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Entries in Late Blight (3)


Farmer Zaid Talks Shop At Length

Zaid had a lot of really enlightening things to say last week; my apologies for not getting this up sooner, and co-director Mary did send this out via email to members, but here it is for anyone else that's interested:

Week number 12 is already upon us...today I want to explain some of what goes on on the farm so members have a better understanding of how things work day-to day.

THE EMPLOYEES: Almost weekly we have to hire new people as some people don't show up, quit, get fired, etc. The staff that packs is constantly changing and even some of our more senior staff that have been with us for years are leaving. It is very difficult to find quality people that want to do this kind of work. Even if you pay well, people are not used to the long hours and physical nature of farm work. In addition, the seasonal nature of produce farming does not offer employees stability so they are always looking for another job. Winter CSAs have helped a little bit but only enough to keep 2-4 out of 25 or so employees.

THE WEATHER: Never predictable always changing which stresses the plants, animals, and humans on the farm. This year we have had many extremes...hot hot weather which caused otherwise staggered plantings to mature at once such as melons, greens, peppers, eggplants, and more...now we are in a cool wet spell which has caused late blight again and it is in our tomatoes and potatoes. Even though the hot dry weather was intially good for maturing things early it also destroyed some of  our more sensitive  crops and stressed the surrounding vegetation which caused all the wildlife to eat at the local smorgasbord (Norwich Meadows Oasis of course)..so we are battling the deer, raccoons,  woodchucks, rabbits, and bugs...

THE FARMERS: under constant pressure to keep an even keel on ship that has direction but cannot predict the seas and is at the mercy of all the circumstances that pop up unexpectedly. Agriculture is subject to biological functions that cannot be controlled easily. Unlike widget making  that is under a roof and can be produced in an industrial fashion, we are constantly guessing, praying, hoping, that things turn out OK.There are not a lot of people aspiring to be farmers and there is a shortage of trained people in agriculture. The price structure and the perishable nature of our product do not allow us to wait for a better price or store for later...

Example of what we deal with: Yesterday: we came back with half a truck load of produce because it rained both Sunday and Monday (less cash flow and more compost)..the same truck needed to be unloaded, washed, and loaded for Wed CSA. It took 3 people until 11PM to load truck and deal with the returned vegetables. This morning water line ruptured thus delaying chicken and vegetable processing...

The bright side...we love what we do and we have a great loyal following amongst our CSA members and farmers market customers. We have had a not so bad crop this year despite the losses and we are hoping for a good fall crop. One of our tomatoes placed second in a taste testing: http://nymag.com/restaurants/features/67495/

Other points that need to be conveyed to members: Good tasting heirloom tomatoes must be picked ripe which means they will have splits and can be soft (please have people look at article in link above). People must refrain from squeezing and over handling the produce especially these tomatoes as they will be damaged. For example, at the farmers market despite all our efforts we compost and or  sample  of each market day anywhere from 200-400 lbs of mostly heirloom tomatoes that are soft or bruised from handling.

The value of a share containing 3-4 lbs of heirloom tomatoes only is way more than what people pay and if we have a shortfall in produce due to a compressed season we will take the increased value into consideration.


Continuing Heat Shifts Peak Season

Zaid relayed the following this morning:
The heat wave we have had has shifted our peak season by about 2 weeks so you will be getting melons now instead of in late August. In fact, some of our melon varieties will be done this week. As with everything every week and every season brings on new challenges and nothing is the same. Last week we got a message from cooperative extension that late blight was found in Chenango County.
Ramadan started today and the Egyptian crew is both happy and anxious as they will have to work in this heat [without eating or drinking!]. It looks like it will cool down for us some however. Fordham will be joining us for the fall and Farmshare will be advertising the winter share already..what happened to summer???

Heat and Breakdowns Persist, Late Blight Returns

This summer is an unusual one for sure, and it continues to take it's toll on the farm. Here's the latest:

The most heat since recorded meteorology ??? That's what they are saying now..we continue to battle the effects of that; last night another cooler died. All in a day...we are finishing up fall and winter plantings as the window is almost gone...You are getting more and more summer stuff and soon the tomatoes will be coming along. Late blight is rearing it's ugly head again....please pray for us.