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NMSU, NMDA organic farm walk series focuses on integrated pest management

Learning how to make better use of nature's pest management services is the focus of this year's series of organic farm walks that are being sponsored by New Mexico State University and the New Mexico Department of Agriculture.

"Join us and your fellow growers in learning about habitat enhancement and other techniques that can help beneficial insects and reduce pest problems on organic farms and gardens," said Tess Grasswitz, NMSU urban/small farm integrated pest management specialist, who will be leading the walks with Joanie Quinn, organic adviser with the NMDA Organic Program.

There will be four farm walks:

? Wednesday, Aug. 22, in Dixon, hosted by Heather Harrell and Les Crowder at their organically certified small farm. Harrell has installed pollinator plantings at their 4.8-acre mixed vegetable farm. Crowder is a well-known beekeeper and owner of For the Love of Bees.

? Wednesday, Aug. 29, in Lemitar, near Socorro, hosted by Nolina Bryant, owner of Nolina's Heavenly Organics. Bryant is a certified organic grower with two acres of mixed vegetables and fruits.

? Sunday, Sept. 9, in Sile, near Cochiti, hosted by Kevin and Linda Wrigley at their certified organic farm, Tip Top Table Farm. The couple produces mixed fruits, vegetables, culinary herbs and alfalfa hay on their 20-acre farm.

? Wednesday, Sept. 26, in Santa Fe, hosted by Thomas and Mary Dixon at their organically certified Green Tractor Farm. The Dixons have three acres of various crops, including grapes, mixed vegetables, hay and flowers.

"These on-farm workshops will introduce the concept of farmscaping, a whole-farm ecological approach to habitat management aimed at increasing the number of beneficial organisms," Grasswitz said. "Many pest populations can be reduced by enhancing populations of natural enemies through modification of the environment, a concept known as conservation biological control."

Farmscaping methods include the use of insectary plants, hedgerows, cover crops, nest boxes or roosting sites that can attract and support beneficial organisms such as predatory and parasitic insects, spiders, birds, and bats, all of which can help suppress insect pests and problem vertebrates such as mice and gophers.

"Each walk, which will be from 1 to 4 p.m., will consist of a farm walk and discussion during which participants will be encouraged to think about how to improve the habitat on their own farms," Grasswitz said.

There is no charge for attending any of the workshops, but participants are asked to pre-register by contacting Quinn by email at jquinn@nmda.nmsu.edu, or by phone at 505-889-9921. No refreshments will be provided, so participants are asked to bring and adequate supply of water and to wear appropriate shoes and clothing.

The organic walks are made possible by a grant from the USDA/National Institute of Food and Agriculture under its Extension Integrated Pest Management Coordination and Support Program.