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Successfully producing vegetable crops is an ongoing battle as the farmer works against diseases and pests that continue to plague the plants throughout the growing season. While fertilizers are always being developed and incorporated, it has been found that immunity has occurred from these threats to a plant’s welfare. Natural plant immunity has been promoted and one of its most informed supporters is John Kempf from northeastern Ohio. He speaks in the tri-state region about his discoveries and ways farmers can include these techniques into their own operations. Kempf founded Advancing Eco Agriculture, a plant nutrition and biostimulants consulting company out of the Cleveland/Akron area. 
Growing up on a fruit and vegetable farm, Kempf experienced the ups and downs of raising produce. He witnessed the distressing truth about the weeds and their resistance to herbicides. Insects were rebounding after insecticides were applied rather than being destroyed. Kempf decided to change the ways they grew their fruits and vegetables by learning the fundamentals of horticulture. He asked questions such as what were the causes of the disease and where did they come from. By exploring the basics of the plants, he began to look into how he could control the problems in a natural way. Kempf now shares his findings with the public through sponsored events. He talked to a crowd at Clearspring Produce in LaGrange, IN with the support of the Conservation Cropping Systems Initiative, Indiana State Department of Agriculture, Purdue Extension, United States Department of Agriculture and several county Soil and Water Conservation offices.
The presentation was literally an adult version of “STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math promotion in the education systems) in action.” Kempf worked with Don Huber, a longtime Purdue educator, on a project where the question posed was “What is a corn plant really capable of?” The research then led them to strawberries and is an ongoing exploration for Kempf. Three plant systems that he has performed research on are the strawberries, various greens including lettuce and spinach, and underdeveloped crops such as other berries and tree fruits.
The interactive presentation involved questions from the audience along with those presented by Kempf. The produce auction barn was preparing for a sale the next day with crates of fresh vegetables and fruits being dropped off. The smell of cantaloupes permeated the air inspiring the growers to ask how to better care for their various plants and produce. Kempf focused much of the discussion on the various natural additives such as urea, manganese, and chlorophyll. He encouraged the use of nature to provide for the plants and various signs to look for reflecting its health. 
His point to the talk was that if there is a nutritional imbalance, there will be disease problems. Kempf talked about the use of manganese, calling it the “thermostat of the plant.” When the element is working well, the plant shows that with the veins of the leaves being darker colored than the leaves themselves. He feels that when fertilizers are taken out of the equation, farmers and producers can grow a healthier product that adds to the soil rather than takes away.
Additional information about Kempf’s ideas with blogs, podcasts and videos can be found at www.advancingecoag.com/john.

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