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Closing June Farm News

The latest from the farm, brough to us of late by Zaid's daughter:

The weather is still a major issue; lots of rain and gloom with little to no sun. Thankfully, though, the crops are growing pretty well. We are still awaiting the arrival of the last three Egyptians. Very recently we have added a trio of Guatemalans to our crew because of this. This weekend we were to host a group of CSA members from Washington Square and Harvest Astoria, but the trip was cancelled, with the hope of rescheduling in September or October. Anyone interested should speak to the organizers there. This week marks the second week that Zaid and Haifa have been at the markets, chicken processing, and the start of the summer CSA deliveries. On a slightly sadder tone, both of the walk-in coolers broke down at the same time, making life quite challenging. On the flip side, the truck that was involved in an accident in NYC is coming back tomorrow. Interesting tidbits from NJ involve a teenage deer living inside a fenced off section of land (there are 12 acres with 8ft high deer fence), and the harvesting of okra.


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.


"Yo-Yo" weather at the farm, but crops generally doing well

The latest from Zaid on temperatures, rain, and pests:

The yo yo weather continues: We had a good dose of summer over  the last 2 weeks which advanced our crops so that we had to start CSA early. Now we are back to high 60s and 40s at night with rain (that was much needed). Upstate NY weather is just so unpredictable and that leaves us guessing as to what is next? Crops in general are doing well and we hoped to not have any cucumber beetles but they too showed up. Cucumber beetles are our worst pest because all stages of the life of this insect effect the cucumber family (cucumbers and squashes). The adults feed on plants and infect them with viruses and bacteria. and the larval stage feeds on the roots.