As many people know, farming isn’t a set formula. Every season, every year brings about familiarity and challenges. While last year finally saw the end of a three year drought, this year the heat, humidity, and heavy downpours that pass as storms lately have brought their own challenges. As always, CSA shareholders share in our challenges and our successes. Here are a few of the things that have challenged us this growing season:
Our first planting of squash and cucumbers:
Took a hard hit from pests like the striped cucumber beetle. Early plantings of Cucurbitaceae (the scientific name for the family of plants including squash, zucchini, and cucumbers) are typically the most susceptible to damage from this pest because they are subject to the feeding of emerging overwintering beetles. Adults feed on the foliage while also laying their eggs on the underside of the leaves. When the eggs hatch, the larva burrow themselves into the ground to feed on the roots. This can be damaging to the crops not only because they are being munched on, but the striped cucumber beetle is also known for spreading diseases such as bacterial wilt and the cucumber mosaic virus; which can cause the slow death of the plant through blockage of water transport and misshapen, discolored, bitter fruits (respectively). Through diligent field scouting by our staff, we were able to spot this problem in enough time to save most of the crop. Our manager called our farming partners at Ward’s to come by and help us out. By using an organic approved spray, the beetles are naturally killed and repelled away. The area that this first planting of Cucurbitaceae occurred also attracted other pests such as woodchuck (you know, our beloved ground hog) that were feeding heavily on our squash and zucchini.
Eggplant and Colorado potato beetle
An early heavy infestation of the Colorado potato beetle (CPB) occurred in our eggplant field early on this year. Our staff, alongside several shareholders, who were all trained on what to look for, worked hard to eradicate the infestation. Armed with gloves, kneepads, and a good sense of humor, every single eggplant in our field was hand inspected and protected by literally crushing the opposition with sheer human force. All CPB eggs, larva, and adults that were found were killed to protect our precious crops from being devoured before we had the chance to do so ourselves. Now we are all enjoying the “fruits of our labor” in the form of eggplant parmesan and baba ghanoush
Broccoli has been tricky for us this year. Our initial planting did not yield nearly as much as we were hoping due to the scorching heat of the early summer combined with an inconsistent rain.
What a growing year for weeds
This year has been the year for a battle against weeds. Conditions have been very favorable for the growth of weeds and this has caused many problems for our crops. Weeds inhibit the growth of our crops by battling them for sunlight and nutrients. Unfortunately, the straw that we lay down between our rows to help prevent growth of weeds has not been sufficient for this years weed growth. This has caused the excessive growth of certain weeds such as different species of Amaranth (also known as pig weed) This weed grows very tall, very fast, and also develops a thick woody stem that is not easily trampled or cut down. To combat our weed problem we run a machine known as a Bachtold, which can be described as similar to a beefed up lawnmower. The Bachtold fits perfectly between crop rows and mows weeds down enough for sunlight to reach our crops. The machine is very heavy and also temperamental, requiring a great level of skill to run successfully. Although effective, this method can also cause some inadvertent damage to crops that may reach out of their row and into our path. In addition to fighting these weeds in active crops such as tomatoes, we are also working very hard to keep our 20 rows of strawberry plants weeded so that we can enjoy their sweetness again next June.
Potato and phytopthera fungus (late blight)
If infection of this fungus is expected through adequate disease forecasting, an organic preventative copper based fungicide can be applied. Phytopthera is a water based mold and therefore thrives in moist conditions. High humidity, like we have been experiencing during our summer here, is beneficial for the growth of this harmful oomycete (water mold). The canoeing of the foliage of potato plant is an early sign of this infection that we were able to recognize with the help of our Farm Manager. After infection has occurred, this can be combated by the removal of the foliage, which can prevent the infection of the tuber itself allowing for harvesting as normal. This year, we ended up harvesting potatoes a bit earlier and we are able to divvy them out at a more reasonable rate for you.
Do you have questions about how some of our other crops are doing? Let us know – we want to share more about our work farming for you. Your commitment to sharing in our challenges and successes is so appreciated. Living healthy, happy, fulfilling lives all starts with what you choose to put into your body. Choosing local organically grown produce is the first and most important step. Although we have our struggles, the fight for organic agriculture is worth the effort. It takes a community to work together to make any farm a success. Being surrounded by a community of caring individuals who are conscious of what they put into their bodies is truly something for us all to be thankful for, and is a constant source of inspiration for us here on the farm. Thank you for your commitment and we look forward to the rest of the season with you all.