farm update(s) 1 and 2 for the 2011 season

there was a little glitch in the communication-chain and we did not receive the first pre-season farm update that our farmer John Kruger wrote mid May – so with apologies for the late delivery: please find below the first farm update for the Season.  And since we are now on track with communications, we received the second farm update from John in time, and you can find it after the jump as well.

FARM UPDATE #1: mid May:

Hello Everyone,

It was a long hard winter and then when spring came, it didn’t! March was one of the coldest I can remember and April was one of the wettest. So here we are at the first update of the season and I’m already complaining about the weather. In farming almost everything we do is dictated or affected by the weather. We need rain but not too much, we need heat but not too hot and hurricanes and hail we hope to do without. Moderation in all things, but in these days of extreme weather we rarely get the ideal balance. Every year is different, but it’s amazing how different this spring has been from the spring of 2010 which was warm and relatively dry.

We have been busy since early March planting in the greenhouse. Normally we begin seeding certain crops and transplanting onions in the field in early April. This year, due to the wet conditions we were delayed until Mid- April and even then only because we have sandy soil at the farm in Andover and I was able to find a few windows of opportunity in between the bouts of rain when the ground was dry enough to work and plant. I was forced to change my plans and plant the onion crop in Andover rather than at the original Starbrite Farm location near Blairstown. The soils there are a heavy clay and do not dry out quickly; an advantage in a wet year but a problem during a wet one. It’s unfortunate because the onions have always grown well there and since they are not grazed on by the critters and are harvested at one time, it was a good fit.

Needless to say we a bit behind in our planting, but my crew and I are working hard to get caught up. It’s hard though, when May is already a busy planting month and you’re still planting crops that should have gone in in April. It brings to mind a favorite line from a Dylan song- “odds and ends, lost time is not found again”

Ironically, now that the weather has started to moderate and I have been able to sow numerous types of tiny seeds we have had to put the sprinklers out, after a week without rain. The smaller the seed the more shallowly it must be sown and the top layer of the soil dries out quickly in the sun and the wind.

The beets and the chard are already coming up, but the carrots and the parsnips take 2 to 3 weeks to emerge and must be kept moist during that time. I have just finished planting nearly an acre of peas, most of which have already come up and been growing for several weeks. We have nearly finished planting the potatoes and onions, there are thousands of lettuces and Cole crops in the ground and growing well. The greenhouse is full of tomato, pepper, squash and other plants ready to be transplanted in the next several weeks.

We are working hard to ensure a bountiful season, but the first couple of deliveries will not be as large as  they were last year. We hope to compensate for this as we go through the season. I hope to see and meet  many of you during the coming weeks at one of the farm events.

Enjoy the spring!

Farmer John

FARM UPDATE #2: June:

Hello Everyone, I see that it’s been over 3 weeks since my first update; time flies when there’s too much to do!  At that time we were in the middle of a dry spell, the first of the season and we were trying hard to get caught up on the planting schedule.   We almost did get caught up and then the rain started again and it rained, or was overcast for a week.  I was scrambling to plant as many seeds I could that week, ahead of the predicted rains. I got quite a bit in, unfortunately, too much rain can be almost as bad for germination as too little; heavy rain can wash the seeds out or bury them too deep. It also compacts the soil and when the sun returns, it bakes the soil surface producing a crust that is difficult for tiny seeds to break through.  Perhaps the worst crop in this regard is spinach, which simply will not germinate when conditions are too wet.  With my third planting of spinach only one out of the three varieties I sowed came up well.   In other bad news, we lost nearly 1,000 cauliflower plants to buttoning- forming a tiny head before the plant has grown large enough and hundreds of broccoli plants succumbed to root disease because of the sustained wet conditions.  The fava beans are an almost complete crop failure, due to cold wet conditions in the early spring, which caused many of the seeds to rot. Those that did emerge seemed stunted and now many have been destroyed by the deer, which had never shown an interest in them previously. So that’s the bad news.

Now for some good news. The lettuce crop looks beautiful and the peas are flowering heavily. The potato crop looks great so far and we have beds already waiting for the sweet potato plants to arrive. We have planted thousands of peppers, eggplant, and tomatoes with a few thousand heirloom tomatoes left to be set out.  We are beginning to plant the melons this week, with a 2nd planting to follow in a week or two. Zucchini and other summer squash should begin to produce in another 2 or 3 weeks. While we lost some broccoli we still have thousands that will be heading in the next month. We have also already begun to seed the fall brassica crops in an attempt to get crops ready for harvest in Sept. and October. The bottom line is that while it’s hard not to get discouraged by the ravages of pests, diseases and adverse weather, we don’t give up. There will always be losses and crop failures, but we forge ahead, replant when possible or look for another crop to replace a lost one.  I and my crew are working hard to insure a bountiful season.

Thanks to those who came out to help cover the high tunnel greenhouse over Memorial weekend. Many hands makes light work, as the Amish say, and things went very smoothly.       I hope to see many of you at the farm visit this Saturday and have a chance to show off the results of all our work.                Keep your fingers crossed it’s not too rainy!    Farmer John

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