Ask Farmer Jason, Spring 2014

Question: Where do cornflakes come from? -- Liam, age 5, Pulaski, Tennessee

Farmer Jason: Cornflakes come from a grain called corn. Corn is raised all over the world and fed to people and animals. I grow corn myself on my farm. To make cornflakes, people grind up the corn, add some water and a little sugar, and bake it into flakes. It is a good breakfast food. Breakfast is a very important meal. Be sure to eat a good breakfast every day!

Question: I love to eat butternut squash that my mom buys at our farmers' market. I would like to try to grow it myself in our backyard. Is it hard to grow? -- Angela, age 12, Washington, DC

Farmer Jason: I love butternut squash, too! It is a vegetable native to North America. The Native Americans grew it and introduced it to the Europeans, who in turn planted it widely.

I am delighted that you are interested in planting squash. Butternut squash is easy to grow. Find a spot in your yard that gets lots of sunlight and dig up a mound of dirt several inches tall and about 2 feet across. Clear the weeds all around the mound and plant about 6 seeds in the hill. Water it daily. Once the plants are 6 inches tall, pull out the smallest seedlings (young plants), leaving 3 or 4 plants. Then water the mound once a week and keep the area free of weeds. To do that, you simply pull them out by hand or use a hoe. The squash will send out several long vines per seed in all directions -- some of them might grow as long as 15 feet! It looks really cool. In the fall when the fruit has hardened and turned dark yellow, it will be ready to pick. Store it in a cool, dark place and the fruits will keep for months. It is wonderful to have butternut squash in the winter. Have your friends over for a winter squash party!

Question: Why do cows "moo"?
-- James, age 6, Nashville, Tennessee

Farmer Jason: That is a very interesting question. I think cows "moo" to talk to other cows. We are not exactly certain how this happens, but I have seen mommy cows "moo" from across the field in a whole group (called a herd) of cows and the mommy's baby (called a calf) will be the only one to answer back and come running! I can't speak personally for a cow, but it seems they "moo" for many reasons, like they are hungry, sad, happy, thirsty, tired, or just want to hang out with their friends and "moo."

TIP THE FARMER (a tip for busy parents about gardening, yard stuff, or farming) Do you have some old lattice lying around? If so, be sure to keep it -- don't throw it away. It is expensive to buy new and is useful in the garden, especially if it is white, which reflects the heat. Here in Tennessee, heat is the "Great Satan." Even in May it can scorch young plants. On hot days when the plants are young, use the lattice to partially shade the seedlings. The lattice will allow in enough sun to grow the plants, but will shade them just enough to cool the area a bit. This is particularly important for cool-weather veggies like lettuce and radishes, but all young seedlings will benefit from some partial shade on hot days.