Saturday, October 8, 2016

Crop Report 2016

Apparently, we are getting into the habit of posting crop goals in October.  I am not sure if it is good or bad to be somewhat predictable on that account.  I'll just say it's good and leave it at that.

As a reminder, we tend to set two goals for ourselves.   The first is a number we think is reasonable AND should provide us with plenty to meet obligations (CSA, etc) and provide additional sales opportunities.  The second is a goal we think we really have to get in order to just meet obligations.  Additional sales would be minimal in that case.  And, for those who might care that our goals are different this year than they were last year - there are reasons.  For example, we adjusted the green bean goals in part because we were hoping some pole beans (Gold of Bacau) would take some of the load (and they did).

All numbers with * are subject to change as the season continues. Updated 11/4/16

Green Beans
   goal - 700 pounds                                                   minimum goal - 500 pounds
   2016: 481.6 pounds *                                             2015: 888.5 pounds
   goal - 500 pounds                                                     minimum goal - 400 pounds
   2016: 193.0 pounds *                                               2015: 369.8 pounds
   goal - 4000 fruit                                                        minimum goal - 3000 fruit
   2016: 3022 fruit                                                        2015: 2898 fruit 
   goal - 3000 head                                                       minimum goal - 2000 head
   2016: 3176 head                                                        2015: 3393 head
Bell and Sweet Peppers
   goal - 4000 fruit                                                       minimum goal - 3000 fruit
   2016: 3635 fruit                                                       2015: 4418 fruit
   goal - 1200 fruit                                                       minimum goal - 750 fruit
   2016: 868 fruit                                                         2015: 936 fruit
   goal -  750 pounds                                                   minimum goal -  500 pounds 
   2016 -  860.6 pounds *                                            2015 -  349.5 pounds
   goal - 500 fruit                                                        min goal - 300 fruit
   2016 - 541 fruit                                                      2015 - 644 fruit
   goal - 3000 bulbs                                                    min goal - 2000 bulbs
   2016 - 3205 bulbs *                                                 2015 - 3598 bulbs 
Winter Squash
   goal - 1000 fruit                                                     min goal - 500 fruit
   2016 - 938 fruit                                                     2015 - 643 fruit
Snow Peas
   goal - 250 pounds                                                  min goal - 100 pounds
   2016 - 134.8 pounds                                             2015 - 445.4 pounds
   goal - 2500 pounds                                               min goal - 1000 pounds
   2016 - 1460.4 pounds *                                          2015 - 1139.7 pounds
Carrot **
   goal - 500 pounds                                                min goal - 200 pounds
   2016 - 122.0 pounds                                           2015 - 607.3 pounds
   goal - 300 pounds                                                min goal - 200 pounds
   2016 - 221.0 pounds    *                                       2015 - 432.8 pounds   
Pok Choi
   goal - 300 pounds                                                min goal - 200 pounds
   2016 - 222.4 pounds    *                                      2015 - 365.5 pounds
Snack Tomato
   goal - 2000 fruit                                                  min goal - 1500 fruit
   2016 - 1959 fruit    *                                            2015 - 3332 fruit

** Note that these numbers do not include Jeff Sage's carrot numbers.

This is just a sampling of our harvest so far and some of the general goals we set for ourselves for production.  If you have interest in some of our other crops, let us know and we'll add them to this list!

The Good

Bunte Forellenschus (bless you!)
Up until August, we were thinking lettuce was going to be the headliner for the season.  And, on the strength of the early season numbers, it still is.  But, heavy rains have taken a toll in September and the hopes for a 'monster' lettuce season are dwindling.  We'll see how the last batches shape up and we may still be more than just 'happy' with our lettuce season.  It's a pretty good situation when you could stop *right now* on a crop and say you've met and exceeded expectations.

It is difficult to come up with another crop that fits this category right now.  Frankly, very few crops are really knocking our socks off this year.  On the other hand, very few are making us terribly unhappy.  

The Good Enough
We have enough years of data and experience now that we have to be careful to not let an earlier year's monstrous success with one crop make us move the bar radically in response.  Case in point?  The peas.  Last year was a just a silly good year for peas and this year they came in at a number that is a pretty good average for us.  I admit that I didn't like the look of the vines this year - but it is possible I still have visions of last year's amazing plants in my head.  In the end, I suspect no one was unhappy with the amount of peas they received in the CSA.  We just didn't find ourselves trying to find sales outlets for them like we did last year.

The other crop that comes to mind here is the zucchini.  We've got numbers from our earlier years that run from 1800 to 2200 fruit.  Compared to the 800-1200 in recent years, it is tempting to wonder what is going on here.  Part of the reduction is simply a production choice.  We were having trouble finding homes for all of the zucchini, so we cut production row feet.  We also have tried to expand our production window so we would have zucchini for a much longer period of time.  That has worked, but to the detriment of total production numbers.  For example, this Fall's crop produced enough to give everyone in the CSA some zucchini in September, but the fruit per row foot production of these plants is actually very low.  In the end, we can say that the plants certainly produced well enough to meet our obligations and we do feel the quality was very high.  We just can't say it is anything more than an average year for them.  And, that's not a bad thing at all.

And the Ugly
How our broccoli *should* have looked (this was 2014)
There are some crops that might fall under the "ugly" category this year - sort of.  For example, it was extremely frustrating to watch multiple plantings of carrots fail to germinate in the field.  On the other hand, Jeff Sage is our carrot guru, so we can afford to not worry too much when that crop fails on our farm.  It's the main reason why Jeff grows the carrots, he likes to grow them and his soil tends to have more success.  On the other hand, the crop of Dragon carrots in our older high tunnel, Eden, was a decent crop.  The yield was in line with last year's numbers, so we feel we've got an idea of what we should expect for a high tunnel per row foot.

The broccoli has been terribly disappointing from OUR perspective this year.  That doesn't mean there hasn't been some tasty broccoli for our CSA customers.  It also doesn't mean there aren't more in the pipeline.  But, our troubles started with the entire first succession being decimated by critters while they were STILL in their trays.  If that isn't an omen, I don't know what is.  We've heard from other growers that the broccoli hasn't been as good as some years for them as well.  So, we'll just chalk it up to seasonal variability and some bad luck with seedlings.  The fact that we are still getting some decent broccoli just shows that we've got a pretty good plan to avoid being shut out for most of our crops.
Black Krims from the high tunnel are a wonderful thing

And the Mixed Up!
And here is where our efforts at diversification pay off - but make categorizing crops as successes or failures difficult.  The carrots could be an example of this, but the tomatoes are a much better poster child for this category in 2016.

If we exclude snack and cherry tomatoes from the count, we have harvested over 1300 fruit this year from our tomato plants.  Of those fruit, 748 have come from the field and 578 from the high tunnels.  So, what's the big deal?  The field was home to approximately 530 plants.  So, we have been able to pull just over one tomato per plant from the field this year.  That, simply put, is pretty awful.  On the other hand, we have 53 plants in our high tunnels.  About 11 per plant and still counting.  The field tomatoes, on the other hand, are done. 

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