Farmer John Writes: A Bountiful Crop Report
Harvest Week 18, October 20th – 26th, 2020
In this Week’s Farm News, I will update you on the fall crops. Overall, the crops look the best that they have ever looked at this time in October. Of course, frost is flickering its way onto our fields some mornings, bringing extra challenges to our harvest priorities.
There is guesswork involved in properly bringing the season to a close. Are there enough crops? Too many crops? This year, I believe we will be ending on a bountiful note.
We topped the Brussels sprouts stalks over the last several weeks to encourage sprout development. The sprouts are filling out nicely on many of the stalks; some of the stalks are filling out more slowly. Hopefully, while temperatures still hover mostly above freezing, many more sprouts will fill out to a good size. After some good frosts, the sprouts will sweeten and proceed to convert some of our shareholder holdouts to sprouts lovers.
The last three falls, due to the extremely wet weather, the Brussels sprouts have been very disappointing. This fall, we are encouraged by a more promising harvest. I will also note that the Brussels sprouts tops themselves seem increasingly popular with our shareholders.
We have lots of beautiful fall cabbage coming soon—lots.
The fabulous broccoli crop has mostly been harvested. We’ll still harvest a few remaining heads of broccoli, and likely many broccoli side shoots.
I noted in a former issue of Farm News that due to the intense weed pressure earlier in the season, I compensated by seeding many extra beds of baby greens for fall harvest, anticipating that many of those seedings would be overwhelmed with weeds. I figured that at least a few beds would escape the vast weed pressure of the early season.
Surprise. We have bed after bed after bed of beautiful, mostly weed-free baby lettuce, arugula, and pea shoots. Just as surprisingly, this fall, after harvesting many of these beds, the greens have been re-growing to make for a second harvest, sometimes even a third harvest. I’ve tried in the past to get multiple cuttings from baby greens, and have seldom succeeded. For those of you who love baby greens, this fall is a bonanza. For those of you who prefer fewer baby greens, well, a hard frost will knock them out eventually.
We have an astounding amount of head lettuce. We are getting it to shareholders as fast as possible before we get a hard frost.
Radishes and Turnips
I seeded more fall radishes than ever before, following the same logic as with the baby greens—that some (perhaps all) of the beds would succumb to weeds. Not so. We have lots of mostly weed-free radishes this fall–turnips, too.
The leeks are slow this fall. I think we planted them too late. One variety is now about medium-sized; the other variety is petite. Leeks are frost hardy, so I still expect them to size up a bit, though not to their potential stature.
We have bountiful pac choi to offer this week.
The kohlrabi crop is so-so. It encountered early drought hardship. Additionally, I decided to experiment with an inter-seeding of alfalfa and clover sown into it, thinking that the legumes would nourish the crops. This might have been the case, if the alfalfa and clover hadn’t sprung up so fast. Besides nourishing the kohlrabi, it competed with it. It was an ecological experiment with a disappointing outcome. We will still be offering plenty of kohlrabi this fall.
We are holding back on kale a bit, since it will endure hard frosts, whereas some of the other leafy greens will not, so we are harvesting these other greens earlier.
The first seeding of daikon radishes died. I suspect that the fragile sprouts were emerging just when we were experiencing a bit of drought, and they withered. We re-seeded them later than they should have been seeded to get a good fall crop; however, they are growing crazily fast. We might get a crop of Daikon radishes, not sure yet. We will have Daikon greens for sure.
We have the biggest ears of popcorn we have ever grown. We’ll be offering them soon.
Squash, Onions, Potatoes
We still have ample amounts of squash and onions in cozy storage. The potato crop was not stellar this year, but we still have many bins of potatoes in storage. All of these crops will be offered to shareholders on and off through the end of the season.
The crew is now sorting out garlic for seed for the planting of our 2021 garlic crop, and separating it into cloves. Once this is completed, we will know how much garlic we can still offer to our shareholders this fall.
By the time you read this, hopefully our 2021 garlic crop will be planted. In order to get a good garlic crop, it has to be planted in the fall, then germinate and go through a cold cycle in the winter. Last year, due to flooding, we could not get our garlic planted until December 30th (the only time we have ever been able to do any field work here in the month of December.)
We were extremely fortunate to get a garlic crop this year; if we had missed that rare window in late December, we would have had no garlic crop. The quality of this season’s garlic is not pristine; many of the bulbs are not as large as usual, nor as symmetrical, but still, it’s fabulous-tasting garlic, and the crop was bountiful enough, especially in light of the challenges of getting it in the ground last year.
