Thursday, September 7, 2017

September Field Report

We're entering the 'home stretch' for the growing season - just a few more months to do and we're done for the year!

Yes, that's right, there is still plenty of farming to do at the Genuine Faux Farm where the final harvest is usually in December.  But, it is also true that the nature of the work and the pace seems to change in September.  The rhythm that was June through August is fading and the realization that some things are just going to be what they are has got the farmers doing a little assessment and reflection.

And, who gets to benefit from that reflection?  Why, you do, of course!  Aren't we so nice?
April in Valhalla
We actually had a pretty rough start this year - even in the high tunnels.  After all, if you don't get much of Mr. Sun, plants have a hard time growing.  So, it has been pretty nice to see that we've been able to fight through that and we seem to be enjoying some reasonable results on the farm this season.

Greens, radish and turnips in May
Once again, we're noticing that very few of our crops are going to be setting farm records for us.  And, we're actually pleased by this.  Why?  Well, usually a record-setting crop by this time on our farm would be the result of increasing production space for that particular crop.  Early on, we would set records either because we really concentrated on a crop (to the detriment of other crops) and/or we overestimated how much space we needed.  We've moved past the 'set a record crop harvest for everything' mentality over the past five years and are targeting yields that match need and yields that reflect balance throughout the growing season.

tomatoes, beets and lettuce in Eden (June)
Of course, this doesn't mean would say no to a bumper crop of anything.  We'll certainly work to figure out what to do with it if it comes in.  But, there are always issues with capacity.  Some people have asked why we don't grow more of "x" because we are so "good at it."  They are missing the fact that we only have a certain capacity for labor, for storage and for sales. 
Broccoli and onions in July
We still feel that we are no where close to our overall farm capacity to produce good food.  At issue here is a single four-letter word: time.

Every crop takes a certain amount of time to do it reasonably well.  Every equipment breakdown eats up some of that time.  Time spent trying to promote the farm and sell product does not go towards better growing of the crops.  And, it takes time for improvements on the farm to take hold. 

For example, I'd love it if the bushes we've planted along our Easter fields were a nice big hedge already.  But, it takes some years for that to happen.  Until then, we deal with more exposure to corn and soybean fields than we like.
Copenhagen Market cabbage in August
Which brings us to a brief update on some of our crops so far this year.  We hope you find this interesting.

Tomato Resurgence at GFF
While we aren't at levels that Rob would like things to be, we've had some improvements this year after a couple of down years.  High tunnel production has really pulled us through the last couple of years, but production in the high tunnels was actually not up to par last year either.  This year, tomato production in the high tunnels is running on track with 2015 and 2014 numbers, which is re-assuring to us that 2016 was an aberration.  Field tomatoes, on the other hand, have very nice quality tomatoes on them.  Last year, we removed most of them as not being good enough to distribute.  Our target each year for slicer sized tomatoes is about a one ton weight in quality fruit.  Last year, we landed South of a half-ton, with high tunnel production carrying the load.

the Cucumber Conundrum
Thus far, 2017 has not been a great cucumber year.  This would figure since we were positioning ourselves to sell some cucumbers in bulk this year after three years where we didn't bother picking all of the good fruit (and fed them to the birds as they got too big) and five years in a row of similar production.  So, of course, our harvest numbers sit at a 'paltry' 1200+ for the year.  Before you send that beverage out of your nose in reaction to what we're calling a 'bad' number, consider that we were running full season numbers between 5000 and 6000 for five years running.  But, there is hope on the horizon.  We decided to run a third succession this year (rather than just two) and the third succession plants look the way they should.  If all goes well, we'll have a nice flush of fruit in mid-September.  If we get an early frost (which seems unlikely to us right now) then we'll just say we gave it a shot and leave it at that.

Onion Patience
Onions went in later than we wanted this year.  We're currently harvesting the short-season sweet white onions (White Wing) and we've been very pleased with the taste and quality.  They are, perhaps, a bit smaller than prior years, but nothing to be ashamed of.  The question is how well the rest of the onions will finish out.  They look healthy and strong.  And, we've run late with onions before with good results.  But, it still can be a bit nerve-wracking to hear about everyone else celebrating their completed onion harvest and yours is yet to happen.

Squish for the Squash Fanatics
This might be the best our winter squash field has EVER looked.  The field is pretty clean and has a good cover of vines and leaves.  Yes, there are some weeds creeping back in after our last weeding - which is annoying.  But, that's not abnormal for this time of year to get a few tall weeds poking through.  We've seen strong pollinator activity in the borage and prolific flowering on the vines.  Once again, we have to wait and see what makes it to maturity prior to the event of colder weather.  Regardless, it's looking good.

On the other side of the spectrum, we're looking at a melon crop failure this year.  We should still get a batch from the Minnesota Midgets in Valhalla, but it's nothing like what we've come to expect over the past few years.  Chalk it up to putting them in the wrong field and some timing issues and there you are.  Such is life.

Bean There Done That
We had some nice beans early in Eden until they flooded out in late July.  We tided everyone over with some beans in the field that also had some issue with the heavy rains at that time.  We are patiently awaiting what should be a bumper crop from Valhalla.  Again, no records here, but probably as much as we or our CSA members could want for a season.  And, probably all we can manage with the number of hours it takes to harvest them.

We hope you've enjoyed this GFF farm report and we look forward to giving a positive report of yields for all of these crops (except melons -sigh) at the end of the season!

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