With all of the introductory silliness aside, we thought we'd share a bit of a farm report. But, instead of just giving you a list of things that are doing well or poorly, we include pictures! And, of course, we are working to make these reports more entertaining and potentially useful to those who read it. As always, comments and suggestions are welcomed.
Are we finally 'Right Sizing' some of our crops?
We have had years where certain crops have gone absolutely bonkers. Perfect timing for planting, motivations to pick it all and excellent weather for the given crop all have something to do with it. But, the other thing that often plays into it is the amount of a crop we plant.
|Painted Pony beans in bloom.|
Right now, we are approaching 500 pounds for the season, which has us on target for our goal. It won't break any records for us, but maybe that's ok. We know about what we can harvest reasonably and we know what we can successfully move. So, hitting a target works well.
|A&C Pickling Cucumber|
Another crop that we have shown the ability to grow is actually going to have much lower numbers than in recent years. And, it isn't because we didn't have good production from the vines. It has more to do with our not having the time to get it all picked. When you combine this with a bit less demand and the motivation to get it all picked won't be there.
In 2012 and 2013, we harvested over 5000 cucumbers each year. Last year was a down year and we only harvested a little over 2000 cucumbers. And, we did a decent job of meeting demand. As a result, we reduced our goal to 3500 cucumbers for a season and we are sitting at 2800 at this time.
We should reach our goal. But, part of us remains disappointed in this. We know what we CAN produce. In fact, we harvested over 7000 marketable cucumbers in 2010. But, sometimes it isn't always the best thing for the whole farm to maximize a particular crop.
Some crops on our farm have been a real struggle. There are many reasons for this, with the primary reason often being the weather combined with our farm's soil types. But, this isn't the whole truth. Another reason is the simple fact that it is NOT easy to scale every single vegetable crop we grow up to a proper size for our farm. Some of the issues have to do with tools, some with techniques and some with knowledge.
|We all live in a yellow submarine.....|
|Touchstone Gold beets love the high tunnel|
Potatoes have been difficult the prior couple of years because we could not get into the fields to prep the soil for planting. But, the real issue was the fact that we simply didn't have the tools on hand to get the ground worked fast enough if a window presented itself for planting. With Rosie the tractor and some assorted implements, we can now take advantage of much smaller planting windows than we ever have. The results? We put half of our potatoes in before May 5 and the rest in by May 15. As a result, we have already harvested two rows of potatoes and are a quarter of the way to our goal of 1 ton of taters for the season.
Our solution for beets has been to stop growing them on our farm and let Jeff Sage grow them. However, we really wanted to grow some specialty beets in hopes that it will meet the needs of persons who just can't stomach the red beets. So, every year, we've made a half-hearted attempt to grow Touchstone Gold beets and Chioggia beets. It wasn't until this year, when we worked to add the second high tunnel, that we allowed ourselves to use some high tunnel space for beets. The result? We were able to introduce our CSA members to golden beets! We beat our modest goal of 100 pounds of beets for the season and we're wondering if our Fall field planting will add to that total. Who knows? Maybe if we challenge them? Tell them to try to beet our previous record?
Sorry, I can't help it. I must pun.
Continued Incremental Improvements
If you have a diversified farm, such as ours, you need to avoid the approach known as "delayed perfection" and adopt the "incremental improvement" mantra. It doesn't mean that there is no planning or research that goes into it. But, it does mean that you have accept that you can't do everything exactly the way you want to immediately.
Some crops that are showing better results because of incremental improvements are our peas, onions, melons and cauliflower.
|These melons are 2+ weeks away form being ready.|
If we think back to how we used to grow melons, we are easily amazed by how many adjustments and changes we have made. We used to do what every gardener has done. Make a hill and place 3 to 7 seeds in each hill. Water as needed, weed when you can and then harvest. The problem with that model? It doesn't work when you want to start growing enough to have 500 to 1000 melons for CSA and direct sales.
Then, there are the peas. We had an awful year in 2014 because soil conditions didn't support germination, but we've had some decent production prior to that. This year, everything came together and we blew past all prior years with over 400 pounds of peas (as opposed to the average 119 pounds from 2011 to 2014. The final piece of the puzzle was our trellising techniques and timing.
|This may be the year of the pea?|
|White Wing onions|
|Don't know what it is, but a head of cauliflower in the field is very rewarding to the farmer|
Then, there are things you can't do anything about. For example, we like to grow Listada de Gandia eggplant and Rosa Bianca eggplant. Listada is the top photo and Rosa is below.
We acquired seed for each and started plants. We got them in the ground and they are growing fine. Listada looks good and is beginning to produce. The Rosa's? Well, their fruit look alot like Listada - even if the plant looks alot like a Rosa Bianca plant. So, clearly there was an issue with the seed. We will not get any Rosa Bianca's this year because of it. But, we'll test the fruit the plants do produce to make sure they taste fine and go from there.
I saved this item for last as a reminder to myself and to everyone else that there is always more to learn and there is always a chance that mistakes will be made. It is also a good reminder that, even if you think you did everything 'right,' things can still go wrong. So, I may be speaking with confidence about our abilities to grow things, but I always know how easily Mother Nature can make me look very silly. I am also painfully aware of my own short comings.
So, with that in mind - we're still doing pretty darned good and we're just planning on getting better. If things go wrong (and they will) we will make more adjustments and do what seems best to the best of our abilities. I don't think we can say fairer than that!