News from the Farm

By Farmer Chris -- October 3, 2011

This has been a challenging last couple of months and although we were not wiped out by the hurricane the amount of rain has been a huge issue affecting quality of many crops.  Even our conventional farming neighbors – who spray constantly to fight fungus and pests – are telling us of their extreme crop losses, similar to ours. Crop losses are very disappointing to me as the farmer as I like to succeed in growing quality produce.  We work all season to sprout seeds in the greenhouse, plant out into the field, cultivate to keep weeds down, and this season what we’re seeing, is that during the last few weeks of ripening of many different types of vegetables, the frequent rains are causing rampant fungus (mold) in the fields, causing the ripening squashes, greens, onions, and more to just rot right before (and sometimes after!) they are ready to be harvested.

We do take action with all the organic tools and resources at our disposal, and work as hard as possible to limit damage and produce a quality product.  I’d like to explain a bit about the challenges and losses of this year in an attempt to help you feel good about what you are receiving.  We have had to deal with tomato blight, double our annual rainfall total (most of which in the last month and a half), hurricane winds, and pests and insects that were transported with winds.  So what does this mean you will be seeing in your CSA share?

You will see some cracking of root crops like sweet potatoes, carrots, and potatoes from the repeated wet/dry cycle.  You have also seen an early end to tomatoes in the share. Heavy rain and pooling of water leads to leaf disease on all kale, collards, cabbage, broccoli, head lettuce, beans beets and many more.  In extreme cases plant roots can suffocate leading to the plant wilting to the ground.  That has happened to broccoli, kale and Brussels sprouts. You will see some of the broccoli has some rotting in the center of the florets, due to rain sitting on the heads for longer than normal. The other night for dinner we cooked and ate some pretty raggedy looking broccoli, and it still tasted great.

 I met with Cornell Cooperative Extension today to get help in identifying  three different crop diseases  and one caterpillar that I’d never seen before – it turns out that all are tied directly to the wet weather.  They believed the steps that we had taken were sound and accurate given the tools we have under the national organic standards.  They shared stories with me of other farmers seeking advice, and the vast damage and loss of crops in our region this season. 

 Under the circumstance we try to stay optimistic about the situation and not come across as sounding as though we are complaining.  All seasons are different and rarely are they void of conditions at some time that will have an impact on quality, quantity or diversity.  We fared better than some Hudson Valley, Vermont, and Black Dirt farms that have already ended their CSA seasons (prematurely), but probably worse than farms in some other areas. Every region, even just as little as 100 miles away may have a totally different growing experience in a season. Since it looks like this season is going to have a tough finish for us, as the rains continue to come (as I write this , too! 6+ feet of rain this year and growing…) we hope that you will make an effort to remember the good things you received during the spring and summer and remember that we are still working as hard as we can under the conditions to produce as much food for you as we can.