Week of July 2nd – CSA Newsletter

We (and the plants) survived the mini heat wave. I hope that you did, as well. I would have been a little more stressed going into the weekend but we got just over an inch of rain last Wednesday right before the temps started to rise. After a heat index over 100, the rain this evening will really help to get things popping in the coming week. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Last week was another busy one with lots of things getting crossed off on our weekly lists. With all of our big plantings behind us, we are now able to turn our attention to cultivating and weeding. The big task we started was to start to liberate our onion/leek field. After last season’s complete onion failure, I am determined to have as a successful crop as we can. We put about 6000 transplants of sweet onions, red onions, yellow storage onions, leeks and shallots in the ground this season. And they will need a lot of maintenance throughout the season. We started with an early season cultivation but as we continued to get plants in the ground and start harvesting for the season, the weeds began to thrive. So, now we’re at the point of hand-weeding. It’s not the most glorious job and definitely not the fastest, but it sure is satisfying. To be able to look down a bed and see a nice stand of plants without any competition from weeds gives everyone on the farm a tangible accomplishment.

Hello! Onions, are you in there?
Oh, there you are.

(Shameless plug time.) If you want to come on out and enjoy that feeling, join us for a Farm Friday, from 10-12. 

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Week of June 25th – CSA Newsletter

Well, June has zipped right by. It’s hard to believe but the summer internship for the Sustainable Farming and Food Systems students is just about halfway over. The students continue to impress me with their work ethic and how quickly they are picking up life on vegetable farm during the summer. Last week was a big week of transplanting on the farm. We got all of our winter squash, melons and second round of summer squash and cucumbers in the ground.

A field of winter squash planted and covered.

It was a lot of work to get them planted, fertilized and covered with remay, aka row cover. We use row cover on our cucurbits (and brassicas) to protect them from pests while they are getting established. The main pest that goes after all the squash, cukes and melons are cucumber beetles. These little buggers can affect the plants in a few different ways. First, they can stunt the plant’s growth, especially when they eat the flowers. They also can transmit bacterial wilt and do damage to the fruit. There aren’t many effective organic sprays that also won’t harm our many wonderful beneficials, including bees. So, we don’t do any spraying. Instead we use cultural controls, which includes row cover. We also try to select varieties that have good disease resistance. This season we are also using a trap crop to hopefully lure the cucumber beetles away from our main crop. We have two beds of a Hubbard squash that is supposedly more attractive to cucumber beetles not covered. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that it has a positive outcome.

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Week of June 18th CSA Newsletter

Ok, so it was hot out there today! But we managed to get in most of the harvest by mid-morning. Now, if you’re new to the TC3 Farm CSA, you’ll soon find out that I end up giving a lot of weather updates and how it’s affecting the season. It’s inevitable. I won’t dive too much into it this week, but I just wanted to acknowledge that. This past week, we were kept busy with more transplanting, lots of cultivating (aka, weeding with tools) and hoophouse tomato management. We are growing 25 different varieties of beefsteak, cherry and heirloom tomatoes in a fairly intensive system. All the varieties are indeterminate, which means that they will grow as tall as we let them (or season length). We keep a single “leader” and each week we go through the houses and “sucker and trellis” the 730 plants.

Suckering and trellising tomatoes

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Week of June 11th – CSA Newsletter

Well folks, we made it! The start of the TC3 Farm CSA is here. It’s hard to believe, but we are embarking on our 5th season and I’m appreciative that you are taking this journey with us. We have a long way to go, but the farm has grown immensely since our first summer when it was me and a rototiller. It’s been a whirlwind start to the season. We broke ground about 3 weeks later than we usually do because of the cold wet spring we had and then things got unseasonably warm. Definitely a strange start to the season but we are doing our best to be resilient. There’s a great group of student interns this summer who have been working their tails off since they started at the end of May. We’ve been doing our best to get ourselves caught up. I don’t have an exact number but there are probably close to 20,000 plants in the ground already. I think we’re about a week behind at the moment and with all the uncertainties that come with farming, I’d say that’s pretty good. I could go on and on with all that we’ve been up to but that would take way too long. Some highlights so far for this season are: we have 25 varieties (700 plus plants) of beefsteak, cherry and heirloom tomatoes planted in the hoophouses, 1000 new strawberry plants got put in the ground and after last season’s complete onion failure (I don’t even want to get into it), there are 6000 onions, leeks and shallots in the ground and they are doing pretty good.

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Week of November 6th – CSA Newsletter

Well, folks, we made it. The 4th season of the TC3 Farm CSA is complete. A big heartfelt thanks to all of you for supporting the farm this year! It really means a lot.

Just like last year, the weather had a huge impact on the growing season. I know I’ve mentioned this in earlier newsletters, but after experiencing an extreme drought and extreme wet weather in back to back years, I’d take the drought over the wet 10 out of 10 times. They both have their own issues but we can do more in a dry year. A wet year like this poses a whole lot of problems. First and foremost, it’s hard to get fields prepped when it’s always raining. And that throws planting schedules off or plantings get completely missed, especially with a lot of direct seeded crops, which happened plenty of times. Then there’s the weed pressure. All plants love water and the weeds are no different. Disease pressure also tends to be a little higher during a wet season. The plants rarely had time to dry out, which made them a little more susceptible to certain diseases. Pests are pests and they will always be an issue but I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen more snails or slugs than I have this season.

Even in an extremely wet year, there were a lot of positives. This was our largest CSA membership to date. We’ve almost doubled in shares since our first season in 2014. Again, thanks to you all who have been with us since the beginning and to those who have joined over the years. I also think that our new share options worked out pretty good. It’s always a little nerve-racking to think if there is enough food each week but I think we did well in that department. Even with crop failures (I’ll get to that in a bit), there was a good amount of diversity each week. I think that there were only a few weeks out of the 22 where a new item wasn’t introduced. And let’s give a little shout out to carrots and spinach. Those are two crops that we have struggled with over the years. In previous years, there may have been 1 or 2 distributions of little dinky carrots and that definitely was not the case this season. This was also the first year that we had spinach in this shares. It definitely wasn’t as often as I would have liked (or what we had planned) but it was a start.

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Week of October 30th – CSA Newsletter

Sunrise rainbow over the farm!

Well, here we are folks, the second to last CSA pickup of the 2017 season and the night before Halloween. The wind is howling this chilly night. Where I grew up the night before Halloween was known as Mischief Night. The only mischief I’m getting into these days is eating a few too many pieces of candy corn.

This past week, we checked off another item on our end of the season list. We got our garlic planted. Garlic is the one crop that we save seed to replant the following season. We sort our bulbs when we harvest them at the end of July and the largest most uniform bulbs are saved for seed.

Garlic cloves awaiting planting
Cloves going in the ground

I usually aim to plant garlic at the end of October, using Halloween as my guide. I was feeling like it would be good to get it in last week and I’m glad that I did. We got some serious rain Saturday night into this morning out on the farm. It made for a difficult harvest today, with our feet sinking in the mud. I can’t imagine it being any better later this week because of off and on rain in the forecast. 

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