ASK FARMER JASON Fall 2011

ASK FARMER JASON is a question and answer column for children and their parents wanting to ask kid-friendly questions about farming, gardening, and nature. Farmer Jason is the internationally renowned children's music character created by Americana legend, Jason Ringenberg, of Jason and the Scorchers. Farmer Jason has won numerous awards including an Emmy for his educational interstitial program "It's a Farmer Jason" which airs on PBS stations around the country. For more info. go to www.farmerjason.com .

Farmer Jason has been involved with agriculture all his life, growing up on a working family farm in Illinois. He now lives near Bon Aqua, Tennessee on a small farm and practices sustainable gardening with his wife, Suzy and their three daughters. Given that he performs 200 concerts a year, he has learned many common sense methods of gardening that are good for the Earth while not breaking the "time bank." This column is meant to help parents answer questions that their kids might have about farming or gardening and also give them tips on how to have a successful garden balanced against the hectic schedules of modern parenting and work.

To ask Farmer Jason a question, please go to the column LIST LINK or email him at jr@farmerjason.com . Farmer Jason will do his best to answer every question submitted, as well as some collected from his travels around the world. For complex questions or advice about market farming or the technical aspects of organic gardening LIST LINK OR EMAIL TO YOUR NEW EXPERT.

Question
Hi farmer Jason! My name's Bronti. My five year old cousin, my boyfriend, and I want to live on a farm in Tennessee when we get older. We are thinking of getting 2 pigs, 4 goats, 3 cows, 7 chickens, and 2 horses. I read the Q&A's before my question and I decided we should grow tomatoes, yellow crookneck squash, zucchini, beets, radishes, green beans, and maybe an apple tree or two. Since sautéed squash, pan-fried steak, and a salad would be a fine meal, I was wondering if lettuce would be good to grow, too. And I would be very grateful if you could give me some advice on where fertile areas are! Thanks for taking the time to read my question! Happy farming! -Bronti, age 13, California

Farmer Jason: Wow Bronti, you kids definitely have wonderful dreams. I love it that you are already making plans for your farm when you grow up. My goodness what a fun collection of animals that will be.

Lettuce would be an excellent veggie to grow along with the other food you mention. It all sounds VERY YUMMY!! Just be sure to plant the lettuce very early in the spring, even late February is ok to sow the seeds in Tennessee. Lettuce likes cool weather and it's best to pick and eat before the hot weather starts in June.

You also ask where the fertile areas are in Tennessee. That depends on local conditions but normally flat land is better for farming or gardening than hilly land. However, any land can be made fertile with a little work. If you have very rocky or hard soil, you can build raised beds and fill it with compost made out of manure from all those animals you are planning to have! Compost is what's left when plant materials rot and decompose. It normally is black or gold colored and plants absolutely love it. One easy way to make compost is simply pile up any waste plant materials with your animals' manure and let nature do her thing. In 6 months or so it will turn into compost.

I hope your dreams come true to have your own farm. A farm is a fabulous place to live.

Question: What is an ox?
-Ben

Farmer Jason: An ox is simply a cow that has been trained to pull wagons or a plow. Very few folks use oxen (the plural of ox) anymore but in the pioneer times, oxen were preferred as work animals over horses. In fact, many of the wagon trains that crossed the West were pulled by oxen. They were much stronger and hardier than work horses. They could also tolerate hot weather and didn't need as much water when crossing the deserts of the West.

Question: Do animals sweat? Can they die when it's hot outside? -Kirby, age 11, Leicester, England

Farmer Jason: Most animals do sweat, but not always like we do. Dogs and piggies for example, sweat by breathing very hard. The moisture in their breath evaporates which makes them cooler.

Hot weather is very dangerous for animals. Doggies can die if left in a hot car without the windows open and water to drink. Horses can sweat so much their hair can become soaked with lathered sweat. If not cleaned and dried, this lather can make the horses so chilled that they get very sick.

A TIP IN TIME:
Let's face it... NO ONE likes to pull weeds but it must be done if you are to have a successful productive garden. So many gardens get ruined because folks loose heart and let the weeds take over. Not only do the weeds rob your plants of water and nutrients, they also tend to harbor harmful insects and diseases. So make things easier on you and try to pull weeds after a rain, preferably in the morning when it's cool. You won't believe how much easier it is to pull weeds when the ground is wet. A little tug and out they come!