Twenty weeks seem so long, and yet, so short - especially when you look up at the calendar and realize you are in mid-October and the label "week 20" is in your datebook. While Rob waits for a shower to blow over, it seemed appropriate to write a quick set of impressions for this year's season.
Overall Share Quality
Despite everything, this may have been one of our better seasons as far as farm share quality, diversity and volume goes. Of course, each family has its own idea as to what veggies should be in greater (or less) quantity. But, you have to admit you got a bit of everything. And, frankly, we don't feel we overextended you too much on anything either.
Share amounts were actually pretty sizable, even starting at week 1. Yes, things peaked a bit in August and September, just as they always do. But, it really didn't seem like it was exponentially more veg than the earlier weeks. We attribute that to better early season practices, an expansion of the types of veg we grow early and the addition of Jeff Sage to our team over the last two years. Jeff is the man when it comes to early season carrots and beets. We also enjoyed his sweet potatoes and parsnips this year.
We also felt that we provided quality produce this season. It is true that we expect to provide you quality every year, but we feel we are getting better at being more consistent in this area. Our cleaning techniques are better, our growing strategies are better and our experience in handling the farm sahre CSA is beginning to show.
There are always some exceptions to the rule. For example, early tomatoes were not without splits. But, we make the argument that we could either bring you some tomatoes with splits and give you the option to eat and enjoy them (which you did) OR not bring them and fail to give you that choice.
Dry and Hot
It would figure that we would go from several seasons that were way to wet directly into a drought. But, we've always maintained that our soil and location would respond better to a drought than a deluge. And, while it was hard work with lots of new processes, this held true for us. Of course we would rather have a year that was a little less dry and warm (closer to the mythical "normal"). But, if we have to have extremes, we'll go with this year versus 2008 or 2010.
As far as produce went, we had some difficulty with mid season lettuce and getting fall crops started. But, we only lost the winter squash field due to the weather (and bugs - but that's another story). Some crops, like cucumbers, tomatoes, summer squash and zucchini produced well below average during the hot and dry weather. But, we kept them alive and kept them picked early. You got what they provided until things cooled a bit and we got a little bit of rain. Then, you got the peak on those crops that would normally occur a bit sooner. In fact, I bet most members don't even recall a 'trickle' from those crops. Your memories probably tell you that you got as much (or more) of these crops as you wanted.
We learn more about what we do every season. Some of it is planned learning and some of it is...not.
We've been planning to do more with drip irrigation for several years, but the excessive wetness has forestalled that effort. We had a crash course this year! There is more to be learned, but we're pretty happy with our response during the season and hope to be more efficient next year.
We continue to learn how to use the tractor (Durnik) and our other tools, such as Barty (the tiller), much more effectively. And, we added the use of paper mulch on a trial basis this year. And, frankly, the learning as we do this job is continuous. It is actually difficult to identify what belongs to this season and what belongs to past years.
What would this season have been like for Farm Shares if we hadn't had to throw so much produce away after we were hit by an aerial sprayer on the West side of the farm? While it is true that some of the changes would have been in the form of more excess that we could sell to improve our bottom line for the year, there would have been some differences for the CSA as well.
Farm shares would have seen sweet and hot peppers as an option starting in full force in August and going into October. We would easily have had an average of 3-4 sweet peppers per share each week. You could have expected 1-2 eggplant every week and there would have been some okra for those who like it.
The tomato season would have opened with much more volume and quantity since the salad sized tomatoes in the high tunnel were doing well and looking great - ready for their first big pick at about the point we got sprayed. We would have liked to have shared the rosemary we were growing there for you and we would have liked to have been able to pick the green beans growing in that tunnel so we would have more available for sale.
There would have been more melons because we would have been able to get out there and weed them at the point where it was very necessary. And, while it is difficult to fully determine how all the dominoes would have fallen, we wonder how much better things would have been in quality and volume if we hadn't felt the need to make major adjustments to fill the voids created by the spraying. But, maybe the best news is that we made the adjustments, we received some support, and the farm share quality remained high.
We end this season's Farm Share CSA program with very few regrets about how we handled things. Of course, there were some mistakes. Of course, there are things we would like to have done better with. Of course, many things did not work out the way we planned or wanted. But, that's the nature of the beast. What we are saying is that, given the circumstances of the season, we did well.
We will run an extended Fall program for a smaller group of people this year and we will do the same in the Spring. But, we can't help thinking about how we will make adjustments for 2013 in an effort to provide an even better experience for Farm Share CSA members and more opportunities for our farm do do well.
We are especially excited to enter a new growing season with a better truck with a much better topper. We can get much more into the truck with much less of a struggle. And, can you imagine the relief for both of us as we enter 2013 with a room for the hens AND a room for the turkeys ready to be used. Now, if we can get that brooder room ready!
For the first time, we actually had a "permanent" location for our cold frames and seedlings that was near to a water source and protected from many of the winds we get out here. And, we can actually close up a couple of our buildings after the addition of some decent overhead doors. All of this progress actually gives us a chance to put together a new cleaning/packing area and adding a walk-in cooler to the farm.
We are hopeful that increased use of paper mulch will prove to be an economical and sustainable addition to growing on our farm. This season's trial seems to imply that this will be true. Now that we've figured out the basics, we are anxious to do a bit more with it.
To everyone who worked on the farm this year - our deepest gratitude. To all who supported us by being members or by making purchases of poultry, plants or produce, we are pleased to have received your support. And to our family and friends - we still don't know how you tolerate us! But, thank you for doing so nonetheless.
Rob & Tammy