Yesterday, we received this email from Justin, a farmer at Hillside Farm in Media, PA. He gives a great overview of how CSAs operate and the energy, time, and thought that goes into the food on your plate. For more information, visit http://www.greenerpartners.org
Dear Hillside Farm CSA members,
As I write this letter it is pouring down rain, and I can’t help but worry about the beds that I just prepared for today’s plantings of lettuce, kale and collard greens. Two inches have fallen in about an hour, turning the paths into rivers and hopefully not washing out the lettuce mix that I pleasurably seeded in the company of my daughter last night. It was a beautiful evening. The sun was setting as we listened to the cicadas chirping in the background becoming ever louder with each pass of the seeder.
I am not going to lie, the weather patterns this season have made growing food a challenge here at Hillside Farm. One of the most important lessons I have learned over the years as a farmer is being patient with the whims of nature but sometimes I lose my patience! With drought like conditions in April and May, the crops were growing slowly. We were able to keep up with the weeds, but we were definitely wishing for some rain. Sometimes you have to be careful what you wish for! The rain began mid-May, but did not stop for long enough to allow the fields to dry out between rains. Anyone that picks up on Monday will recall that it rained every pick up day for at least the first seven pickups. We would joke on that occasional dry Monday morning and say “Wait, is it Monday? It is not raining?”, but sooner or later it would. All of this rain set back our ability to keep the weeds out of the fields and pushed back critical seeding and planting dates. Fortunately, we are just about caught up with the weeding from the early summer’s wet weather.
There is a crucial time to hoe or cultivate the weeds by hand or with the tractor, before they even break the surface of the soil. If this period is missed it means that the task of weeding could take at least 10 times as long. This is sometimes unobtainable in the finite days of a growing season. Overgrowth of weeds combined with wet soil conditions leads to rot, increased disease pressure and additional places for pests to hide, resulting in crops loss. Each year some crops will fail and some will thrive, and each season is a template for which to improve on for the next season. Luckily late blight did not strike this season, as this kept me up many a night worrying, as the weather patterns reminded me of 2009 in which many tomato crops were lost on the east coast.
All of this results in a frustrated farmer who wishes no more than to have the share room overflowing with an abundance of summer’s bounty. I’ve been in touch with other farmers in our region who are experiencing very similar challenges this summer that we’ve seen on our farm. As you know, joining a CSA has its risks and rewards – largely dependent on the weather conditions, rainfall amounts, and production. I hope you trust that we’re working very hard to do the best we can with the challenges at hand.
But still there is much to be thankful for and I try to balance my emotions by focusing on the abundance out in the fields. The tomatoes are thriving, the third succession of summer squash was just uncovered and looks beautiful and we are all enjoying the tasty watermelons. And let’s not forget about u-pick! The u-pick garden has been very productive resulting in an abundance of herbs, flowers, hot peppers, berries and buckets of cherry tomatoes, and we hope you make sure to take advantage of these fields, since they’re an additional benefit to your weekly share.
Although it has been a tough season, it is your continued support that helps a farmer keep his chin up high and look forward to clear bright skies. Autumn is just around the corner, and hopefully dryer, sunny days will soon follow.We have begun to seed and plant many fall crops while the winter squash, beets, carrots and swiss chard are growing strong out in the fields already!
I hope you are enjoying your experience as a member of Hillside Farm and I urge you to stop and talk to your farmer to see how things are going. I can be found riding the tractor, running to quell the latest irrigation rupture, out harvesting crops or checking in on things in the share room from time to time. Please know you can always communicate your concerns to me. Come find me or email me, I would love to hear from you.
There will be a mid season survey emailed to you at the end of next week. Please take the time to answer the questions to help us make Hillside the best experience it can be!
Thank you for being a part of our Hillside Farm community. We hope to see you at the Cob Oven Pizza Party on Saturday.