Week of June 20, Distribution #3

The News From Windflower Farm

What’s in your share?

  • Mixed salad greens, bunched
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Lacinato kale
  • Purple kohlrabi
  • Red radishes
  • Bunching onions
  • Garlic scapes
  • Broccoli
  • Summer squash or zucchini

Some of the lettuce has become oddly elongated because it was growing in a weedy bed. You might pluck the leaves from the stem for a better eating experience. Your fruit share will be Yonder Farm’s sweet cherries.

What’s new on the farm

The more I pay attention, the more I realize that every growing season is strange. It’s the extremes of hot and cold that make this one noteworthy. Over the weekend we travelled back to early April weather, and today we have returned to a seasonable 80 degrees. The early warmth of May explains why our Happy Rich and bok choy bolted early and our strawberries came and went before our first CSA distribution (fruit share members have been getting Yonder Farm’s strawberries, which are a later variety than ours). I’m not yet sure what this weekend’s cold temperatures will bring, but I imagine it was fine for our greens and broccoli and likely a setback for our cucumbers and other warm season crops. Risk mitigation is large part of my job description. Growing a variety of crops is one strategy – we include some vegetables in our crop mix that are happy with hot weather (zucchini, chilis, sweet potatoes) and others that want the cold (lettuce, arugula, Swiss chard, kale). And a second strategy calls for plastic-covered greenhouses and caterpillar tunnels and spun polyester fabrics to cover such sensitive crops as peppers, tomatoes, ginger and basil. I was weeding in a pepper tunnel during yesterday’s cold blast and it was like taking a short excursion to North Carolina.

An article in July’s Scientific American called “Thirsty Air” described something that farmers already know – more rainfall (or irrigation) is required in a warming world in order to keep up with increased evaporation and plant transpiration. In the Southwest, that means 8 to 15% more; here in the Northeast it is less dramatic, at least in a humid year. In a year like this one, when we are experiencing a rainfall deficit of several inches, low humidity and high winds, a good deal of our energy goes into irrigation. We spend our time powering up pumps and hauling sprinklers and reels of drip tape around the farm. Nate maintains an irrigation schedule on a simple spreadsheet. Our entire farm is covered by at least one of three irrigation sources and sometimes all three can be running at once.

Most strategies deployed to mitigate risk require material inputs – especially plastics and fossil fuels. This year, because we can’t stand the stuff, we’ve greatly reduced our use of plastic mulches, confining them to those warm-loving crops that simply would not perform without them. And we’ve moved away from overhead (or sprinkler) irrigation in favor of water-conserving drip irrigation and reusable drip tape. But conservation often comes with its own costs: less mulch means more weeding, and more drip irrigation can result in more plastic waste unless a way is found to pick the tape up so that it can be reused. To address the increased weeding chore, we’ve added specialized cultivating tractors to our small fleet. And to facilitate the reuse of drip tape, we’ve purchased a tool that rolls it onto a spool at the end of a season and built another that lays it out again at the beginning of the next season. Finding good answers to these production challenges is part of what it means to farm well. 

Have a great week, Ted   

Author: Central Brooklyn CSA

The Central Brooklyn CSA (CBCSA) is dedicated to working with our partners the New York City Coalition Against Hunger, Windflower Farm, and the Hebron French Speaking SDA Church to continue the work of building a Community Supported Agriculture model that increases access to fresh, local produce for all members of our communities, regardless of income level. Join us as we continue to bring fresh, organic, affordable and nutritious vegetables and fruit to the Bed-Stuy, Crown Heights, and surrounding communities.

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