Notes from the Field: CSA Week 6


As of today, we have 47 different crops in various stages of growth at the farm. Some of those crops are further subdivided into different varieties: we grow over 20 different types of tomatoes alone! Some of these crops we’re currently harvesting for your share; some, like tomatoes,a eggplant, and broccoli, won’t be ready until August or October. And we don’t plant each crop just once–for many crops, we plant multiple successions to ensure availability over a longer period of time. We plant 20 different lettuce successions over the season, for example, each one over 1000 plants.

All these vegetables jostle for room in a farmer’s mind, competing for attention. In a single day we might harvest mature vegetables, rescue a still-growing crop from the onslaught of weeds (by hand or with our cultivating tractors), transplant young plants from our greenhouse out into the fields, and plant new seeds in the greenhouse. On top of that there’s irrigation, tractor work, the flower garden, and dealing with insects and deer who want to eat your food as much as you do. It takes a lot of planning! Farming means more than tractors and getting dirty: it means organization, spreadsheets, schedules, and (at least for us) smartphones.

Each type of plant has different needs and different preferences: the same weather that makes peppers happy makes lettuce very sad indeed. When it rains, we’re happy our crops are getting watered but we’re aware of the risk of tomato blight that comes with damp conditions. Farming organically means we’re more susceptible to the whims of nature, but we have our ways of making it work. Organic farmers learn to balance risks, to include redundancies and backup plans in the crop rotations, to prioritize the crops that most urgently need attention, and to admit when it’s time to give up on that bed of radishes the wireworms have half devoured. We hedge our bets, and we get creative when things don’t go according to plan. The past week of dry, 90-degree days left us with a very unhappy patch of lettuce, but we put together an impromptu custom salad mix (including arugula, tatsoi, and spicy mustard greens) to make sure our shareholders would still have plenty of salad options despite the smaller lettuce heads.

All of this means a little bit of unpredictability, both for us and for you. We try our best to ensure a full array of delicious seasonal veggies for everyone, and we hope that when you see a bit of uncertainty showing through in the list of what crops might be in your share next week, you see that uncertainty as a sign that you’re eating food that’s grown in a way that respects the land and works around its challenges, rather than trying to control it using methods that hurt the land and reduce the quality of the food.

As a final note, I am delighted to thank Olivia, our flower manager, for her hard work on the beautiful flower garden, and to report that as long as the weather cooperates we will probably have pick-your-own flowers starting for CSA shareholders this week!