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Bulletin #2037, Farmer Skill and Knowledge Checklist for Vegetable Growers in Maine

Farmer Skill and Knowledge Checklist for Vegetable Growers in Maine

Developed by Mark Hutton, Extension Vegetable Specialist and Assistant Professor of Vegetable Crops, and Richard Brzozowski, Food System Program Administrator, University of Maine Cooperative Extension

For information about UMaine Extension programs and resources, visit extension.umaine.edu.
Find more of our publications and books at extensionpubs.umext.maine.edu.

This list is designed for vegetable growers who wish to continually gain knowledge and skills to improve their chances of becoming more profitable. The grower can use this list to identify specific skills or knowledge to be gained or improved upon. Feel free to customize this list to suit your needs.

1=No knowledge/skill
2=Some knowledge/skill
3=Well-informed/experienced

Recommended knowledge My current level My target level
Vegetable Crop Planning
Know the basic families of vegetables for crop planning and rotation purposes 1 2 3 1 2 3
Know how to plan for successive crops for market 1 2 3 1 2 3
Know how to select and order vegetable varieties for planting 1 2 3 1 2 3
Be familiar with reputable seed sources for vegetable crops 1 2 3 1 2 3
Know how to prepare land for production at least one year before planting 1 2 3 1 2 3
Know how to select cover crops to improve soil conditions before planting 1 2 3 1 2 3
Know when specific crops can be planted in Maine 1 2 3 1 2 3
Be able to categorize vegetable crops as warm season or cool season 1 2 3 1 2 3
Know how to eliminate potential weed problems before planting 1 2 3 1 2 3
Know how to layout fields so they can be irrigated easily 1 2 3 1 2 3
Vegetable Production
Recognize the water needs of specific crops through observation or by monitoring with a soil moisture meter 1 2 3 1 2 3
Know how to effectively and efficiently provide water to crops (drip irrigation, overhead irrigation, pumps, filters, water source, etc. ) 1 2 3 1 2 3
Know how to harvest and store crops effectively 1 2 3 1 2 3
Understand seed storage and  the viability for specific seed types 1 2 3 1 2 3
Know how to properly store seeds 1 2 3 1 2 3
Know how soil temperature and soil moisture influence seed germination 1 2 3 1 2 3
Know how to start seeds 1 2 3 1 2 3
Know how to select appropriate growing medium for starting seeds 1 2 3 1 2 3
Know how to effectively use a cold frame 1 2 3 1 2 3
Know how to identify and correct problems with vegetable seedlings (poor germination, poor growth, legginess, yellowing, damping off, etc.) 1 2 3 1 2 3
Know how to prepare a high quality seed bed 1 2 3 1 2 3
Know how to transplant seedlings with success 1 2 3 1 2 3
Know how to layout a field for planting specific vegetable crops 1 2 3 1 2 3
Know how to properly use a seeding machine with disks / plates 1 2 3 1 2 3
Know how to harden off seedlings 1 2 3 1 2 3
Be familiar with season extension methods for specific vegetable crops 1 2 3 1 2 3
Know how to protect seedlings from the threat of frost 1 2 3 1 2 3
Know how to protect seedlings from wind damage 1 2 3 1 2 3
Know how the pros and cons of using a high tunnel (hoophouse) for vegetable production 1 2 3 1 2 3
Know how to use and manage a greenhouse for seed starting and vegetable production 1 2 3 1 2 3
Soil & Fertilizers
Know how to properly take a soil sample 1 2 3 1 2 3
Know how to interpret soil test results 1 2 3 1 2 3
Know how to select and apply fertilizers effectively (fertigation, banding, broadcast, sidedress) 1 2 3 1 2 3
Understand the appropriate timing of fertilizer applications in regards to season and plant growth stage 1 2 3 1 2 3
Know the pros and cons of synthetic and organic fertilizers 1 2 3 1 2 3
Recognize the cause of soil compaction and how to prevent it 1 2 3 1 2 3
Know how to improve soil structure 1 2 3 1 2 3
Be familiar with cultural practices to minimize soil erosion 1 2 3 1 2 3
Understand the importance of water quality for the farm 1 2 3 1 2 3
Understand proper use of compost as a soil amendant 1 2 3 1 2 3
Be familiar with methods to improve organic matter levels in the soil 1 2 3 1 2 3
Understand the importance of soil organic matter and how to manage it 1 2 3 1 2 3
Be familiar with methods to increase or decrease the soil pH to suit specific crops 1 2 3 1 2 3
Pest Management
Be able to recognize common insect pests of vegetable crops in Maine 1 2 3 1 2 3
Know how to determine the least toxic approach to managing insect pests 1 2 3 1 2 3
Be able to identify common weeds of vegetable crops in Maine 1 2 3 1 2 3
Know how to effectively control weeds using least toxic and economical approaches 1 2 3 1 2 3
Be familiar with mulch materials and their uses 1 2 3 1 2 3
Know how to select and use the appropriate mulches for different situations/crops 1 2 3 1 2 3
Learn about and use good sanitation practices to minimize spread of disease and/or weeds (powerwashing) 1 2 3 1 2 3
Know how to keep records of pesticide applications 1 2 3 1 2 3
Be able to calibrate a sprayer (backpack or boom) 1 2 3 1 2 3
Be familiar with Integrated Pest Management (IPM) of vegetable crops 1 2 3 1 2 3
Be able to distinguish disease, insect or environmental damage of vegetables crops 1 2 3 1 2 3
Be able to identify beneficial insects in Maine 1 2 3 1 2 3
Understand how pest management practices impact pollinators 1 2 3 1 2 3
Be able to obtain a private applicators license through the Board of Pesticides Control 1 2 3 1 2 3
