AgEBB-MU CAFNR Extension

Green Horizons

Volume 25, Number 3
Fall 2021

FINCA Ecofarm tour

The FINCA Project at Lincoln University in Missouri

Dr. Nadia Navarrete-Tindall, Native Plants Specialist
Specialty Crops and Native Plants Program
Lincoln University Cooperative Extension

A finca is a small farm in Latin America where native plants, fruits, flowers, and vegetables are produced for consumption and income.

The FINCA Project - Families Integrating Nature, Conservation and Agriculture - was created with funds from a NIFA-Capacity Building Grant from 2012 to 2017. Three pilot finca farms, one on campus and two in the Bootheel, were established. These served to accomplish the main goal of creating demonstration areas to showcase multipurpose native plants as specialty crops for education and research in backyards or small farms. The fincas are examples of diversifying small tracts of land such as non-productive urban spaces with useless, resource demanding turfgrass into productive, environmentally friendly and beautiful areas. Fincas can be vibrant corridors that can feed people and protect pollinators and other wildlife.

Teaching Greenhouse at FINCA farm

The fully established finca at Lincoln University, known as Finca EcoFarm, is maintained and used regularly for training and field days and is located on campus. Visitors can see more than 50 native species, 20 or more of them edible, including mature productive fruits like wild plum and persimmon; flowers for pollinators like butterfly milkweed and partridge pea; and host plants for butterflies, like milkweeds and spicebush. This Finca EcoFarm is about 1 acre in size and is located in grounds around the LU-Teaching Greenhouse. The raised beds in the greenhouse are used to grow native and non-native crops for demonstration and seed production. A plant nursery is also located in the greenhouse. A detailed description of all aspects of the Finca EcoFarm is included next. There is also a small hoophouse that is used to protect figs in the winter.

A view of the FINCA farm

Management of the Finca EcoFarm was suspended for funding reasons for 3 years, which allowed invasive species to reestablish. Maintenance was re-initiated in November 2019. After a plant inventory done in spring 2020 and proper management that included fruit tree pruning and control of invasive species, we found that all wild plum trees were in production. In 2020, we collected about 100 lb. of fruits from 8 trees. Harvest is going strong this year again and we hope to increase yields. Wild leeks (ramps) were planted in 2015 as part of an MDA specialty crops grant. Edible arrowhead or Wapato is established in the rain garden and is being grow under different shade levels to determine the effect on tuber production.

More than 10 edible plants were included in food tasting trials in 2016 and 2017 with positive results. Workshops and seminars, as in the past, are providing hands-on training about growing, maintaining, identifying, and preparing native edibles. The finca EcoFarm on campus is a place for everyone to learn, not only about specialty crops, but the pollinators and other wildlife that depend on them.

The Specialty Crops and Native Plants Program also maintains a Native Plant Outdoor Laboratory on campus and a demonstration plot with native fruits established at the Busby Farm where a pollinator strip will be added at the end of 2021.

Detailed plan of the FINCA EcoFarm

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