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At the intersection of food, soil, climate, farming and water.

Carroll University Student’s Growing Interest

This past September, Carroll University Sociology Professor Bill Tarman-Ramcheck visited Michael Fields Agricultural Institute with two of his students, Sara Lucchesi and Mary Levandoski, to help plant trees in Michael Field’s Stella Gardens.  This event was part of an effort to help transition Stella Gardens towards a longer-term sustainable future. While perennial fruit and nut trees need some tender love and care in their first few years of establishment, they eventually require less labor and fewer inputs than their annual cousins.  As perennial plants grow to full size, they develop strong and deep root systems that search out water and nutrients, and are better able to compete with weeds.  Their deep roots also provide a structure and stability to the soil that minimizes erosion and nutrient run-off. Annual vegetables, on the other hand, lead a busy lifestyle that minimizes root growth in favor of propagating their seed in a single or sometimes two-year cycle, while also sucking up precious nutrients from the soil. In annual vegetable production, labor is constantly focused on weeding and often watering, and building up soil health through composting and cover-cropping, great practices, indeed, but also more input intensive.  Perennial plantings certainly have their draw-backs though, as was seen this year by early warm temperatures and a late bud-killing freeze.  Like many fruit growers in Wisconsin, Stella Gardens experienced a nearly complete loss in fruit from our apple, pear, and peach trees, due, at least in part, to our lower elevation. Still, we believe in our mission and persevered in installing even more perennial fruit and nut plantings this year, including plums, hardy apricots and peaches, chestnuts, hazelnuts, grape vines, gooseberries, hardy kiwi, and pawpaw.