Sara Patterson and a team of dedicated local leaders.

hydroponic-salad-table-workshop-crop

Mike Geiger (left) at a hydroponic salad table workshop at the greenhouse. All photos courtesy of Mike Geiger. All photos courtesy of Mike Geiger.

“The greenhouse has opened doors to making healthier food choices, to education about gardening in local schools—and it’s given the university a presence in Park Falls,” says Geiger, who grew up in Arbor Vitae, some 50 miles away.

Geiger’s involvement with the project – called the Flambeau River Community Growing Center – started as an idea in 2012. That’s when his friend Tracey Snyder, a nurse practitioner developing a wellness program at the nearby Flambeau River Papers mill in Park Falls, approached him seeking guidance on the greenhouse project.

“I was very interested in what she was saying and thought it was something that would be fun to work on,” says Geiger, who then was a senior horticulture student at UW-Madison.

Snyder’s group was seeking funding for a greenhouse project, and Geiger teamed with Patterson to identify possible revenue sources. They developed a proposal for the Ira and Ineva Reilly Baldwin Wisconsin Idea Endowment at UW–Madison.

Their proposal was funded in the summer of 2013, and by the fall construction had begun on a 25-by-50-foot vail-style greenhouse, built by community volunteers on a vacant lot donated by Flambeau River Papers just north of the mill.

The greenhouse, built to withstand the heavier snows of northern Wisconsin, features in-floor radiant heating and custom greenhouse growing tables made of locally purchased white cedar and built by volunteers. Plans call for the facility to eventually be heated with waste steam from the mill.

An open house at the greenhouse.

An open house at the greenhouse.

The Flambeau River Community Growing Center has gained popularity with community members and school groups interested in learning about plants and gardening. “It’s a greenhouse, but it’s also a classroom,” says Geiger.

Learners include children from the Chequamegon School District, who start seeds in the greenhouse and nurture seedlings until they can be transplanted to their own outdoor school gardens. Area 4–H groups grow plants and tend them in raised beds just outside the greenhouse. Master Gardener classes are held at the facility, and community workshops have included such topics as square-foot and container gardening as well as hydroponics. Kids have been delighted with sessions on soil testing and painting their own flowerpots.

“It’s clearly a benefit to build a connection between UW–Madison and the community, for the community itself—people from ages 3 to 90—and for the local schools,” Patterson says.

Community leaders and institutions have joined to fuel the center’s success. Its chief executive officer, Tony Thier, recently retired from Flambeau River Papers, says UW–Extension has provided valuable educational and technical support, and volunteer opportunities draw professionals from various companies in the area. Park Falls attorney Janet Marvin helped the center gain nonprofit status last fall.

Thier says the center provides needed education for area residents. “It’s been very beneficial,” he says. “When I got involved, it really became a passion. I wanted to learn more about gardening and increase my skill. We try to involve the whole community.”

Geiger says the project has helped him in his academic career as he learned about project planning, gave presentations about the center at two national academic conferences and writes scholarly articles about his work there.

“I’ve been able to see this process through from an idea to reality,” says Geiger. “It’s been really rewarding.”

Original Posting: Dennis Chaptman,  ecals.cals.wisc.edu  04.14.2016  All photos courtesy of Mike Geiger.