Cheers to a great growing season! I have so much gratitude for my supportive CSA members, hard working worker shares and family and friends who all helped make this season a success!
Every season I keep a notebook FULL of ideas, failed experiments and successful experiments, notes about which crops did well and which did not so well. At the end of the season, I go back and reread my notebook. Sometimes it's challenging to read all the hard parts of the season like that day the truck and the cooler both broke down. But it's also exciting to read about the successes like when we finally finished weeding the onions and when the cooler worked again and kept working for the rest of season! As I read through my notebook, I write down comments that I had about each crop and I write an overall end of season reflection which I would like to share some of below. My end of season reflection and your CSA survey results are what help me optimize the farm better during the winter months.
Crops that did well:
- Broccoli: nearly 5 weeks straight of this crop in the spring was unexpected and delicious- I didn't think it was possible to get sick of broccoli ;)
- Cucumbers: they just didn't stop producing! I had a lot of fun with the weird varieties like Boothby Blonde and Crystal Apple.
- Kale: yes, I planted too much! But even with the excessive cabbage moths and rot moving through the brassicas, the kales all did well- they are hardy plants.
- Sweet corn: this was a surprising one for me since sweet corn has a notorious amount of forces moving against it. I definitely over-planted but it was worth it because each share size had 2-3 weeks of sweet corn!
- Spinach: a crop that started out the season mostly as a failure in my notebook but turned into a huge success this fall. I was disappointed at the beginning of the season because I barely had enough spinach for my restaurant accounts much less enough for the CSA shares. I vowed I would have fall, frost-sweetened spinach so of course I over-planted and double seeded. But I was able to put an ample amount in two of the last shares of the season and the storage shares. Success!
- Tomatoes: almost always a success :) Over the course of the season, the personal shares got 11#, small shares got 15# and full shares got 20# (not including cherry tomatoes!)- that's a good amount of tomatoes but I hope and plan for even more next season.
Crops that didn't do well:
- Melons: they were tiny, split very easily and not highly productive (mostly due to the weather with a wet spring and then dry, cool -ish summer)
- Cabbage and cauliflower: with the wet spring, various fungus and black rot was prevalent which stunted their growth or if the plants were mature, I had to harvest early to make sure they didn't rot in the field!
- Eggplant: I have a love/hate relationship with this crop. I don't particularly enjoy eating it, it's not really profitable and there doesn't seem to be a lot of CSA members who really love it so I lack the enthusiasm to grow it. And eggplant is not like beans which don't like to eat, hate picking them but CSA members LOVE beans so I'll keep growing them! Next year I am likely taking the year off growing eggplant (maybe trial a new hybrid variety...). This season they looked gorgeous and were the biggest plants I've ever grown but had poor fruit production.
- Storage onions: *cue my complaining about the weeds!* But seriously because it was so weedy we had almost no onion crop. Sad, I know because it's one of my favorite crops to grow and eat! But next season, oh next season, I have strategies to not let this happen again!
- Winter squash: many of you may have noticed the lack of storability of the winter squash this year. You would think (and rightly so) that a pie pumpkin would store on the kitchen counter for more than a couple days but apparently not this season. Between squash bugs, cucumber beetles and various fungal diseases, I was constantly dumping rotting squash to the pigs as I was packing the fall CSA shares. I did my best but I would rather give winter squash even with the risk of them not lasting than not give them at all. I'm sure most of my CSA member would agree with my reasoning.
Other notes on grading produce: As most of you know, CSA is a unique form of marketing that let's you have a relationship with your farm and farmer. You don't have much say in what you get each week in your box; whatever is ready in the field is what you get (although I do my best to give a good variety and delicious, nutritious produce). You learn to eat with the seasons and what the Earth and your farmer has produced for you. So the reality of growing food is much different than the perfect looking and perfectly packaged produce you can buy at the grocery store. What most people don't realize is that before the produce gets to the grocery store, it is first graded according to "quality" and specific size specifications. Quality here means a perfectly sized carrot that the general public is used to eating, never mind that the other oddly shaped carrots taste just as good and are just as healthy (although those don't necessary go to waste, they usually are sold to a processor to make mashed carrots or baby carrots, for example). I'm not sure what came first, the public's assumption of perfectly looking produce or the food industry's push for perfection. It's probably a combination of both. But I, as farmer, think it's totally unrealistic. Sure, I'm always going to grade out split carrots or rotting squash but I definitely am going to give you that oddly shaped bean or cucumber because this is how nature works! The natural world is perfectly perfect in it's and our imperfection. So to get back to where I started on that tangent: enjoy the oddly shaped carrot or potato (I find a heart shaped potato every year!) because it's real and it tastes just as delicious!
Mark your calendar: 2016 CSA sign ups start January 1st, 2016!!!!
Overall, the growing season was abundant and we are very proud to have plenty of high quality vegetables and a nice variety throughout the season. Thank you for supporting your farmer!