Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Not Claiming to Know A Thing

The Genuine Faux Farm has existed since 2005, when we put together our first CSA season.  We worked about 1 acre of ground and succeeded in probably using half of that.  To our credit we had several years of serious gardening background and a desire to make local food work and we managed to sign up 20 families to take a share from us that season.  Of that group, there are five who are still with us this year!

Fast forward and you find us with 114 CSA farm share members.  We've been certified organic since 2007 and we now have approximately 5 acres of land worked for vegetables or cover crops to prepare for later vegetable crops.  There is no way we could have foreseen this when we started.  Our original business plan called for us to be at a maximum 40 members in 2008 and hold at that number.   There were no formulated plans for turkeys, ducks or meat chickens, just a few hens.

Here's the strange thing about all of this.  We seem to have this fuzzy recollection of fairly normal growing years in 2005 and 2006.  There were some warm days, cool days, frosts, dry weather and wet weather - but all in their good measure.  The next year, 2007, was actually a wonderful growing year UNTIL....late August/early September.  We got a whole bunch of rain in a very short period of time.  And the roller coaster ride began.

Mother Nature apparently felt a lesson needed to be taught.  Ok.  She felt a whole BUNCH of lessons needed to be presented.  Or maybe hammered into our heads.

It was in 2007 that we learned we have land where the water table is high.  Excessive rain can sit on our fields.  We learned that it only takes 10 days of sitting water to rot out all of your potato crop that was ready to come out of the ground.  We also watched while our green beans, full of fruit turned to brown mush.  Rob also learned that he can mistake a ball of mud for a boot on his foot.  It took a while to find that boot.  We also started to learn how to tell people that a crop we had counted on giving them in their shares was gone.  Frankly, we weren't very good at it - and maybe we still aren't - but we've learned to be more straightforward about it.

You would think we would try to do something to address this problem in 2008.  But, we were still relatively new to the scene and still dealing with the pains of growing to a small farm from a large garden.  There is a very real and distinct difference between the two - and part of the difference has to do with the investment in tools and supplies.  That, and we had a tendency to believe that each year was a new season and that the Fall event of 2007 was an isolated event.  The lesson we took from the prior year was that we'd go ahead and pull potatoes if it seemed that a string of heavy rain events were headed our way later in the Summer or early Fall.

Here's the crazy part of all of this.  We'd never had a potato crop failure prior to 2007 in any of our gardening or early farming exploits.  And, since then, we've had more failures due to wetness in the last several years than we've had success.  Although, we did have a season where we pulled in 3000 pounds of yummy taters.

So, finally in 2012, we are able to acquire the equipment necessary to help create row hills or semi-raised beds.   The idea is to bring the potatoes up over the water table so they do not rot away on us.  The down side, of course, is that if you have drought conditions, they will get dry and need water faster than if they were in a flat ground situation.

Implement it - and the rain goes away.  So, we continue to run drip irrigation water on the potatoes in hopes that they will bulk up anyway.  We won't know until we dig them.  But, most of the plants look fine - if a little drier than we want them to at this point. 

We're beginning to think we should take the "Sgt Schultz" approach from now on.  "I know nothing. Nooooothing!"   Perhaps Mother Nature will make the tests a little less difficult in hopes that we'll show some aptitude?

Now, before you all get overly worried.  We are still looking at a potato crop coming in this year.  We'll let you know if that changes.  But, if we get a bunch of rain, they'll be up higher than were a few years ago.

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