Week of October 29th – CSA Newsletter

Throw your hands in the air and wave ’em like you just don’t care for Mudfest 2018! 

This has been a rough month, to say the least. Not exactly what I had envisioned after an amazing summer and a great start to September. But now we are trudging through mud to the finish line, as the 2018 CSA season nears the end. The cool, wet and muddy conditions have caused a great deal of angst this month. There is standing water in many of our fields and many crops just perished with all the wetness we’ve had. Due to the lack of sun and an unseasonably cold late September and October, many crops just haven’t grown to size or barely at all. Ah, such is the life of the modern day farmer.

Operating a CSA is a big challenge, especially with the changing climate. Sharing the risk with great members like you all, make it worth it. Overall, it’s been a fantastic season. We just have a slight limp to the finish line. When I switched to start offering two different share sizes and the free-choice model last season, I wanted to make sure that I could accommodate the variation in the weather and not be bound to a set amount of food each week. I feel great that through 20 weeks of the CSA season, we distributed the high-end (or exceeded) amount of veggies 13 times. I do the best I can to plan around the weather, it’s just that sometimes it’s completely out of the farmer’s hands. 

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Week of October 22nd – CSA Newsletter

Last week was one of the coldest weeks that I can remember for mid-October. We usually experience some light frosts in early October but nothing like what happened this past week. With the temperatures dipping like they did, we focused on clearing out the hoophouse tomatoes and peppers so they wouldn’t be a complete loss. After harvesting those crops, we turned our attention to the field and got as many beets out of the field as we could. That was an eye-opening experience for the students. It was last Wednesday and it was a cold and wet day. As we were out there, the rain turned into sleet for a while. Just as morale was deteriorating, the sleet/rain stopped and the sun was shining. But that was short-lived, as the sleet returned. Everyone persevered through it and we were able to accomplish what we set out to. I also had a window to prep the ground where our garlic is going to be planted for next season. I was a little nervous about getting the tractor back in the field with how wet it has been but the weather cooperated for a couple of days and I was able to get in late Friday afternoon. If everything goes as planned, we’ll plant garlic next week.

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Week of October 15th – CSA Newsletter

Well, after a promising start to last week, weather-wise, the wet, cold weather has come back with a vengeance. Looking ahead at the forecast things don’t look too great for the remainder of the season. We had our first sub 40 degree night over the weekend and it looks like our first frost will be hitting us later this week and the possibility of the dreaded 4 letter S-word. But we shall see. With temps dipping below 40 degrees and the threat of frost coming, many crops will perish with the cold temperatures. It’s been a good run but all things must come to an end. It’s not all doom and gloom, though. Light frosts will actually start to sweeten many of the crops that are still in the ground. And we still have a lot to get out. My hope is that there will still be enough time before we are in consistent sub-freezing temperatures. We’ll do a big push this week to get out as much as we can. We’ll actually start with the peppers and tomatoes in the hoophouses since most of our remaining field crops can handle the weather. Even though the hoophouses add some extra warmth, the lack of sun and close to freezing temperatures will surely mean the end of those crops. If we get them out this week, we should be able to have them for the remainder of the CSA season.

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Week of October 8th – CSA Newsletter

The wet weather of October continues. We got close to 3 inches of rain last week and the fields are an absolute mess at the moment. There’s standing water in some parts and soupy mud in others. We haven’t gotten enough sun to really dry things out. A lot of the late season field work I was hoping for may not happen. I’m just hoping for enough of a dry spell that I can do one last field prep of where the garlic will be planted later this month. One of the benefits of being a mostly human-powered farm, is that we are still able to get out into the fields to harvest and some cleanup projects. It’s not ideal but we are able to do it. I feel for our neighbors who have livestock or dairy operations and are struggling to get corn harvested or hay cut. Aah, the joys of farming.

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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 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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