Under the spreading branches of a stately red oak tree, the cast and crew of Backyard Farmer gathered on a Sunday afternoon in early September to tape an episode of their long-running TV program. They were recording the final show for the 2019 growing season. An audience of about 100 people gathered to watch the event on the campus of The University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL). Since I live close by, it was a simple matter for me to join them.
With crisp professionalism, host Kim Todd and a panel of UNL’s Extension Agents engaged question after question from home gardeners who came from near and far. The agents dug deep into their collective acumen, and offered precise, practical advice on dealing with a universe of garden and lawn challenges, ranging from sap-sucking aphids, tomato-munching squirrels, leaf-rolling caterpillars, invasive Japanese knotweed, and the curse of Creeping Charlie (Glechoma hederacea)
My favorite tip of the episode had to do with live trapping garden-marauding raccoons, which are infamous for snatching the bait from traps, then escaping to continue their garden plunder. Use a marshmallow as bait, the experts counseled, and don’t just plop it on the floor of the trap. Hang the marshmallow toward the back of the trap, dangling from a string or wire. That will cause the raccoon to fully commit, and thereby cause the trap to snap shut.
Before the recording got underway, I had opportunity to stroll through the extensive Backyard Farmer garden, with each vegetable and flower carefully identified and labeled. With the garden now in its tenth season of cultivation, and at September’s climactic stage of the growing season, nearly everything was producing or blooming vibrantly An hour in that carefully-tended plot is more informative and rewarding than a week of study with a garden encyclopedia.
Backyard Farmer is a long-running tradition in Nebraska, now in its 66th season. The show has its own UNL webpage, is broadcast in Nebraska on public television (NET), is livestreamed on Facebook, and – most rewardingly for people who live outside Nebraska – archived on YouTube. Gardeners and farmers anywhere in the world can tap into the knowledge.
Toward the final segment of the show taping session, the panel reminded the audience of a venerable adage: “There’s only two things in life you can’t buy with money: true love, and homegrown tomatoes.”
Independent journalist Steven McFadden is rooted in agrarian cyberspace at DeepAgroecology.net. Information about his wider work and all of his nonfiction books is available at Chiron-Communications.com.
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