Every year we attempt to identify the top varieties that were grown on the farm during the year. Criteria include production, quality of fruit, taste and plant health. Additional factors that may increase the rating for a variety might be performance as compared other varieties of the same type or one that surprised us by doing far better than anticipated. You might also note that we will give a tie break to a variety that has not been awarded a top slot over one that has.
About 2016's Growing Season
We had a reasonably good start to our growing season, but wetter than usual conditions starting in late July, through August and into the Fall challenged many of our crops. If you spent much time outdoors this year, you might have noticed that a high percentage of mornings during this period had foggy conditions and nearly all of them had a heavy dew on the ground. This situation was perfect for a number of blights and fungal conditions that limited production for a wide range of things. The weather conditions also promoted heavier weed pressures that needed attention - preempting some of our normal late Summer/early Fall planting. Add to it some suspicions about other factors and our final result is that our overall production was about 2/3 of what we had last year at this time.
In the end, we had a very diverse set of crops do well enough that we were able to provide yet another fine CSA season for our customers. This could be our most balanced shares to date, giving our customers the appearance of a year of bounty. And, for their part, it was that - and we are pleased by this. On the other hand, the ability to sell surplus was down this season, though we do still have garlic, onions and potatoes that will help us at the tail end of the year.
But, even if the over-all production levels were down, there were still outstanding producers on the farm - and that is what we want to focus on - the stars of the 2016 GFF growing season!
There probably hasn't been a season where we haven't tried something new to us. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. This is one of the years where the trial worked out pretty darned well. We liked how komatsuna did in the Fall a bit better than the Spring, but I don't think it will stop us from doing a bit more with it during either period. We are thinking we might do a bit more of the komatsuna and a bit less of the pok choi in the future, especially in the high tunnels. This isn't a knock on the choi mind you. It's just that these are a bit less bulky, a little sweeter and people are reporting that they have been able to eat these up a bit better than some of the nice big choi we grow.
|photo from Evergreen Seeds|
14. Thelma Sanders Acorn Squash
We have been telling people about Thelma for many years (both growers and consumers). In our opinion, we think the quality of this tan acorn squash is better than most green acorns and Tammy and I prefer the less stringy texture. Even better, the production numbers are quite favorable. This past season we had 285 marketable fruit from 120 row feet of plants (approx one plant per row foot at transplant). This happened even though we were late getting them in this season. What's not to like about that?
|Thelma Sanders is showing up in more seed catalogs!|
13. Pride of Wisconsin
This wasn't the melon year that last year was. We can link it to the field, to the time of planting and to the timing of the wet weather in late July through August. On the other hand, production levels for all melons were actually reasonably good. It's just that you can't help but compare the current year against the record setting season that came just prior.
|Pride of Wisconsin landed at #15 in 2015|
12. Marconi Red
This is a variety that we have been growing since our first years in Tripoli as the Genuine Faux Farm. Early on, we only got a few peppers off of our Marconi plants - proof positive that sometimes you need to learn your variety in order to get production out of it.
|A Marconi plant before the fruit is um... red.|
11. White Wing
Once again, it was hard to feel great about the onion production because our expectations have increased dramatically over the last three years.
|Early onions in your shares courtesy of White Wing|
10. Bronze Arrowhead
I tell you we tend to favor veg varieties that haven't appeared here before and now I show you Bronze Arrowhead. It has been at the top of the list in 2010, in the top five the year after that and in the top ten in 2013 with an 'Honorable Mention' in 2014.
|One of our favorite varieties to grow - period.|
Helios is a new entry into the list even though we have grown it for many years. A quick look shows it on our grow list in 2009, but I seem to recall we might have had it even earlier than that.
|A handful of Helios is a radish lover's delight.|
8. Touchstone Gold
This is another repeat from 2015. But, unlike Pride of Wisconsin and White Wing, Touchstone Gold exceeded last year's production. In a year where most crops ran at levels under prior year production numbers, a crop that exceeds the prior year needs to be rewarded by showing up on the list.
|Last year's photo, but better results in 2016.|
7. Black Cherry
We will grant that our Black Cherry production per plant this year did NOT match last year. On the other hand, we had more plants and production amounts were double last year.
|There are no Black Cherry tomatoes here, the taste testers ate them all!|
6. Chervena Chushka
Chervena was number five last year and takes a tiny step back to number six this season. Production numbers were down a tiny bit, but it seemed to us that the taste was actually better. There isn't much we can do to verify our taste perception from year to year, but we can say that Chervena Chushka got more positive reviews from our CSA members this year than most of our peppers.
|One of our prettiest peppers too!|
5. Marketmore 76
What more can we say about this vegetable variety? It is a consistent producer on the farm each season. We normally harvest them when they are 3/4lb to 1 lb in size. They typically have a nice straight barrel shape that is attractive on the table. The spines are easy to rub off and the quality remains good even if the fruit exceeds a pound in size.
|I should have picked one more for an even 1000 this season.|
4. Bunte Forellenschus
Larger quantities of seed for Bunte Forellenschus other than gardener packets have not been consistently available, so it should not be a surprise that it hasn't made our list before. Add to that the slightly limited peak production window and you don't typically have a recipe for a top veggie variety on our farm.
|I'm ready for a BLT right now!|
3. Rio Grande
It has been FAR too long since a potato made it to our top vegetable variety list (2012). We like our taters and it is always disappointing when they don't do as well as we would like. We tend to set our goals pretty high, which often means we are disappointed - even if the yields were reasonable.
|Rio Grande in the center|
2. Waltham Butternut
We realize many growers are turning their heads for some newer butternut cultivars, but we are happy to stick with Waltham. This year, we had over one fruit per row foot of production and an average size around three pounds.
1. Gold of Bacau romano bean
One would think that the farmer would manage to get a picture of the number one crop for the season. He didn't, so you all have to deal with a field picture that has the bean plants in it.
|Gold of Bacau beans climbing the fence on the right.|
We were persuasive enough to get people to try them and now we have a large number of fans for Gold of Bacau in our CSA.
We hope you enjoyed our 2016 Veg Variety Winner blog post. Please feel free to ask questions or make comments regarding these varieties in the comment section and we will happily engage you in discussion if you wish.