Week of September 17th – CSA Newsletter

Even though the end of the season is in sight, the amount of work that needs to be done each week is still a pretty long list. I spent some time last week with the student interns discussing what the end of the season looks like and where our priorities lie. There are many projects that still need to get done before the ground freezes. And with how temperamental the weather can be, who knows when that will exactly happen. We’ll revisit our list weekly but some of the big projects that we have left are to sort our seed garlic, prep the ground where garlic will be planted, weed and mulch our newly planted strawberries, prep the hoophouse and greenhouse beds for winter plantings and harvest, harvest, harvest!

Last week we began to harvest beets and potatoes. The name of the game this time of the year is to try to get ahead as much as possible because we don’t want to have too many storage crops that are still in the ground when the weather really starts to turn. Another big project that we got done was to “top” all of our tomatoes growing in the hoophouses. Topping the plants means to cut off their growing point. This is an important task because we want to have as much fruit as possible ripen before the season is over. If we left the plants as is, they would still continue to put on foliar growth and fruit clusters. With the days starting to shorten and the temperatures starting to cool a bit, there just isn’t enough time to grow and ripen fruit. The topping signals to the plant that their time is almost up and they begin to put their remaining energy into ripening.

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Week of September 3rd – CSA Newsletter

And just like that, we’ve hit September. It’s crazy how fast the farm season can go by. It seems like last week we were deciding where the season’s crops were going to be planted. September always is a crazy time on the farm because the summer crops are still cranking at a good pace but some of the fall/winter crops are ready to be harvested or will be soon. The end of the season is in sight, although it seems so far away. This time of the year is a mix of harvest/planting/cleanup projects. But this is Upstate New York, and we know that the first frost will be here before we know it. I actually had a very realistic dream (more like a nightmare) over the weekend that I woke up to a light frost and I never closed down the sides to the hoophouses. The result was that all the tomatoes and peppers growing in them had bitten the dust. It took me a few minutes but I was relieved when I realized that wasn’t the case.

The past week was a great one with all the new student interns. We spend a lot of time harvesting for their first few weeks before diving into some of the other farm tasks. I think that this is a great time of the year to expose folks to the basics of harvesting because there is so much to do. I really stress to them the importance of harvest and post-harvest handling of the vegetables that we grow. The proper harvesting techniques, times of day that we harvest certain crops, sorting and washing of crops and proper storage of vegetables. These are all extremely important so that you and all of our other customers can have the highest quality vegetables. 

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Week of August 27th – CSA Newsletter

Welcome back to all my Tompkins Cortland colleagues. I hope you all had a great first week with the hustle and bustle of students back on campus. The new semester means a new “crop” of student interns on the farm. And if the first couple of classes are any indication, it looks like a terrific group that will be spending time with me on the farm. Most of the interns this semester are new students enrolled in the Sustainable Farming and Food Systems degree at the college but we always seem to attract students from other degree programs. This semester there are a few students from the Culinary Arts program. I’m always excited when there are students who care enough about where their food comes from and want to learn some aspects of agriculture. I get especially jazzed when Culinary Arts students are on the farm. I think that it can have a huge impact on their experience at Tompkins Cortland when they can have the hands on experience that ties in the production side of things with the food that ends up in the kitchen and eventually on our plates. I believe this is the fifth semester in a row that I have had at least one student from the Culinary Arts program. 

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Week of August 20th – CSA Newsletter

Farming can be a cruel profession and this past week was a perfect example of that. You spend months in the winter to plan for the upcoming season. You order seeds, maybe pick some new varieties, spend time on a marketing plan, figure out what you’re going to grow and how much of it and so on. The season always starts out with so much hope and enthusiasm. Sure, you can control for pests, weeds and disease to the best of your ability. But once those plants go in the ground, you are at the mercy of Mother Nature. We lucked out for the most part, but the rain last week was devastating for many farms in the area. Friends of mine in Schuyler County got 9 inches of rain early last week and a large part of their farm was either washed our or under water for part of the week. Pretty incredible. Now, I don’t want to go off on a Climate Change rant but the trend over the last few years has definitely been more extreme weather events, especially with precipitation. The annual average rainfall may be consistent to what it’s been over the last decade but there is no denying that we have experienced more extremes, weather in rainfall or drought. This is where you, the CSA member, plays a part. One of the main principles of CSA’s is that it is a shared risk between the farm and its shareholders. When there is crop loss due to disease, pests or weather, the farm doesn’t take the entire hit because of members like you. That loss is felt across the CSA. Just like in times of bounty (like our tomatoes), the entire CSA gets to benefit from that. This is also a perfect reason why crop diversity is so important, especially for the small-scale farm. Throughout the growing season, some crops do well and some don’t and many times it’s for reasons that are out of the control of the farmer. So, I just wanted to take the time now to thank you all for supporting the TC3 Farm in times of abundance and in times of failure.

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