I hope that this finds everyone well and enjoying a respite in the heat. Our crew is happy with the cooler forecast this week. They have manufactured a lot of sweat this summer.
We've been balls to the wall all summer, and are feeling the intensity of the lack of rain and increased insect pressure. We grow about 80 different crops, several varieties each of some of those crops, and up to 16 generations of some of them. So there are all of these generations of crops out there at one time, and naturally they all need different management depending of what crop they are, and what stage of growth they are in. Paul and I are able to walk around the farm together and absorb everything that is going on (with the help of pen and paper), decide what each crop needs, prioritize that list of needs, and then divide it up into jobs and either do them ourselves, delegate them, or train someone to do them.
The prioritization list can change with a half inch of rain, an absent employee, or a sick kid. In a normal year about half of the crops at any one time are on auto-pilot. We've grown them for enough years, and in enough different weather conditions that we can pretty much look a crop, and know what it needs and how it'll grow for the next week and a half (for example, onions when they are putting on weight slow and steady). Our minds are thus freed up to think about the other half of the crops that need closer attention either because we just planted them, they are a finicky crop, or because they are in some special stage of their growth that requires attentive management (for example - getting the 18 beds of fall carrots to germinate, very time critical, which we did and they look great). This year is different. This year we've had to pay attention to about 3/4 of the crops at all times. This is because of the drought and insane difference in pest pressure. We've kept up, but its taken more energy. It is depressing to see so many crops struggling. Usually we work hard, but then get such pay off in looking at the farm and feeling the richness of great crops. This year there is much more work, and a lot of dusty, stalwart plants to comfort us.
We had to till in an entire half acre of fall broccoli and cauliflower because the flea beetles hit so hard. There were about forty flea beetles per plant! We sprayed three times with different organic pesticides to no avail. We limit the amount we spray so that the pest does not build up a resistance to the pesticide and make a super beetle. As a last resort, we hoed a half acre of broccoli that looked O.K., put out drip irrigation, and covered it with floating row cover, which provides a physical barrier for pests and traps moisture.
Usually we plant out fall broccoli, irrigate,and basically wave hi to it once in a while and it does great. We replanted the half acre that was lost, but all of the work that went in to growing the first round of transplants, making the potting mix, preparing the planting beds, transplanting them, setting up irrigation on them, and weeding them was for nought. To top it off, this new half acre that we just planted on Friday night (during a distribution, 95 degree heat, and our daughter's dance recital) is not a sure thing. We might run out of time or water before winter. We'll see.
We share these stories with you to convey how the weather has affected us this season. A few items may come up short the next couple of weeks in the shed due to the weather we have been having. Maybe you won't even notice. Being a CSA member is about eating with the ups and downs of a season. We are professional farmers doing our best with the season we have been dealt, but farmers can't shoulder the responsibility of extreme weather and continue to operate a business. Joining a CSA is about investing in your local food economy. I think despite our different backgrounds we as a CSA community see the value of eating and growing food in our rich local farmland. Our mission at Sweet Land Farm is to "run a farm business that helps our family, community and environment to thrive in health, spirit, and economy."
With all this said, we think that the share has been pretty darn good this summer. I (Evangeline) evaluate the value of the share as compared to Greenstar, the Farmer's Market, and Wegmans several times throughout the summer. In a normal year in August the One Bag Side (not including the free choice and u-pick) is worth anywhere from $30 to $45. That's just the bag!! The share in its entirety costs $21.66/week. The CSA savings is significant. This year the One Bag is worth the same as a normal year!! The only place that we feel the share has shrunk is in the u-pick and free choice side. There are many corollaries I could make with these bits of information, but I will let it go at the above stated.
Vegetable forecast (remember this list always has been and always will be a forecast only):
spinach - 6th generation of the season, it looks good.
arugula - 4th generation of the season, also looking good.
onions - we know that everyone likes this so they're going to be around for the long haul. We plant about 19,000 of them a year.
carrots - these little water suckers are delicious right now. There is a tub for their tops under them.
beets - doing great! These are also water suckers, but irrigating them really pays off.
cabbage - we didn't plant the little cute single serving kind, but that's what the universe gave us, so lets enjoy little cutie pie cabbages this summer. (We planted the big honkin kind, but they like honkin water to really shine)
tomatoes - ah, now is tomato time, revel in the glory of it all. This year we put all of our tomato production into the newly expanded greenhouses. That means a couple of things. One, we spent about $8000 expanding the greenhouses (just in materials). Two, almost all of the tomatoes that we pick out of those tunnels are #1s, that is, they are top quality. Three, it means that we don't have to suffer the heart break of planting 1500 feet of tomatoes outside in the fickle NY summer (fickle for a tomato, perfect for a beet), and then picking them once or twice and getting hardly anything off of them.
cherry tomatoes - 1 quart season limit (will probably go up this week)
green beans - 8 quart season limit
flowers (word to the wise, there are LOTS of flowers just past the greenhouses), cilantro, dill, parsley, basil