Still Growing

by Jason Halm, Farm Manager

We see it all around us: as I drove up the farm early Monday morning, an early hard frost had sounded the bell for this summer.  A summer that stretched on so hot and so dry; one that seemed endless, had actually ended quite a while ago. We still, though, could hold on to signs that it wasn’t quite autumn yet: days, until this past week, were sunny, dry, and quite warm. Trees hadn’t quite hit their peak foliage. And we still, until the very end, were able to get a few tomatoes out of the field every week in spite of ever-lowering nighttime temperatures.

Still, we have a month left in our main farmshare season–or, as many call it, our summer season. It’s just that as frosts begin to recur later this month, we will turn, increasingly, to treasures tucked away in storage and underground, in addition to greens and plants like kale and broccoli that have highly sophisticated anti-freezing properties and resistance embedded in their genetic code. Due to these wonders of plant physiology, we expect an extremely strong finish to the end of our main season and a very strong late fall season. We also expect to have at least a few sales after fall shares conclude, beginning in December–so do keep an eye out for those!

And yet, as our main season has yet to end and we still continue to hand out the prizes of a hard and hot summer (potatoes, onions, winter squash, should I keep going on and on?), our eyes turn both toward the future and back to the past. We reflect on the (in our eyes) wild success of this past year while seeking improvement in the next. The improvements stagger and stack on top of one another, leading to a long-term exponential growth in the quality of the farm.

The wins from the past year that I will continue to savor include having pizza nights, having  Hufendick here to sell their locally raised meat and dairy products, and having Emily here to sell flowers. We’re happy to say with certainty that Hufendick and North American Pizza Culinary Academy will be back in 2021. Emily will be returning for her third year on the farm, this year working full time, and will be helping us grow flowers for you as well.

Of course, with the wins came some losses–among them the cancellation of our first planned farmer’s market. This winter we will be looking into other farmer markets to find if there’s a good fit for us. We also will again set aside farm shares for employers looking to subsidize shares for their employees as part of a wellness program (in the same way many employers subsidize gym memberships and other healthy behaviors) and continue our long-standing partnership with Loaves & Fishes to help feed families in need.

We’re also very proud of some of the abundance we’ve had: our tomato and spring beet crops were the best I have ever seen here. We also had good ones, like garlic and potatoes and onions–but in those, we also see a lot of room for improvement. Dan and I have been meeting after the field work is done for the day once or twice a month to discuss what could be done better for next year.

One of the things, from a cropping and planning standpoint, that we plan to improve for next year is to expand choices for all shareholders, particularly in the months of June and July. We began to look into some more heat-tolerant greens this year, and we plan to utilize malabar spinach and heat tolerant lettuce varieties to ensure we meet our goals. We’ve also been playing with how we grow carrots, which has made all but certain that we will have a stunning crop this fall. We’re very excited to try this new cropping system for carrots in the spring, when we believe it will have even more of a dramatic effect.

And although the hard frost has come in the night once, there are still plants growing. Our crew is out here, working at least as hard as ever. The vegetables just keep coming in. The successes stack, one by one, until they begin to multiply on themselves.

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