Recap of Bean Fest 3: The Threshening

Bean Fest 3: The Threshening is a workshop demonstrating results of our 2015 Specialty Crop Block Grant funded by the Hawai‘i Department of Agriculture.

Our third Specialty Crop Block Grant workshop was held on February 19, 2017. We hosted 15 participants at Counter Culture Farm to demonstrate the mechanical thresher in operation; to educate attendees on post-harvest issues and concerns regarding threshing; to demonstrate hand methods for final winnowing and sifting; and, of course, to have a bean potluck!

A great local company, Agrefab, fabricated our thresher was fabricated from a donated chipper-shredder using these plans as a basis. (See the bottom of this post for more thresher resources.) After a few design iterations of the thresher with Kevin from Agrefab, we finalized on a design that was on a trailer for portability and ability to share among O‘ahu farmers, with some basic winnowing (to separate lightweight chaff from heavier beans). There are some further improvements we’d like to make, namely a larger hopper area to queue up more plant material to be shoved into the threshing chamber and an adjustable exhaust ramp to control how many beans vs. chaff get blown out the back.

Counter Culture’s Top 5 BEAN VARIETIES

Of the 10 varieties we trialled in the 2016 replicated trial, we recommend local Hawai‘i farmers experiment with the following five bean varieties based on yield, growth habit, taste, and threshability:

Additional Resources

Fungi Forever

This episode of the Farmer to Farmer podcast with Michael Phillips of Lost Nation Orchard is pretty cool. It touches on some of the cutting-edge Soil Food Web thinking of our generation of agriculturalists. Basically, what I got from it (echoed by USDA, Dr. Ingham, Rodale, others) was some stuff I had already heard elsewhere, but some new concepts and nuance that seem really important:

Minimize bare soil

Always try to have something growing so you’re not starving/roasting soil biology. Cool that freaky biodynamic/organic folks agree with the USDA on this point. The USDA has been telling farmers to practice this for years.

Grow a diversity of plants…

…to support a diversity of soil biology that will be better equipped to fend off any undesirables (i.e. bad soil micro-hombres). USDA also been stressing this.

Minimize soil disturbance

Try not to Freddy Kruger that fungi with your tiller tines as much as possible. USDA also telling farmers this for years.

Inoculate transplants and direct seeded areas

If you do need to till — or in other scenarios where mycorrhizae might have died off (grown only cole crops, starting on new plot of land) — inoculate your transplant potting mix and direct seeded areas. (http://mycorrhizae.com/mycoapply-products/powder/ seems like a suitable one, anyone have others to recommend?).

The fungi in a compost pile is NOT the same fungi that associates with plant roots

I didn’t think too much about the different classes of fungi. The decomposer fungi (saprophytic) in that awesome fungal-rich compost are not the same as the fungi that can whisper to your plants (endo- and ecto-mycorrhizae). But it sounds like mycorrhizae thrive when saprophytic fungi are present and doing their thing (breaking down organic matter).

Consider “wholistic” sprays for probiotic approach to foliar issues

Gotta read up more on what preparations are needed for specific problems, but I think soil inoculation helps to get things off to a good start. I am curious how to inoculate transplants or direct seeded areas so plant leaf surfaces have a diverse ecosystem on them from day one. It does also sound like mycorrhizae help plants communicate better and take up appropriate nutrients to defend themselves from pests and disease too. In theory, applying liquid biology to the plant leaf surface makes sense if you can paratrooper in some biology that will predate upon and/or outcompete pathogenic bacteria or fungi that is causing you problems. Basically the parallel of predatory insects or eating kimchi (note: go buy our kimchi so you can eat that E. coli spinach).

Footnotes

Of course, if you really want to blow your hair back on fungi from a Planet Earth-type perspective then http://www.radiolab.org/story/from-tree-to-shining-tree/

Blame Canada: http://organicbiz.ca/carbon-key-to-building-resilience-in-organic-farming-systems/

Thanks to Noe from Loko‘ea Farms for telling me about this podcast episode!

Recap of Bean Fest 2: Open Season

Bean Fest 2: Open Season is a workshop demonstrating results of our 2015 Specialty Crop Block Grant funded by the Hawai‘i Department of Agriculture.

Nothing says Halloween like B-E-A-N-S! This is why we scheduled Bean Fest 2 on ole Hallow’s eve. A group of 20 or so interested growers, eaters, and a chef came out to the GoFarm Waimānalo campus to see our replicated dry bean (pulse) trial in action. Unfortunately, no one came in costume. We are currently in the middle of our second trial planting of the 10 most promising dry bush bean varieties for Hawai‘i. The varieties are Beniquez, Grey Speckled Palapye Cowpea, Kebarika, Mayo Coba, Red Speckled, SB DT1, Six Nations, Sulphur, TARS-MST1, and Tiger Eye.

