Farmer John Writes: Water Poured Through the Walls
Harvest Week 3, July 7th – 13th, 2020
Last Monday evening, it didn’t really seem that it was rain falling on the farm; it was more like a lake falling. The air was so saturated with water that I wondered if it would soon be hard to even breathe, if the storm might actually drown us. This lake of water gushed in through the walls of our barns, as though they were sinking ships. It poured in through roofs that don’t leak. (I don’t mean to imply that the farmstead was actually under water; it was more like it was in water, or water was in it.)
During this deluge…well, deluge is too modest a word…during this flood, I could only wonder about the damage to the crops.
Afterwards, the sweet corn was leaning severely. It has since straightened back up.
The potatoes were flattened into the mud. Now they are upright and growing astoundingly fast.
The pounding water tattered the choi, ripped and split its leaves, crumpled some of them. We salvaged what we could out of about 2000 heads of green choi—600 heads or so qualified as suitable for our shareholders. If you receive choi this week, and you think it was too damaged, know that we labored tediously over the grading of it. The harvest and grading took probably 3 to 4 times what it would normally take, due to the storm.
Strange Strengths Against the Storm
The beet leaves held up quite well to the storm.
The summer squash and zucchini stood straight and firm, perhaps even proud, after the storm. They often snap at the base of their stalks during a storm like this—not this time.
The lettuce was not shredded.
More about the Crops
I hope that you feel we are offering you a nice variety—about 10 to 13 vegetables and herbs for each delivery—and a sufficient quantity of crops. Your share variety and quantity so far is in spite of extreme weed pressure that has caused me to tear up about 27 beds (3 fields) of salad greens so far this season. It’s not possible to keep the weeds out of these beds. Well, it’s possible, but it would require at least 150 hours of weeding, or about $2,500, per bed, and I don’t have that much money or labor available. In the past, to keep these beds free of weeds so that you could enjoy arugula, mizuna, baby chard and baby lettuce would maybe have required 15 hours of weeding or about $250 per bed due to less weed pressure. Other than in these salad greens, we have been able to manage the weeds here. (I wrote more about weeds earlier this season in Farm News: Important Update about Your First Delivery.)
You can look forward in coming weeks to lovely carrots, radishes, kohlrabi, cabbage, beets and more. Sometimes, a crop is not available to all of our shareholders, because there is not enough to offer for the full two-week (odd week, even week) cycle. I try to ration crops so that their availability is spread out over two weeks. I am not always able to achieve this, such as when we experienced a major shortfall as in the choi this week, or even a slight shortfall, as in the garlic scapes. This past week, we had no scapes available for the final deliveries of the week.
I will keep trying to find ground that will not overwhelm our baby salad greens with weeds. We went for about 20 years here without major weed pressure, because we had a strict policy of controlling weeds, no matter what. The past three seasons of flooding caused the weeds to proliferate on the farm. We could not control them. These weeds begot more weeds which begot more weeds, hence the absence so far of a variety of baby salad greens in your share.
I have seeded and torn up and re-seeded some of the same beds of baby greens three to four times this season, in the reasonable hope that these eradications of weeds through tillage will finally put the weeds to rest—not so, so far. Normally, by this time of the season–post Summer Solstice–weed pressure subsides. We are still tilling weeds into supposed submission. It seems they should soon give up.
Why have I recently been remembering monogrammed sweaters from the 60’s, I wondered? Then I realized that in some way, your customized boxes are monogrammed. I suppose that’s cool, from a certain perspective.
Most shareholders who have written me regarding my observations about customization in Farm News, Week 1 are either neutral towards the feature or they have suggested that we eliminate it, often commenting that they like the element and challenge of surprises in the box, or they feel protective towards the farm’s time and money. Of course, some shareholders prefer the customization process. I suppose we should conduct a survey to get a clearer picture of what shareholders want overall.
I recently did a little rough math to calculate just one component of the customization process—labeling the boxes. The labor for labeling the boxes takes about 80 hours per week, or about $1300 per week. The labels cost maybe $200 per week, so that effort itself of just doing labels for customization is about $1500 per week. Renting the customization platform is astoundingly pricey, at about $5,000 per week. Often people suggest that we create our own customization system, but I am sure that Harvie has way, way over $1,000,000 in development costs in their customization platform. The last thing I want to do is to get mired in the myriad details of coming up with our own customization platform. I am a farmer, not an IT person.
Managing our own refrigerated home delivery service was nightmarish in the beginning. We made a guess that we could do all the deliveries in five days per week. This very wrong guess was based on a lot of deliberation and consideration as we were getting accustomed to the routing app that we use. We knew that we were probably going to be wrong, but we were attracted to the efficiency and management of doing home deliveries in five days a week. The routing app made this seem sort of feasible.
We had to go to seven days a week of home delivery, in order to have each route take a reasonable amount of time. This required a lot of complicated re-scheduling and re-notifying. Now the routes take around ten to eleven hours each. We have a main driver and also a relief driver (both are fabulous). As we get more accustomed to the whole process, we may be able to take on more home deliveries. We are thrilled that we can now deliver boxes to your homes cold, and also knowing that they are handled with the utmost care.
Customizing is a burden, an expensive burden, but we might keep doing it next year, depending on shareholder input.
Managing and implementing home delivery is a burden, an expensive burden, but we are thrilled to be offering it (and it is already becoming less of a burden).
More Next Week,