Ask Farmer Jason Spring 2013

Question: Can all cows give milk?
- Brandon, age 13, Phoenix, Arizona

Farmer Jason: Yes, all female cows can and do give milk, but over the centuries farmers have developed certain breeds that give more milk than cows used only for meat. Milk cows need to be milked every day or they will stop giving milk. This means dairy farmers never can forget to do the daily milking. Even if they are sick or on vacation (both rare things for farmers), they need to figure out a way to get the cows milked. I grew up on a hog farm, and it was very hard work. But we always said the only farmers who worked harder than us were dairy farmers!

Question: My mom says we can have a spot in her yard for a small garden. What should we grow? - Melissa, age 14, Nashville, Tennessee

Farmer Jason: I always recommend that first- time gardeners plant something easy to grow. Many garden plants can get diseases easily, or bugs like to eat them which makes it hard to grow these kinds of plants. In Tennessee, I recommend putting out a few tomato plants using seedlings that have already started. Better Boy is a great and common breed to try for the first time. All you really need to do is clear off any weeds or grass in a two- foot square area, dig up the dirt, and bury each seedling with only the top leaves showing. Drive a wooden stake next to it, and tie up the plant as it grows. Water and weed it once a week, and you will get some lovely, yummy tomatoes. Nothing tastes quite as good as a fresh tomato from the garden!.

Another easy plant to grow in Tennessee is zucchini. Once again, dig up a two- foot square area and make a mound with the dirt. Plant four or 5 seeds on the mound. Water and weed the seedlings once a week, and in about six weeks you will have loads of zucchini to cook.

Question: Do all farmers use tractors?
- Brendon, age 9, Glasgow, Kentucky

Most farmers do use tractors in this modern age. My own father used horses as a boy until his dad bought his first tractor. This helped him farm much more land much more easily. However, there are still many farmers who use horses for their field work. Some, like the Amish, use horses for religious reasons. Others use horses because they are more user- friendly to the Earth. Other folks use them to connect with their pioneer heritage, or because they simply like doing things the old- fashioned way.

Tip the Farmer ( a simple gardening tip for busy parents and grown-ups) It is now spring and all of us are gung- ho to plant every square foot in our gardens. However, you might want to consider NOT planting everything at once. For example, instead of planting two rows of bush beans, just plant one at first. Then, four to six weeks later plant another row. This will allow you to harvest much longer, and to have fresh veggies at staggered times. However, do not plant the newest row next to the older row. The old row will likely take on diseases and bugs as the plants age and weaken, infecting the new row. Plant it in another section of the garden. Once you get hooked on the staggered planting of smaller crops, you will always be able to have something fresh from your garden throughout the summer and fall.

[use same bio as fall 2012 issue]