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.
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.
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.