We are inching our way to the midpoint of our CSA season. It’s hard to believe, but it is happening. These next couple of weeks on the farm is just treading water, spending most of the time harvesting for the CSA, our farm stand and restaurants. Anything else that gets done is just icing on the cake until the fall semester starts and my new “crop” of interns show up. I’ve been lucky this summer to hire a part-time worker and even better is that he is a graduate of the Sustainable Farming and Food Systems program at Tompkins Cortland. It’s been so nice to have someone here that is familiar with the farm and how we do things. In addition to all of last week’s harvest, we managed to get some field projects done and a little bit of transplanting. We were stopped in our tracks last Wednesday but that storm that rolled through. It was the first time all season that we got one of those really hard rains during the middle of the work day. It showed up while we were in the middle of planting some bok choi for the fall and just kept coming. We powered through finishing the bed but were soaked to the bone and shifted to inside work after that. I think we ended up with close to 1.75 inches of rain that day.
Last week was the final week of our Summer Internship on the TC3 Farm for the students in the Sustainable Farming and Food Systems program at Tompkins Cortland. For most of them it was their third and final semester on the farm. This cohort has been an absolute pleasure to have out here and their “growth” has been amazing since they first stepped onto the farm last fall. I feel that they’ve all come a long way in their personal growth and as a learning community. For those of you on campus, if you see any of the farming students, please say thank you for all their hard work. They are a big part of what happens on the TC3 Farm, from crop planning/rotations in the winter months to planting and harvesting in the summer and everything in between. I look forward to seeing where and what they all end up doing next.
We kept very busy on the farm during the last week. In addition to our weekly harvests and trying to keep up with the weeds, we did one last big planting. We got 14 beds of fall brassicas in the ground, including cabbage, collards, cauliflower, kohlrabi and napa cabbage. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that we have a long enough season and that we can keep the pests (mostly the woodchucks) at bay.
I started to have flashbacks to last season with the weather we were having in the early part of last week. 3 plus inches of rain in 3 days was a lot to handle, especially with the heavy downpour we experienced on Wednesday. I was starting to stress that we weren’t going to be able to get back into the field to finish this season’s plantings. But that stress subsided when the rain stopped and the sun came out on Thursday and Friday to dry out the fields and get us back on our way. Things definitely slowed down with the amount of field work we were able to get done but we managed clear out the last of the early carrots that were planted and the rest of the garlic. So, all the garlic is now hanging in the upstairs of the barn curing away. Garlic won’t be in the CSA share again until the end of August, at the earliest. After it’s done drying, we will sort out the largest, most uniform bulbs to replant for next year.
Well folks, it looked like all the dancing at Grassroots worked and our rain prayers have been answered. In all my years farming, the summer’s guaranteed rain events happen during Ithaca Festival and Grassroots weekend. Now today’s rain was a little heavy at times, but beggars can’t be choosers, so I’ll take whatever we can get. And the veggies will definitely enjoy it.
For last week’s field trip, we went and visited Groundswell’s Incubator Farm. The Groundswell Center for Local Food and Farming is a non-profit based out of Ithaca that is near and dear to my heart. I’m a former Farmer-Educator for them and currently sit on their board. The TC3 Farm and the Sustainable Farming and Food Systems degree at Tompkins Cortland are here today because of Groundswell. Long story short, but Groundswell created a Summer Practicum that was offered for credit through Tompkins Cortland in the summer of 2010. That first summer students decided to put on a Local Foods celebration to culminate their work. Former college president, Carl Haynes was invited and asked to say a few words. One of his comments was that it would be great to see this as a degree program one day at Tompkins Cortland. And the rest is history. If you’re not familiar with what an Incubator Farm is, it’s a farm that offers land to growers at an affordable price and often provides shared equipment and technical advice. What makes the Incubator Farm at Groundswell unique is that their target audience are those who are traditionally underrepresented in agriculture (women, persons of color and New Americans). Liz, the farm manager, gave a great tour of the different operations at the farm and some of the obscure vegetables growing there. About half of the folks farming there are Karen Burmese refugees and many of the crops that they grow are not traditionally grown in our region.
Ok, so this is going to be one of those weather newsletters. It’s been dry and hot out there. So, I need everyone to put on their dancing shoes and start doing a rain dance. It’s not as bad as it was 2 years ago but we are definitely due for some rain. I’ve started to see some reports that we are approaching drought-like conditions. Because we got some good snow this winter and some really good rain events earlier this season, we are in pretty good shape. but a lot of the crops are in a holding pattern. We even took last week off from transplanting because I didn’t want the newly planted crops to struggle to survive. We have the ability to water but setting up the irrigation is very cumbersome so I just usually try to wait it out. I’m ever the optimist but I think my gray hair is getting a little grayer.
That being said, we kept plugging away with the weeding on the farm and made a huge headway. July is high time for weeds on a farm and we are doing our best to stay on top of everything. We made it through our onions and leeks last week and started to work our way through all of our other crops. I tried to make everyone feel a little better about all the weeding by letting folks know that I have friends that are hand-weeding 350 foot rows, so our 100 foot rows aren’t so bad. I’m not sure how that worked :). In addition to all of our weeding and cultivating that we did, we also managed to hill our potatoes. Hilling potatoes is an important job because it allows us to increase our yield per plant. The more of the plant that is covered with soil, the more potatoes we should get. It also helps with exposure to sun. With every rain event, we have a little bit of erosion, so we don’t want to expose those precious little tubers to the sun. We’ll hill again at least one more time before we start harvesting and if we’re lucky, we’ll get a third hilling in.
I hope that everyone had a good 4th and got time to enjoy the day with family and friends. It was mostly a quiet week on the farm with the students having a mini-break but we kept plugging away at our weekly list of tasks to do. July is primetime for weeds on the farm, so we are doing our best to stay on top (but mostly catch up) of them. We’ve made it through all of our onions and now just have a few beds of leeks and shallots to get through and then we’ll move onto the next priority area. Today we welcomed some new friends to the farm. This is our third summer partnering with Challenge Workforce Solutions as a job site for youth workers as part of their Youth Employment Program. It’s been a great partnership and I’m looking forward to another summer with them as part of our team.
Our hoophouse/greenhouse crops have really been enjoying this stretch of weather and this past week we spent a good amount of time in them. Our continual pruning and trellising of tomatoes, some solid weeding and the trellising of our sweet peppers all happened.