The carrot saga of this season is…I suppose I could call it bewildering.
We planted a whole field to fall carrots last June, and they succumbed to weeds. For those of you who did not follow Farm News updates early in the season, we spent many tens of thousands of dollars more on weeding than ever before, and still completely lost many fields to weeds, including this carrot field. This organic farm had enjoyed a diminishing amount of pressure from weeds over a couple of decades, until the flooding started in 2017 and persisted for most of three years, allowing weeds to run rampant. I decided to seed our fall carrots in another field. This second attempt at a carrot crop was very successful, yielding many bunches of beautiful fall carrots.
(A shareholder wrote us that our fall carrots were so big they were only fit for a horse, and used that assessment as partial grounds for cancelling her share. Another observer wrote that our carrots couldn’t possibly be organic, they were so big. Hard to please everyone, no?)
I kept tilling the persistent weeds in this first carrot field that had been lost to the weeds, and, finally, about mid-summer, I decided to take a chance by seeding that first failed field to carrots again. Not only did it seem likely that the weeds would triumph once more, it was too late for getting a crop of fall carrots. Well, too late if we were to have a normal fall. It certainly didn’t seem responsible to anticipate a lovely, warm fall; however, a lovely warm fall is what we have been blessed with. Those late-seeded carrots are making a crop—not a crop of big, long chunky carrots (suitable for horses only?), but a crop of lean, lovely carrots.
Two weeks ago, these late carrots were about as thin as pencils. A week later, the biggest ones were about as thick as a little finger. Recently, some of them have achieved the status of tender, medium-sized carrots (with petite siblings in tow.) Your end-of-season, somewhat dainty carrots will be delightfully succulent and aromatic. Imagine, when you are enjoying them, that in a normal season, you would not have received them at all.
I don’t believe I have ever before written such an encouraging crop report at this time of the year. Of course, weather can play some havoc with the remaining crops. However, we are well-positioned with a stellar crew, good harvest equipment and ample amounts of frost-protecting row covers to likely usher us towards a satisfying, perhaps even a joyous, outcome.
2021 Shares Are Available
It’s hard to know what 2021 will bring us. If you want to be part of our farm for another year, you can sign up at https://angelicorganics.csaware.com/store/.
One More Farm Product to Report On
I suppose that as much as crops are products of the farm, and the farm is a product of me, Farmer John, I, myself, am a product of the farm. I realize that the term product is rather commodifying, but for the sake of relational writing, I will, in this section, regard myself as an additional product to the list of products above. As with the other products, what is the condition of your farmer, you might wonder?
You probably know about HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), a federal law to protect sensitive patient health information from being disclosed. Regarding the crops further above, I can write anything about them that I want. They do not benefit from HIPAA federal protection that would prevent such disclosure. Is this fair to them?
As far as my own health is concerned, every time I see a medical professional, they assure me that my medical information is strenuously protected by HIPAA and then they shove a form at me promising they will vigorously uphold the HIPAA act. I usually object, and say that I don’t care at all if the world knows my health details—so what?—and add (somewhat facetiously) that I will only consent to being evaluated and treated at their clinic if a report on my health is made fully available to the public on social media, I then proceed to highlight the irony that in this age of supposed privacy, hardly anything about our lives is private— the model of car we drive; the value of the home we live in; who we winked at in high school German class; our culinary preferences at age 3… it hardly even matters if the information is true. My little verbal disturbance usually doesn’t go down well with the clinic, because most clinics are really proud of how they protect their patients’ information. (Okay, sometimes a clinic’s receptionist at least seems amused.)
Ironically, reports of death are not protected by HIPAA. Death seems like sensitive health information that might be eligible for protection, no? Yet, once someone dies, the news can be spread far and wide of that person’s ultimate health issue.
Anyway, since, as is true of my crops, I am not obligated by HIPAA to safeguard my own health information, I will inform you that my most recent health checkup had me pass in flying colors—pulse, blood pressure, blood analysis. At 71, I feel more fit and resilient than I did 10, even 20 years ago—seems kind of odd to me, but it’s a good report nevertheless. (Please don’t submit this report to HIPAA—I might be breaking one of their rules here.)
My reassuring health report doesn’t mean I plan to farm for another 64 years. I am training in some of my stellar crew members to take on more of the farming responsibility, so that I can at least free up my weekends and my evenings from the workload of farming.
As Frost Approaches,