Week of July 18th – CSA Newsletter

So, guess what folks? The US Drought Monitor has upgraded our area to “severe” drought. I’m not sure that designation brought any relief to our students or plants but I guess it’s nice to have some validation. We’ve gotten a little rain in the last week but again we need some soakers. I’m not too worried because next weekend is Grassroots. In all my years farming, the two guaranteed times that it rains is sometime during Ithaca Festival and sometime during Grassroots! In all seriousness though, we got a big boost this week from Ray and the Grounds crew over at Tompkins Cortland Community College. They had a large water tank that they weren’t using and have allowed us to put it in action. Watering with the tank on the back of the truck is a slow job but it only takes one person and the tank lasts a couple of hours. It sure beats taking 3 folks and constant trips back to the barn to fill up 5 gallon buckets. Yikes!! And even in this crazy dry weather, we keep planting. This past week, we transplanted over 2000 Fall brassicas.

woodchuck damage 2016
Groundhog damage on squash and broccoli
covered lettuce
Protecting lettuce from groundhogs

This week, I wanted to move the focus of the newsletter away from the lack of rain and towards the importance of diversification. I’m going to get to it in a slightly roundabout way, so follow along with me. For those of you who have been members of the CSA before, you have read my wonderful little rants about groundhogs. Now some of you may think that they are cute and cuddly looking but let me tell you that they are vicious, crop destroying little buggers. Growing vegetables organically, I usually figure that we will have 10% loss of any bed that we plant. Whether that is from disease pressure, weed pressure or pest pressure. Groundhogs fall under pest pressure. We know that they like brassicas (kale, broccoli, etc.), lettuce, sometimes peas but this season I have seen unprecedented damage from these nasty little vermin. Not only has this drought (not really focusing on the weather here) affected our crops performance and yield it has pushed the groundhogs to find more food and go after crops that I have never seen damage on before. I am sad to report that they have taken multiple bites out of all 800 Spring broccoli plants, the 200 early summer squash plants, countless heads of lettuce, cucumbers that are on the vine, 500+ feet of  Spring peas, Spring carrots. I have permanently displaced 9 since Friday morning! We are doing some things that I’ve never done before like cover lettuce after planting. We’re pushing for a big late summer and fall harvest, so we’re going to extreme measures.

Ok, so back to diversification. First thing is that we grow a lot of different types (about 40 or so) of vegetables on the farm. Families of vegetables usually have specific pests that do damage. Well, that’s not happening with these groundhogs right now. They are going after just about anything. Another way that we can diversify on the farm is how and where we grow things. Our crops in the field have a lot going against them at the moment but we have 4 covered spaces that we have a lot of control over (how much water, can protect from the elements, easier to monitor for pests). Well, those areas are doing pretty good at the moment.

Ginger in the greenhouse
Ginger in the greenhouse

The ginger is starting to thrive, our pepper plants are lush and green and our tomatoes are going to be in your bellies in a few weeks.

Ripening hoophouse tomatoes
Ripening hoophouse tomatoes

A third way that we can diversify on the farm, is our marketing channels. We have 3 main ways that we market our product: CSA, Farm Stand and Restaurant sales. Well, right now we are committed to you, our CSA members. Our farm stand and restaurant sales are down so far this season because we want to get you as much food as we can at the moment. You are sharing the risk of the growing season with us.

I’m not trying to be down. I just wanted to let you into my thoughts. We’ve got a lot of the season left and I’m optimistic that we will finish strong. Just hang in there 🙂

So, that leads us to this week’s share. There are still garlic scapes, kale and swiss chard. This week will probably be the last week of fresh garlic. We’ve started to pull the garlic to let it cure in the upstairs of the barn. garlic2016There will be a couple of new items this week. There will be basil from the greenhouse and kohlrabi. Don’t laugh when you see the size of the kohlrabi. It’s one of the crops that is getting hammered by the groundhogs and I just want to get it out of the ground. A few of you may be asking yourselves, what in the world is a kohlrabi? Kohlrabi is kind of a cross between broccoli and cabbage, crunchy and sweet. It can be eaten raw, cooked, roasted, grilled or just about anyway you want it. I took some of this (micro)kohlrabi over the weekend and peeled it (you always want to peel it) and sliced it in about 1/4 inch pieces. I lightly coated it with a coarse salt and pan-fried in olive oil in a cast iron pan until they were a little crispy. Super yummy. Small amounts of the u-pick mint, thyme and oregano are also ready.

Have a great week folks!

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