Farm News

Farmer John Writes: The Reign of Rain

Week 10, August 15th – 19th

Your Box This Week — Saturday Deliveries:

Please note: this summary is written before we pack your box—be aware that some guesswork is involved. As always, be sure to thoroughly wash all of your vegetables.

Fruiting Crops — Tomatoes, Sweet Corn, Heirloom Tomato (maybe), Eggplant (maybe), Sweet Pepper (maybe)

Root Crops —  Bunched Carrots, Potatoes

Cooking Greens — Kale

Salad Greens — Lettuce, Purslane (in bag, learn more here)

Alliums —  Sweet Onion, Purple Storage Onions

Herbs — Cilantro

Sign up for the Free Recipe Service
Make sure you sign up for the Local Thyme recipe service we offer with your share. Local Thyme offers storage and handling tips and recipes customized to each week’s share. It has received many great reviews from our shareholders. Check out this sample recipe: Mexican Corn Salad.

The Rain Won a Round
Due to the flooding, we finally lost some crops. I thought that we would squeak by, because of our management practices, timely field work, and healthy soil.

I have written about this season’s weather in many issues of Farm News. In Week 8, in a section titled The Color of Weather, I described a heroic achievement by our crew of getting crops in the ground before a deluge of rain the prior Wednesday night. I wrote:

     “Oh, my, did it rain again that Wednesday night!”

     On Friday afternoon, after the pack, I could smell Lake Michigan 60 miles away in the wind coming from the east. That’s rare; it only happens every several years. This time, though, it wasn’t just the lake and the fish I smelled; there was a mucky, swampy odor in the wind. The breeze was picking up the festering odors of fields between here and the lake; fields with standing water; fields that won’t dry; soil that has become anaerobic; corn and soybean roots rotting, dissolving, like our carrots.”

That Wednesday night storm took many of our crops beyond their threshold of endurance. Some of the seed we put into the ground that Wednesday afternoon floated to the surface, as the soil became liquid with the rain. And the roots of many of the crops—tomatoes, melons, winter squash, celery, and to a lesser degree peppers, eggplant, cucumbers and zucchini—just gave out, dissolved, rotted. The tiling (drainage) line that runs through our fields to the southwest, which we had upgraded a few years ago, could not remove the water from the sodden fields nearly fast enough. About 1/2 of the melons were lost, 1/4 of the winter squash, 1/3 of the tomatoes. It’s not that the crops were submerged in standing water; it’s that the roots could not breathe. They were deprived of their usual rhythm of drying, moistening, drying, moistening, and they succumbed. 

We usually sell many shares after the harvest season gets underway. Fortunately, this season, because of the weather uncertainty, I did not strongly encourage sales of shares. Our reduced sales this year have been a match, more or less, for our reduced yields. 

On the Mend
I personally supervise each pack, prioritizing fullness, quality, diversity, and beauty. We gratefully have been able to fill the boxes full every pack; however, the composition of the boxes this season is not typical. There’s been more sweet corn than usual (the sweet corn was grown on well drained fields this season), fewer tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and melons. Kale and chard seemed to go into shock with the flooding and they came to a standstill, so there has been a gap with cooking greens. Lettuce has been scarce, because we could not get it into the ground in a timely way, due to the rains.   With the recent letup of rain, the cooking greens are making a robust comeback, and the lettuce is now finally approaching maturity. Also, the heirloom tomatoes seem to be faring better than the regular tomatoes. Conditions are normalizing a bit.

Onions have held up surprisingly well in the wet weather

It’s a miracle that we have been able to fill the boxes full this year, and I think we’ll be able to keep filling them full for the rest of the season. I re-iterate, though, that the normal composition of the boxes, especially for the next few weeks, might not be your ideal for a Peak Summer CSA experience.

Maybe, Probably, Likely
We do out utmost to be clear about box contents and that they may vary. For instance, in every issue of Farm News, we write: Please note: this summary is written before we pack your box—be aware that some guesswork is involved. 

When we share a photo of the box contents on our Facebook Page, (usually posted Monday evening or Tuesday) we note Share contents may vary over the course of the week.

Our fields do not provide an exact number of eggplant, tomatoes, peppers, or melons to correspond with the exact number of boxes that we pack. When we don’t know for sure if something will be in every box, we are clear about that in our list of box contents in the newsletter. We make our best guess. When we aren’t sure if a crop will be in each box, we duly note maybe, probably, likely…

We grieve that we do not have the ample amounts of melons, tomatoes, peppers and eggplant that we normally can provide our shareholders. All that work, all that money, all the preparations for a crop—typically going back one or two years before the crop is raised—are wasted. It’s very sad. On the other hand, it’s glorious and astounding that we can still fill your boxes full each week. As a lifelong farmer, I recognize this as a true miracle.

We Like Hearing from You, but not Always
We welcome legitimate questions/comments from shareholders about their box. We like to be alerted to quality issues—squished tomatoes, broken melons, wilted greens, etc. However, we also receive observations/complaints about the composition of the box. We cannot adjust the composition of the box much, if at all. We harvest what the fields provide. Of course, we plan the sequence of crop availability before the season starts, but, once the season starts, we have to take what comes. I have emphasized before in Farm News that we are not a store, not a warehouse—that we are blessed that we can fill the box with crops this summer, even though it might not be the optimum combination of peak summer crops. (I suppose I should add here that we cannot customize boxes according to shareholders’ individual preferences, though we do get asked to do this.)

A friend of the farm suggested doing a demographic analysis of where the shareholder complaints come from. I suppose that an internet company that specializes in writing complaints for individuals would be interested in knowing from which zip codes the most complaints are generated, and then could target their services to those areas.  

LetterWritingService.Net states that “some letters are too important to risk writing them poorly.” The service offers “Custom Written Letters for Everyone.”

I don’t believe I have yet received a professionally written complaint about the box. I imagine that a professional complaint letter would go something like this:

Immediate Action Requested
Dear Mr. Farmer John Peterson,

My client did not get his honeydew melon. The melon was vaguely alluded to in his list of Box Contents. In today’s data-driven world of precision and specificity, there is no room for vagueness. You must have this melon somewhere. If you don’t, you certainly could get it from Amazon. Amazon recently bought Whole Foods. Whole Foods must have a honeydew melon. Here is a page for locating the Whole Foods Store nearest you: www.wholefoodsmarket.com/stores/list/state. Please drive to your nearest Whole Foods store and select a honeydew for my client. When you deliver it to him, make sure to mention this letter.

Alternatively, you could probably get Amazon to deliver the melon to my client. You could do all of this through the internet, without even visiting Whole Foods in person and selecting the melon yourself. I’m sure someone at Whole Foods would pick out a nice melon for my client, and that Amazon would deliver it with the utmost of care. (Even if you don’t personally deliver the melon to my client, please let him know that this letter caused his melon—not your farming skills, not the weather, not your fertility program nor your dedicated crew; assure him that the melon was solely caused by this professional letter.)

With Utmost Professionalism,
Hired Letter Writer

P.S. My client sent me a link to your publication Farm News. I have read each issue of the 2017 season with great interest, and enjoyed learning about the innovative CSA model. I sincerely hope that the rains have not been a problem for your farm or your customers this year.

Ongoingly,
Farmer John

Please Fold Your Boxes Properly and Return Them
The farm re-uses the vegetable boxes. Flaps are easily torn when the boxes are dismantled improperly, and then the box bottom might later burst open with fresh, organic local produce heading towards the floor. Please carefully flatten your box and return it to your delivery site. If you receive home delivery, place it in the location where your box is delivered.

Let us Know
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