Background on the project

Counter Culture—in partnership with Leeward and Maui Community Colleges, GoFarm Hawai‘i, and Kawailoa Farm—applied and was awarded a USDA and Hawai‘i Department of Agriculture Specialty Crop Block Grant for 2015. The grant’s purpose is “to solely enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops” and our specialty crop was dry beans (a.k.a. pulses).

Beans are a great source of plant-based protein and are very useful in sustainable/organic cropping systems as they can pull atmospheric nitrogen back into the soil. But, there aren’t a lot of dry beans grown in Hawai‘i likely due to the lack of infrastructure or machinery to dry, thresh (beat the bean out of the pod), and clean. De-shelling and cleaning beans by hand is very arduous process and not economically viable. We wanted to explore the possibility of producing more dry beans in Hawai‘i and build/acquire some low-tech and shareable equipment to help with post-harvest.

Trial and trial again

For the most part the beans are growing well, but the bean fly is a worthy pest to this crop. Since our trial goal is to test these beans in organic systems, we only applied neem oil once a week for 4-5 weeks to try to deter the bean fly from laying eggs inside the stem of the plant. It is interesting seeing how much smaller the plants are on the windward side compared to the drier, sunnier Waialua and Leeward sites.

In a month or so, we will do our final harvest at all four trial sites (Leeward, Punalu‘u, GoFarm Waimānalo, and Waialua). By that time we should have a working thresher thanks to help from Agrefab and will be able to evaluate the commercial viability of actually getting from harvested bean plant to a one pound package of beans ready for sale.

Recap of Bean Fest 1: The More You Eat…

Bean Fest 1: The More You Eat… is a workshop demonstrating results of our 2015 Specialty Crop Block Grant funded by the Hawai‘i Department of Agriculture.

On August 25th, 2016 we hosted our first community day to share some results from our dry bean trial project and to get some feedback from some O‘ahu eaters. We had the gracious support from O‘ahu Fresh who let us bring a bunch of bean eaters into their Honolulu food hub opening party and from the Chefs Jenn and Christina Hee of Juicy Brew Cafe who made some amazing bean-based dishes.

Background on the project

Counter Culture—in partnership with Leeward Community College, GoFarm Hawai‘i, and Thanh’s Farm—applied and was awarded a USDA and Hawai‘i Department of Agriculture  Specialty Crop Block Grant for 2015. The grant’s purpose is “to solely enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops” and our specialty crop was dry beans (a.k.a. pulses).

Beans are a great source of plant-based protein and are very useful in sustainable/organic cropping systems as they can pull atmospheric nitrogen back into the soil. But, there aren’t a lot of dry beans grown in Hawai‘i likely due to the lack of infrastructure or machinery to dry, thresh (beat the bean out of the pod), and clean. De-shelling and cleaning beans by hand is very arduous process and not economically viable. We wanted to explore the possibility of producing more dry beans in Hawai‘i and build/acquire some low-tech and shareable equipment to help with post-harvest.

Beaning sexy back

Earlier in 2016, Counter Culture, Leeward Community College, GoFarm Hawai‘i, and Thanh’s Farm planted 32 different varieties of beans on each of our farms. The goal was to determine any clear winners and losers—any plants that grew exceptionally well, or withered in the tropical heat.

We then gave 15 of the most promising varieties to the Hee Chefs who cooked each one for a bean tasting. All Bean Fest guests were encouraged to sample each variety and then score it on texture, flavor, etc. Using this data, we selected the 10 best varieties for our randomized, replicated trial later in the year.

The beans are alive

We were pretty surprised at how interested the attendees were in sampling each variety of beans and scoring them. Raw, dried beans are really beautiful to look at, but don’t seem to get the culinary credit they deserve so it felt promising that eaters and chefs are excited about locally-grown pulses. Stay tuned for future Bean Fests where we will tour the field trial sites at GoFarm Hawai‘i in Waimanalo, view harvest procedures at Leeward Community College, and have a final bean tasting fiesta at Counter Culture Farm!Field of beans

If you’re interested in nerding out a bit more, here are some trial notes from our Spring 2016 trial. We performed an observational trial and each of the four farms inoculated seeds with Guard-N Combination Inoculant and planted varying row feet of the following beans at six inches apart and 30-inch row spacing. The bolded varieties are the 10 best that we selected for the second randomized trial.

  • Badillo
  • Beka Brown
  • Beniquez
  • Borlotti Kenya
  • Fordhook Bush Lima
  • Grey Speckled Palapye Cowpea
  • Henderson Bush Lima
  • Jackson Wonder Lima
  • Kebarika
  • Mayo Coba
  • Morales
  • Mshindi
  • Nora Baudette
  • Pesa
  • PI406164
  • Red Speckled
  • Riverside Sugar
  • Round Speckled
  • SB DT1
  • Six Nations
  • Sugar Bean
  • Sulphur
  • Sweet Bean
  • TARS-HT1
  • TARS-LFR1
  • TARS-MST1
  • TARS-Tep 22
  • TARS-Tep 32
  • Thorogreen Lima
  • Tiger Eye 
  • Verano
  • White Sugar
  • Zawadi