Monday, October 29, 2012

Fall 2012 update

As we brace for the strange weather coming our way, there's no question that summer is now over.  Our fall session is nearing an end as well.  We have this week and next, followed by the mega-box (actually 2 boxes +) the following week.

My quick review of 2012:
  • It was hot, hot, hot and dry, dry, dry.  The mild winter was nice in the beginning.  I didn't have to worry too much about covering the plants in the hoops and had many days of above-freezing temperatures so I could water (I still get water to the hoops with above-ground hoses).  So that was good.  Then we had the crazy spring heat wave for weeks in a row which brought on early-blooming of perennials, etc.  We grow mostly brassicas over the winter and when they are exposed to prolonged periods of about 55 degree temperatures, they think it's time to go to seed (bolt) which happened.  Luckily we still had enough food to get through it all.
  • Spring came relatively early which was OK - wish I had planted potatoes in March!  But I waited until mid-May.  I planted many rows of early crops March 15, the day of the tornado which ripped through Dexter.  Luckily we only suffered flooding - no real wind damage but others were not so lucky.  Many seeds were washed away so I re-planted 2 weeks later.  Those early plantings of chard, beets and carrots carried us through at least August.
  • With the early warm weather came an earlier hatch of pests.  Specifically, flea beetles.  They're always bad and just chow down on spring growth.  If they get into a brassica seed bed, they'll kill all baby plants.  They did kill many plantings but enough managed to survive.
  • June was dry.  July worse.  We do irrigate using drip irrigation.  This year I even had the well repaired at our rented property so that the potatoes and tomatoes could be irrigated.  Both June and July were stifling - record heat, drought.  I kept watching the drought map as we moved from "Abnormally Dry" to "Moderate Drought" to "Severe Drought".  It was a doozie.  I seeded many fall crops in flats this year, mostly in hopes of escaping the flea beetles and in part  and transplanted them in mid June.  Luckily they took and we're going to have the best brussels sprout harvest ever!  Broccoli, too, did very well.  I seeded spinach 3 times and none of it took (well a plant every 5' doesn't really count).  It germinated but just couldn't make it past the heat.  Fortunately, other crops did better.
  • Summer was generally shorter on greens and heavier on fruits.  Since we grow in the hoop houses, tomatoes and cucumbers were in good supply starting early.  The summer squash also did pretty well.  Beans didn't do as well as normal which was disappointing but overall, I was pleased that we were able to distribute so much despite the heat and lack of rain.  It was interesting to watch the plants turn more yellow over time - especially evident in the summer squash.  Lack of rain also means lack of nitrogen in the air.  As the rains returned slowly, the plants increased their vigor.
  • Now that we're back to fall, I have a bit more time to reflect.  We've gotten most of the fields cleaned up and cover-cropped and are working to finish planting the hoops.  This year I'm transplanting many plants from the fields to the hoops - small lettuces, chois, scallions, chard, etc.  The carrots were planted in mid-August and are on schedule for winter production.  The spinach seeded a few weeks ago is also looking good.  We finally pulled the last of the tomatoes, sweet and spicy peppers from the hoop.  Our front entry is over taken by crates of these fruits.  Those beds will be seeded this week.
Enough for now.  Let me know if you'd like to sign up for winter, spring or next summer.  Thanks!

Why a CSA, communication and other info. about our farm

Wow - it's been so long since I posted that I almost forgot how to add a post the "long way" (vs. hitting the post picture button on the i-phone).  Throughout the season, I generally send members e-mails with updates and interesting veggie info.

If you're checking in here to figure out whether or not to join our CSA, I encourage you to review the recommendations that some of our members have made via Local Harvest -  Input our zip code under the CSA tab (48103) and scroll down until you find our listing.  I haven't figured out exactly how that site preferences listings so you might have to search.

There are so many CSA options now available which is a great thing.  So how do you make a choice about where to join? 
  1. I encourage people to make sure that they're joining a CSA because they really want to.  Whether it's because you want super-fresh veggies or because you want to help ensure a stable food supply by supporting a local farm or because you have a desire to eat more veggies or because you want to connect more deeply with your food.  Any of these reasons alone are enough to make the leap but hopefully, over time, all of these reasons will keep you coming back to your farm.
  2. After you decide to join, call the farmer or go and visit.  It's a big commitment to pick up your veggies every week.  Some find that it will save you time because you don't have to go to the store and make choices about what to buy.  Others find the opposite because they're so busy and it's a hassle to add one more task to the list.  I find the most satisfied members are very flexible with their menus.  So, whatever you choose, the pick up needs to be enjoyable so make sure the farm and its distribution method fits with your lifestyle.
  3. Review the past distributions.  I maintain a blog which is attached to this one that's called "What's In the Box".  It's not all encompassing but it does include photos of most of the distributions so you can get an idea of what we distribute.  I try to give enough for 2 serious veggie eaters or a family with young children and I also try to distribute enough so that you get at least what you paid for.  Depending on the time of year, the amount will vary.  For example, the first two summer distributions are generally relatively small as the plants in the field haven't matured.  Right now, during the fall season, the distributions are huge and include everything from tomatoes and peppers to bok choy and winter squash!  Members are able to prepare food and freeze it for the winter months.   Generally every season has it's peaks and valleys.  When the winter distributions begin we'll still have some storage crops to offer along with fresh greens from the hoops.  As we turn to spring, we'll have more greens.  If we have another blazing hot spring, the plants in the hoops will bolt (go to seed) so the mix will change.  This is how it goes.  We offer a mix of fruiting veggies, root crops, and greens.  Fruiting veggies generally don't hit their peak until late summer to early fall.  In 2011, we supplied lettuce nearly every week (it was rainy and a bit cooler so greens did well).  This summer we didn't have much lettuce but had tons of eggplant, tomatoes and peppers (dry and hot which greens don't like).  In general, I focus more on heartier greens which you can use in salads but can also be used in cooking (yukina savoy, spinach (winter and spring), tatsoi, arugula, mizuna, mustard, etc.) than on lettuce.  We work to provide a variety of types of veggies.
  4. Make the plunge.  If you get into it and find that you're over-whelmed with veggies, don't feel badly.  One of the biggest reasons that I find that people quit is because they feel like they're wasting veggies.  It's OK if you don't use every last scrap.  Your participation keeps the farm going and if you have extras, you can always bring them back and feed them to the goats or add them to the compost pile.  I'd rather give you too much, than not enough.
All of this said, please join our farm.  We need to maintain full membership to keep on growing!  Any questions, please call me at 734-761-3554.  Thanks!