Farmer John Writes: What’s Money Got to Do with It?
Harvest Week 6, July 28th – August 3rd, 2020
I suppose this is a good time for a crop update, as we are now transitioning to the peak summer crops. (I confess that I was inspired today to write a very different sort of newsletter—maybe next week.)
Carrots, Celery, Cucumbers, and Fennel
Carrots, celery, cucumbers and fennel are typically scheduled to be available before sweet corn and melons, for the sake of variety and quantity. This year, the fennel, and carrots especially, will be mingling with the first offers of sweet corn and melons. The celery is on the way out. The cucumbers are surging like never before; it would be easy to write that we are swimming in them, but one cannot swim in cucumbers.
Sweet Corn and Melons
The sweet corn is completely fabulous, and the melons will yield perhaps the best ever. (I considered writing that there is a carpet of melons in the fields, but I don’t believe there is such a thing as a carpet of melons.)
Important about watermelons: Your watermelon might have red, orange or yellow flesh. If it has yellow flesh, please don’t dismiss it as unripe. It might even be sweeter than a red melon. Please don’t request watermelons of a specific color from us; we are unable to comply. Also, watermelons are notoriously difficult to harvest at their peak ripeness; we do our best.
Tomatoes, Peppers and Eggplant
Tomatoes, peppers and eggplant are just teasing us at this point—fine, as we already have a lot to harvest. (If you do get tomatoes this week, some of them will be little. Unfortunately, one of the varieties of tomatoes that we planted this year grows smallish tomatoes; we won’t make this mistake again.)
The tomato, pepper, and eggplant fields all slope down to a wet area that refused to dry up this spring after the last three seasons of flooding, so those crops will not be as abundant as they would be otherwise. The upper parts of the fields, which comprises maybe 3/4 of each field, are well drained and therefore are looking good.
Lettuce Lull and Baby Greens Void
I will also note that there is currently a lull in availability of head lettuce. Normally, the impact of such an absence is mitigated by large quantities of baby greens, but not this season. I have often shared that the baby greens have been succumbing to weeds this year again and again. Yesterday, we tried to no avail to weed a field of arugula. The beds were 95% weeds and 5% arugula, with the weeds mostly a canopy over the arugula. I am sure some of you miss our normal arugula offerings, but we have been unable to provide you with one portion of arugula all season, same with mizuna, same with baby choi. No matter how many times we tear the weeds up, obliterate them, pulverize them, they keep springing back way faster than we can extract them from the growing crop.
Now that the days are getting shorter, the weeds should abate in their growing power, so I keep tearing up weedy beds of baby greens and trying again. The process is called stale seedbedding, in which we till the soil shallow, in order to kill the growing weeds but not bring up weed seeds from further below the surface. It’s a standard way to control weeds on organic farms and it used to work well on our farm.
I will point out though, that, in spite of a reduction in variety this season, we have been more than making up for the losses though the tremendous yields of other crops. My preference is to give you a lot of some crops than a small amount of more crops. Your farm has been generating an astounding abundance of food this year, just not as varied as usual.
Back to the weeds: I estimate that we are devoting ten times more labor to weeding this year than we devoted to our average weeding effort over the past 20 years. The soil chemistry or biology changed with the flooding, and we have been confronting the impacts of past weather in the form of weeds day after day this year. Some people like to say “live in the moment; the past is the past.” For weeds on our farm, the past is the present.
We have finally installed our overhead irrigation system. We normally install it in June, but this year, the rains have been timely enough so we did not need it until now. For the next several weeks—late July and August—it is not provident to rely on timely rains.
Weather and Wealth
We modern humans have an impulse to monetize—monetize good will, monetize a brand, monetize social life, monetize hospitality, health, farmland, entertainment, and religion. Even life itself today is often monetized: an internet search just suggested that one human life is worth about US$10 million.
Although I am reluctant to do so, I do notice that timely rains and timely sunshine are something like capital, providing for more bountiful crops.
Rudolf Steiner suggested organizing society more or less into three categories, one of which is economic life; the other two are the cultural and the rights life. Unfortunately, the economic life dominates the cultural and rights life today; hence, I can see rain as money. But then, food is at the basis of life, so maybe the way to see rain is as sustenance or survival or life itself. However we view it, weather is still the source of life.
The Stealth of Wealth
It’s hard to not monetize a tractor repair. Our main tractor blew a head gasket last week and probably needs a new head. The whole repair will probably cost $10,000 to $12,000. (Just in case you wonder, a new replacement John Deere tractor the size of ours is about $225,000 today. Try to run a farm and to not monetize the cost of a tractor.)
In the meantime, we are leasing a replacement tractor, because the farm work has to be done, always, no matter what.
Shareholders Weigh In
Shareholders have been posting comments here on our blog like never before, especially on the topic of share customization. Please weigh in yourself if you are inclined.