Horticulture and Organic Projects
The Cannon Horticulture Project focuses on organic system design and management. The system includes crop rotations, cover crops, biochar, mulch and compost, foliar fertilization, season extension, and native pollinator habitat.
Within that overall focus are horticultural projects including variety trials of sweet potatoes and heirloom varieties of tomatoes, squash, okra and sweet sorghum.
Educational events such as field days and workshops, along with educational resources such as reports and online multimedia, share the results as widely as possible. The Kerr Center also uses its horticulture plots as a training ground for the next generation of farmers in the Oklahoma Beginning Farmer and Rancher Program, and as a demonstration of bio-extensive market gardening techniques for organic and transitioning farmers in the Resilient Farmer Project.
The current projects continue the Kerr Center’s long history of work with organic production, season extension, crops adapted to the soils and climate of the bioregion, and crops suitable for small acreages and direct marketing.
Since 1985, Kerr Center horticultural projects have included growing U-pick blueberries, strawberries, and blackberries, as well as greenhouse bedding plants (using composted chicken litter as a potting medium), vegetables, ornamental trees, and Christmas trees.
In 1989, the Kerr Center staff, led by Alan Ware, began growing shiitake mushrooms on small oak logs. These tasty Japanese mushrooms sell for high prices, and are relatively easy to grow. This popular project spawned regular workshops and numerous requests for information, and resulted in a production manual describing small scale how to produce shiitake mushrooms on logs outdoors (see farming and gardening resources page).
Sweet sorghum was grown for many years at Kerr Center. It grows well in the area, and was a common crop in pre-World War II Oklahoma. A demand still exists for the syrup as a value-added specialty crop.
The Kerr Center offers a manual, Sweet Sorghum: Production and Processing, which describes a small scale, commercial operation with extensive background information.
In 2008, Kerr Center entered a new era of horticultural work on the Stewardship Ranch. The new horticultural thrust builds on the lessons of earlier experiences – trying some new ideas and re-evaluating some old ones.
George Kuepper, Sustainable Agriculture Specialist