Saturday, October 24, 2009

End-of-Season wrap-up

Spoiler alert, members who don't want to be biased on their survey may want to wait to read this post.

People ask me alot every year how the season was, and so I start thinking of answers practically as soon as the season starts, and usually in my mind then it has this character that is building and fairly unified, in short, the answer this year is "Weird" - weird in my book is neither positive nor negative. One example of this years weirdness was the tomatoes: once ours had generally made it past the blight, I think they were some of the best tasting we have had since farming in Vermont (4 years). That was extra weird cause alot of farms had none. On the other hand, our brasicaas did not do that well, which you might expect they would given the temps and weather. Lots of stuff was exactly as you would expect for a wet cool year, our parsley and spinach have done (and are still doing) really well, eggplant were a big bust - oh, I remembered another weird positive: melons. It might just be that I finally planted enough, but we finally had enough for all our members to get two, and I thought they tasted better than they ever have (for us). I always say melons are not my specialty, but I think I hit a few good Varieties that I will have to check my notes on and order again come January. Celery was also better, in part due to a new Variety and in part weather. Our garlic is also improving every year. Our seed for this year is the best I have ever seen it.And I think we have more of it than in previous years, so I am hoping this sets us up for an even better year next year.

This year was also weird because of our transition to new fields which had not been maintained in any way for the previous two years (ie lots of weed seed). This move has kind of set us up it what seems a more permanent configuration, permanent enough for us to have started our first perennial beds of rhubarb (which worked great from seed, and asparagus (which worked only so-so from crowns), we will be adding more of each in the coming years, hopefully providing extra goodies in the early weeks of the CSA.Here is the rhubarb, I even made a pot of jam or two at the end of the season, yeah!!

Now onto what we'll call the room for improvement section: as I already mentioned: brassicas were overall weak, basically due to weeds. In fact, without hopefully sounding silly, weeds were a larger problem than they should have been this year, alot of that is weather related (if its always raining its hard to hoe), alot is the fact that we almost doubled our size, some part is that our new aforementioned field was full of seed, another part was our lack of working members, and another large part is a lack of a system for staying on top of a farm the size of the current Open Heart. The good news is I think alot of that is do-able, and that eliminating even 25%-50% of those weeds would make an extreme difference in the crops, and, that even just the regular tilling of the new field is vastly improving it, even for next year, because about half of our weeds there were rhizomatic (they spread via their root systems in addition to seed head), and I have been fairly vigilant about breaking those up. Irrigation was also way more of an issue than I hope it will ever be again (those kinks are mostly ironed out even now.)

Other improvement areas?!?! despite planting probably about 33% more carrots than last year, I could probably still double the amount and use them easily at CSA pick-ups and at market. I'm still having a hard time figuring out how early you have to plant that last planting of beets and carrots. This year was a good object-lesson in how growth can potentially slow to a halt right around sept 15th, that is what you should count on and then if you get Oct 15th youre ahead of the game. Winter squash (esp pumpkins) didn't do that well, mostly cool weather on that one (and when I say this I think I'm referring to a summer that was basically between 5-10 degrees cooler than the average, and especially never had a real scorching week)). That said, there also remains a tension (I think) of how many winter squash to give the CSA members. This crop is a real space eater, so on a four acre farm I would feel silly having a half acre of squash but . . .

Overall, I'm rating this year as slightly below average, just in terms of gross production. That said, I actually feel better about the farm as a whole than I did at the end of last year, when all the growing had seemed a bit easier. Maybe I enjoy the idea that I learned alot.

And to think, it's not all over yet, come see me at the Shelburne Winter Market on Oct 31st.


Blogger Josh May said...

as a footnote, I've actually heard anecdotal evidence that ICF also had a weak winter squash harvest, probably due to cold - only 25% of their norm

3:03 PM, October 25, 2009  
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