Local farmers chosen to study ginger growth in Maine

3 mins read
Dave Allen of Rustic Roots farm holds some freshly harvested ginger.

FARMINGTON – The Western Foothills of Maine may not be the most ideal climate to grow ginger, but Rustic Roots Farm has been doing it for the last two years and was recently awarded an $8,000 grant to study its growth.

Rustic Roots Farm owner’s Erica Emery and Dave Allen have been awarded the grant from Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education and were one of 29 recipients this year. The program is designed for farmers to try different techniques and produce results that can be used as a reference for other farmers. Rustic Roots will be looking at different spacing techniques to maximize ginger yields.

“What we’re going to be looking at is how seed spacing affects the ginger yields… We’ve tried a few different ways of spacing it out, but the literature currently is just all over the place as far as how far apart pieces of ginger should be planted,” said Allen. “We want to find out what is the best way to maximize our yield.”

Ginger prefers a tropical understory climate and a long growing season, both of which are unavailable in Maine.

“We’re trying to grow a plant that needs a seven to eight month growing season in a climate that regularly only has three or four months,” said Allen.

The process of growing a plant from a different climate involves tricking it into believing that the climate is different than it actually is, Allen said.

Ginger has to essentially be tricked into growing in Maine’s much shorter, and harsher growing season.

“We take the seed, which is basically mature ginger, ours is grown in Hawaii…we let it cure and then we plant it in trays with coconut coir and we put it into a custom built incubator,” said Allen. “Which makes the ginger think it’s underground for like two months. All through April and May it will be in there and then early June we’ll take it out and that’s when we’ll plant it. Then it will stay in the ground until October, ideally.”

Emery and Allen will weigh the ginger before and after planting to measure its expansion. They will then compile the data to share with Northeast SARE which will in turn be shared with other farmers as a resource.

The grant money will go towards the cost of the 25 pounds of ginger seedlings that will be dedicated to the project as well as the cost of installing an irrigation system to mimic a tropical understory climate.

Rustic Roots Farm Farm Shares are now open for sign ups. Shareholders receive twenty weeks of locally grown produce, including fresh ginger during harvest season.

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