By Dr. Ayanava Majumdar, Extension Professor, Alabama Cooperative Extension System, Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology, Auburn University
The Alabama Extension Commercial Horticulture Team is comprised of 27 members in the horticulture and food production industry.
Amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, we have to remember that food production or farming doesn’t stop; therefore, we have started some educational activities that anyone can watch from the comfort of their home.
We have recently started a weekly ‘Virtual Farm Tour’ on Thursdays through the Alabama Farmer Connection page on Facebook; the recordings of the farm tour are posted on the channel and participants can ask questions during this Facebook Live event.
The horticulture Extension team members are also available to interact on Fridays through the ‘Q&A Friday!’ on Alabama Extension Commercial Horticulture page on Facebook. This is a great way to get your farming or gardening questions answered directly by subject matter experts. You can directly go to the Extension Facebook page from the Farming Basics Mobile App that can be installed freely on Apple and Android devices.
The app also has a library of popular horticultural crops and pest pictures. You can call your regional Extension agents directly from the app.
If you are a beginning farmer or thinking of starting a farm-related business, then the four-hour Farming Basics Online Certificate Course is a valuable resource before starting out. This is a free module-based learning system with built-in interactive quizzes that generates a custom certificate at completion.
The Alabama IPM Communicator E-newsletter is another great resource to receive timely crop production and pest alerts on your phone. The pest alerts are sent twice per month (at a minimum) year-round in the form of weblinks to blog articles and educational events in a mobile-friendly email. You can self-subscribe to the newsletter from the link mentioned before.
Last but not the least, bookmark Alabama Beginning Farmer as your go-to website for learning about print resources and other resources, like the Beginning Farm Project Video Playlist on YouTube.
The Farming Basics App also connects to the YouTube playlist so you can watch short videos and webinars on a variety of farming topics like food safety, marketing, integrated pest management (IPM), grafting techniques and much more. Several new food safety and marketing videos related to coronavirus are timely for new and experienced producers, gardeners, educators, and consumers.
Among the print resources, remember to get the latest copy of the Southeastern Vegetable Crop Production Handbook. the High Tunnel Crop Production Handbook (also a free iBook) and IPM slide charts for reference as you get started.
Various educational resources mentioned in this article have been developed with numerous grants from the USDA National Institute for Food and Agriculture (USDA-NIFA), Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development (BFRD) Program, Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) Program, Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries (ADAI) Specialty Crops Block Grant, and Crop Protection and Pest Management Program. Contact an Extension office near you to learn about local education initiatives and develop a suitable farm plan.