Dec 2012

Sare Farmer's Grant

In January 2012, I was awarded a Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education Grant (SARE) Farmer's Grant to study the effectiveness of spent brewer's grains as a direct applied mulch in organic allium production. The study was conducted at Fox Hollow Farm in South Huntington, where I had a short stint as the Farmer/CSA Manager from January - August, 2012.

Here's a summary of the grant proposal.

Unfortunately, due to a number of personal and professional reasons I was unable to complete the study in 2012. I am hopeful that I will have a parcel on which to repeat and conclude the study in 2013.

You can follow my progress with a bit more detail on my online blog.

Stay tuned for additional data and updates!

Here are a few photos of the study:

Laying out the lines and devising a jig for spacing of the onions. Dibbling turned out to quite a physical and tedious process, so in 2013, I expect to have a dibbler made with the correct spacing out of a roller of some kind. (A nice lesson to learn for next year!) I eventually resorted to a long handled “dibble” but it was still a lot of work! Thankful for choosing 8” spacing!


Though I nurtured my shallot seedlings root to shoot, they became afflicted with a serious aphid problem. Even though I successfully eradicated the aphids by using an air compressor to blow them away (a serendipitous solution!), the plants didn’t look up to the task either in size or in number.


The onions that I ended up using were Ailsa Craig and Red Marble Cippolini plants from Johnnies Select Seeds


Planted 4,000 onion plants over the space of 2 days...with a just a little volunteer help. Next year, an Onion Planting Party will be planned!

The spent grain was put down over the course of two weeks, because it became abundantly clear that Blind Bat Brewery was not able to produce enough grain for coverage to happen all at once, another source was obviously needed, so I turned to another local brewer and friend at Long Ireland Beer Company in Riverhead.

Dan from Long Ireland to the rescue! (Dan got a lifetime supply or Organic Raspberry Jam as thanks!)

Dan’s a big guy, so you can imagine how much grain this is! Though not stinky yet, Dan’s face emotes what the grain smells like in just two or three days. (Note: next year the grain goes down the day I get it!)

Jen Murray of Turtleback Farm helped me get the bin with her Subaru and Trailer. Who knew it would take a village! P1010156

Payment for this huge favor goes back in the form of a percentage of grains for Jen’s pigs.

Hot Stuff! That grain held its heat from the mash-tun for over two days. Had to let it cool down to a balmy 80 degrees before spreading on the beds.


The variety of weed growth depending on the treatment was quite remarkable. This is the control plot (no mulch). Diversity abounds!


Weeds in Spent Grain treatment mainly were succulent purslane and pigweed, with a smattering of Pennsyvlania smartweed...obviously need to weed earlier next year! Oat straw mulch, seemed to do the best job of weed suppression, with major problem being the sprouting oats themselves.

July 12. After weeding the spent grain treatment plots, the mulch becomes very disrupted...likely less so if weeded earlier, but still a lesson learned for next’s year repetition. (Despite the large weeds, the plants look pretty good)


Allium Loot!


Special thanks to my crack volunteer harvesting crew. Together we harvested over 300 lbs of onions!
From Left to right Kaitlyn Pawlukojc, Jesse Feldman-Stein and Mika Feldman-Stein.

Let there be snakes! I was just thrilled (can you tell?) that a garden snake made its home in the one of the spent grain plots.