July 2, 2012

This Week's Vegetables & News from the Farm

The hail may have dinged up the crops a bit but we still have loads of food:
  • Beets
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Cucumbers
  • Kale
  • Spring Onions
  • Salad Mix
  • Cilantro
  • Scallions
  • Summer squash
  • Zucchini
New this week, carrots! We should have them until the end of the season.

News on the Farm -- You gotta lose to win

Dear Friends,

What a past few weeks of extremes! After a couple sweltering days of stifling heat, we had a post card perfect weekend, only to be followed by torrential down pours, lightning and hail last Monday morning. Our crops made it through the heat just fine, really enjoyed their weekend, and were optimistically looking forward to rain on Monday. I always tell the crops "be careful what you wish for” but they don't listen to me and last Monday greeted them with 5 inches of rain and hail.

We suffered some pretty major hail damage to some pretty minor crops (unless you REALLY love cilantro and cutting lettuce, than it was major damage to major crops). We are very fortunate that our fields all drain extremely well. That is one advantage to the rocky, gravely Connecticut soil the glaciers left us with. On the farm I used to work at in Massachusetts, after a rain like that, you would need a small row boat to go out and check your peas and carrots. I am pleased to report that aside from the initial damage of the storm, we suffered no residual damage.

There is something I find strangely comforting about the storm damage we experienced this week. When things go wrong on the farm and in the fields we tend to blame ourselves. If the tomatoes blow down, it is because I didn't do a good enough job trellising them. If a deer eats our lettuce it is because I didn't maintain the fence properly. If the fence was maintained properly and the deer got in any way it is because I am sleeping at night instead of tirelessly guarding the lettuce. But when rain and hail flatten 4,000 row feet of leaf lettuce, what could we have done? It is out of our hands, and for that reason, it rolls off my back a little easier.

I have learned over the years that in order to be a successful farmer you have to get used to the idea of loss. We lose crops all the time on the farm. If one plant dies we can barely even tell. I feel like I can’t even see individual plants any more…only rows of plants. When more than one plant dies we do start to pay attention. Sometimes we can help, other times we can't. Our best laid plans are often disrupted by pests, weather, diseases and weeds. All we can really do is prepare the best we can and be creative and resourceful. Being a CSA farmer and having the support of our share holders makes accepting the inevitable losses a lot easier to swallow. The diversity of our farm gives us strength, when some crops fail, others thrive and each week the CSA baskets are full.

Speaking of loss, it seems appropriate to mention that late blight has been confirmed in New Haven Country (two counties over from our farm). Late blight is a disease that can absolutely devastate tomato and potato crops. It is the culprit responsible for the Irish potato famine and it can take down an acre of healthy plants in under a week. Late blight is technically a leaf mold, and like other molds it needs water, and damp conditions to spread. If it is hot and dry late blight is much less of a problem than if it is cool and damp. As organic farmers we are fairly ill-equipped in dealing with many agricultural pests and diseases when compared with our conventional counter parts.

In many cases we almost expect the diseases and insects to be present, and just plant extra to compensate. We expect our cucumbers and squash to get diseases and die. That is why we plant three successions of them. Late blight however is a different story. Late blight is on our 'serious problem' list with a few other specific diseases. The only thing that we can do to stop late blight on the farm is to prevent late blight on the farm. Once it appears in the field it is often too late to stop it. If cool, damp weather persists we will use an organic anti-fungus spray to help protect our potatoes and tomatoes. It is absolutely essential that we scout our fields on a regular basis and watch for signs of the disease. Late blight can spread quickly and even just a few infected plants undiagnosed in a home garden can easily produce enough spores to affect hundreds of acres of crops. If you do not know what late blight looks like please check out this link.

Well, that was a bit of doom and gloom, but sometimes that is life on the farm. It's not all bad though, after a long wait it looks like the carrots are finally here, and that is certainly something to smile about!

On behalf of your farm crew, Tana, Kara, and Larry

Your Farmers Max and Kerry

Provider Farm
(860) 222-5581
www.providerfarm.com