Know how to select and use the proper pesticide(s) for specific purposes 1 2 3 1 2 3
Be able to properly submit a specimen for diagnosis 1 2 3 1 2 3
Be familiar with biological controls for vegetable production 1 2 3 1 2 3
Be familiar with organic certification of fields or crops 1 2 3 1 2 3
Know how to use a hand lens (loupe) 1 2 3 1 2 3
Be able to detect problems in the field with specific crops 1 2 3 1 2 3
Know how to respond to and report a pesticide spill 1 2 3 1 2 3
Know how to recognize and respond to wildlife damage to crops 1 2 3 1 2 3
Be familiar with the New England Vegetable Management Guide and how to use it 1 2 3 1 2 3
Vegetable Harvest & Storage
Know when and how to harvest specific vegetable crops for best return 1 2 3 1 2 3
Know how to properly handle harvested vegetables in preparing the crops for sale 1 2 3 1 2 3
Be familaiar with Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) and the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) and how these apply to vegetable growers 1 2  3 1 2 3
Know the best storage conditions (temperature, humidity, controlled atmospheres, Smartfresh®) for the storage duration and variety 1 2 3 1 2 3
Be able to monitor storage conditions — how often and what instruments to use to measure temperature and humidity 1 2 3 1 2 3
Know how to use a cold storage room to maximize space and air circulation 1 2 3 1 2 3
Marketing/Branding
Know how to develop a brand identify for your farm 1 2 3 1 2 3
Know how to determine your customer needs 1 2 3 1 2 3
Be familiar with ways to effectively market produce to consumers 1 2 3 1 2 3
Understand the pros and cons of marketing methods for selling small fruit (retail, wholesale, and U-pick) 1 2 3 1 2 3
Know how to effectively respond to customer needs at farm stands and at farmers markets 1 2 3 1 2 3
Know if your farm is exempt from the Produce Safety Rule of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) and be able to document as such 1 2 3 1 2 3
Be familiar with the quantities of how produce is sold (bunch, pound, box, etc.) 1 2 3 1 2 3
Know how to effectively display produce for sale 1 2 3 1 2 3
Know how to create or select signage for marketing produce 1 2 3 1 2 3
Be familiar with the services of the Marketing Division of the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation & Forestry 1 2 3 1 2 3
Be an effective spokesperson and promoter of your farm and farm products 1 2 3 1 2 3
Labor
Know how to interview and hire workers for the farm 1 2 3 1 2 3
Know how to motivate and manage labor 1 2 3 1 2 3
Know how to train new workers for specific tasks 1 2 3 1 2 3
Be familiar with labor laws as they relate to farm workers and employees 1 2 3 1 2 3
Be familiar with the agricultural worker protection standard (WPS) 1 2 3 1 2 3
Know how to dismiss an employee 1 2 3 1 2 3
Know where to advertise for new employees 1 2 3 1 2 3
Tools and Equipment
Have a good basic mechanical aptitude 1 2 3 1 2 3
Know how to safely operate walk-behind power equipment 1 2 3 1 2 3
Be familiar with small engine preventative maintenance 1 2 3 1 2 3
Know how to safely operate a farm tractor 1 2 3 1 2 3
Be able to perform a pre-operational check of a farm tractor 1 2 3 1 2 3
Know how to check fluid levels of a farm tractor 1 2 3 1 2 3
Know how to attach an implement to the 3-point hitch of a tractor 1 2 3 1 2 3
Know how to safely maneuver a tractor with a two-wheel trailer in a forward motion 1 2 3 1 2 3
Know how to safely maneuver a tractor with a two-wheel trailer for a backward motion 1 2 3 1 2 3
Be certified in CPR and first aid 1 2 3 1 2 3
Be familiar with proper ergonomic use of common field hand tools (hand shears, knife, trowel, hoe, spade, rake, scythe, etc. ) 1 2 3 1 2 3
Know how to select and use suitable personal protective equipment (PPE) for farm tasks 1 2 3 1 2 3
Farm Business and Economics
Be familiar with current programs offered by the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Farm Service Agency (FSA) of the USDA and how and when to apply 1 2 3 1 2 3
Know and understand available insurance policies are needed to protect the crop and your business 1 2 3 1 2 3
Be able to keep production records 1 2 3 1 2 3
Be able to keep and use financial records to make sound business decisions 1 2 3 1 2 3
Be able to keep records for tax purposes (relaying information to IRS Schedule F) 1 2 3 1 2 3
Be able to use, create, or adapt an enterprise budget for a specific vegetable crop 1 2 3 1 2 3
Know how to use or create an enterprise budget for the farming operation 1 2 3 1 2 3
Know how to calculate the cost of production for specific vegetable crops 1 2 3 1 2 3
Know how to determine the break-even point for specific crops 1 2 3 1 2 3
Know how to calculate the retail price for produce 1 2 3 1 2 3
Know how to calculate the wholesale price for specific produce 1 2 3 1 2 3
Become involved in appropriate farm associations in your state and region 1 2 3 1 2 3

Vegetable Related Resources


Information in this publication is provided purely for educational purposes. No responsibility is assumed for any problems associated with the use of products or services mentioned. No endorsement of products or companies is intended, nor is criticism of unnamed products or companies implied.

© 2019

Call 800.287.0274 (in Maine), or 207.581.3188, for information on publications and program offerings from University of Maine Cooperative Extension, or visit extension.umaine.edu.

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Cooperative Extension Publications
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