An Early Update

Recently we sent this update to our members, written by Cam.

“Hi Everyone!

If Michelle hasn’t already emphasized this, I want to tell you how much I appreciate you being a member of our CSA. We really, really appreciate your support and I have been working 6-½ days a weeks since April to ensure we have the best harvest ever for you.

Which brings me to this early update. I usually provide a quarterly report but this one is early so that we can talk about the weather. This has been the most challenging year for growing food that I remember in my 35 years of doing it.

As John Wise, our organic strawberry grower describes it; this season has been “Drought, Freeze, Flood.” Early in May with summer heat the drought began which forced me to get our drip irrigation systems in place much earlier than ever before. At a time when I should have been aggressively planting I was devoting a great deal of effort into watering what I already had in.

Then on May 22nd we experienced a frost that was unprecedented. We lost stuff like peas and radishes, which has never happened to me, and while sumac and many deciduous trees like ash and black walnut suffered damage, which I’ve never seen before, even our garlic sustained some damage. Garlic emerges in March and will grow through snow so this was not a normal frost. Most often frost early in the season means that the temperature dipped below zero early in the morning but bounces back quickly once the sun comes up. Overnight between May 22nd and May 23rd the temperature dropped to about 5 below and stayed there for about 6 hours, which was just too much for even the hardiest of our crops.

And then the rains started. So thankfully I was no longer watering, but I was focused on weeding. If I don’t stay on top of weeds right they will quickly take over and overpower the crops we want to thrive. Many of our vegetables are just sitting there waiting for lots of sun and heat. And of course all of these challenges hit at the same time as all of our regular pests including cutworms.

This was the shortest season I can remember for strawberries. In the past there have been times when we have managed to pick berries for 4 weeks and 3 weeks has been an average. This year after early irrigation during the drought John Wise was up all night burying his berries in straw before the frost, and still had his shortest picking season ever. Even traditional operations like Paulridge Farm closed after a very short season. So I’m sorry I couldn’t do better for strawberries, but Mother Nature just did not cooperate this year.

Peas are another good case in point. Our members love peas so I planted almost a third more than last year. The frost took a good chunk of that first planting. After replanting I had the usual big gaps where cutworms took them out before I tracked them down, so now after planting some sections three times over the pea crop looks like it have a smaller yield than last year. So please understand if you feel you are getting less of some item than last year, it’s not for lack of effort on our part!

If you look at the big picture weather maps right they show that our part of North America is much colder and wetter than normal, and the west is much hotter and dryer. So B.C. is having heat waves and a drought and forest fires, and we are now getting their weather. It is caused by the disruption in the Jetstream, that high altitude flow of air that traditionally wasn’t too wavy, but which is now behaving quite erratically and dragging brutally colder air down in polar vortexes in the winter, and is now causing our summer weather to be wacky. I believe that it is caused by the diminishing temperature differential between the warm air at the equator and the colder air in the arctic, which is warming almost three times faster than the rest of the planet. Growing food in the time of climate change is becoming increasingly challenging.

Please remember that a CSA season is more like a marathon than a sprint. For me it is front end loaded with work, planting many crops which you won’t see until later in the summer and the fall like potatoes, garlic, onions, carrots, corn, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, etc.

I will continue to do everything in my power to try and make sure we get the greatest possible harvest to our members. Thanks again for supporting local farming.”

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