I thought it would be nice, after almost a couple months of pickups to give an all-farm update to fill in everyone on what’s going and growing on around Peace and Carrots Farm. So sit back, adjust your reading glasses and read on; it’s going to be a longer, though hopefully interesting post!
Since early spring, we’ve encountered challenges this season. As most of you know, this is Jay and my first season going at it alone on Johnson Road. Even though we have lots of combined experiences as interns, it’s definitely a lot easier when someone else is holding the reins and you just get to go along with the ride, not really having to worry about much. That being said, we are having a blast each and every day, learning things about the land, learning things about ourselves, and bringing quality vegetables to market and to the pickup tent each and every week. Sometimes I think to myself, “This is actually working; wow!” and can’t help but smiling to myself.
That being said, even though we are learning lots of things, that’s not to say we haven’t made some mistakes along the way. Some of you might be wondering when the heck spring carrots are going to make an appearance and why every other farm at the markets has beets, but not us? Well, a large part of farming is knowing the land that you’re working. Since right up until March Peace and Carrots Farm was just an old hay field that hadn’t been plowed in 30 years, we weren’t really sure what the soil was like, what the drainage was like and what parts of the field might be too wet to plant in. Well….that wet June and early July has shown us that we need to cut the field back about 30 feet, closest to the road because in wet weather it will be a sopping, muddy, vegetable-killing mess. A good lesson, for sure, but at the cost of drowned carrots, beets and peas. We’re going to plant more carrots, beets and peas in the fall, but I certainly missed them in late June and feel bad that you all did too.
Though I’d like to say that the extraordinarily wet weather was unusual, the trend seems to be going towards unusual weather patterns become well, usual. We’ve had extremely wet summers, extremely dry and hot springs, snow in October and hurricanes more often than in the past years, just in the time that I’ve been farming. Being at the mercy of the weather certainly does induce a lot of anxiety, but when there’s nothing you can change about it, it encourages quick decisions, creative solutions and the ability to shrug off catastrophe and start again; all of which are great skills to have.
Sometime in late May (the 18th I think?), we had a killing frost that took out the first two rows of tomatoes and we made the decision to rip them up and re-plant and now they are starting to bear fruit. Our summer squash plants had a vine borer infestation, which are caterpillars that enter the stem and eat the plant from the inside out. We made the somewhat radical decision to inject BT (an organically-approved bacteria that kills most types of caterpillars when they ingest it), into the stems using a syringe and so far it looks like it’s helping. When the walking rows grew up to our hips in weeds, we used the tools at our disposal to deal with the problem; our hands and a weedwacker. Where other farms might have fancy tools or chemicals that they can utilize, we’ve got elbow grease and the motivation of our members coming each week, ready to fill their bags with fresh veggies to get us up in the mornings and into the fields, even when it’s rainy or hot.
Speaking of hot weather, last week has been great for the farm for a couple of reasons. First of all, it gave the plants a chance to really dry out, which is good because wet, cooler weather is ideal for spreading disease. So far our farm doesn’t have any sign of downy mildew or late blight, but farms in New Jersey and Pennsylvania do, so hot dry weather gives our cucumbers, potatoes, peppers, tomatoes and eggplants more of a fighting chance. Second, most of our plants love it hot. Have you seen the corn in the other half of the field lately? It sure does look happy with the hot, hot, hot and humid weather and the tomatoes, peppers and eggplants feel exactly the same way. It’s hard to remember now, but we had a very late spring this year, so temperatures in the nineties help those summer crops to get a move on growing. We’ve been methodically weeding all of those crops and they are starting to shape up pretty nicely!
Coming up soon in your shares will be you-pick-it cherry tomatoes (just a pint per family at first, but then more!), slicing tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes, sweet and hot peppers, eggplants of several shapes and colors, onions and some (pretty small, but delicious!) garlic. The winter squash is in the field and growing fast, so butternut, delicata, acorn and pie pumpkins should be on their way in a couple months also.
In the past week, we’ve also been spending a lot of time in the greenhouse, getting all the fall transplants ready to go. That means another round of kale, chard, bok choy, spinach and lettuce will be coming your way when the weather gets a little cooler. This time, with the addition of collard greens and fennel as well!
We’re excited to have the opportunity to grow veggies for you all this season and are thoroughly enjoying the on-your-toes process of starting a farm. If things keep going the way they’re going, the next 13 weeks are going to be great! See you all in the tent on Monday!