Dear CSA Members, Friends, and Family,
It is always my hope that these newsletter reach you with news of the farm's beauty, growth, and grace under pressure. Last week certainly tested our faith and resilience in our calling as organic farmers, and it is my great responsibility to share with you, dear members, the lows as well as the highs. I sincerely hope that this letter reaches your hearts, as well as your inboxes, and that you understand this as a temporary setback from which, with your support, we will shortly rebound. Poughkeepsie, our member meeting last Tuesday evening fills my heart with courage – Thank You sincerely for your warm encouragement, support, and "chin up" advice. There is, I am glad to report, light at the other end of this dark tunnel
Stewardship and regeneration of land that has been abused with conventional farming methods, bombardment of chemical cocktails and genetically modified organisms for decades will of course come with various unforeseen hiccups and bumps in the road. The last two properties where we farmed had their own difficulties, and we thought we were prepared for such things. Last week, however, we were hit harder than ever before. Cut worms, a common nuisance in gardens and farms, crawled out of our garden beds and ate our crops in unprecedented numbers. No farmers we have spoken with have experienced their presence at such a rate as we just lived through. These small brown caterpillars, which hide beneath the soil in the day and creep out to decimate plants in the dark of night, outright decimated 2 acres of June's harvests-to-never-be. Perhaps it was the mild winter, perhaps it was part of population boom due to growing resistance to aforementioned chemical cocktails, perhaps it will never be known why this particular May brought such numbers of cut worms to our garden; in any case, it has distinctly affected our garden and harvest plan, and we must adjust accordingly.
In case you are wondering, you can deal with these garden pests with physical controls on a small scale – placing collars or toothpicks around the stems of your young plants, or setting out traps of beer or grape juice. We were finding 5-7 cutworms around each afflicted plant over a 2 acre area, and so physical controls became untenable. For the first time in our farming career, we resorted to organic pesticide controls, starting with a Bt product called Dipel, and switching to a Spinosad product called Entrust when Dipel failed to slow the tide. Both products are listed by the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) for use in organic production, although that does not mean that we use them lightly. For instance, Entrust will readily kill honeybees if we failed to use it responsibly, and we must take care not to spray in ways that would negatively effect the ecosystem we are dedicated to helping find its balance. I'm also not terribly thrilled to be supporting Dow Chemical Company, manufacturer of Entrust as well as Agent Orange and GM crops. Hence our prior refusal to resort to such sprays, even when OMRI approved for organic production, when flea beetles would eat millions of holes in our brassicas or Colorado potato beetles and leaf hoppers took down our potatoes before full maturity. We also wholeheartedly trust and believe, from prior short term observation as well as anecdotal evidence from more experienced organic farmer-mentors who have weathered such storms 20 years ago as they transitioned their land to organic production, that this land will recover, and gain in health and strength and prosperity, readily and quickly when treated right.
And so, resorting to sprays was indeed an emergency response, and not our long term solution.
All of this to say, I am sorry to report that we will not be able to start this season's CSA shares on our normal early June delivery date. I am thrilled to report that July's cucumbers, carrots, squash, peppers and eggplants were untouched, and our latest plantings of lettuce and other fast growing greens and roots are doing well. We have just finished transplanting our tomatoes, and our seed potatoes are in the ground ready to sprout. More cabbages, kale, lettuce heads, broccoli, greens, and even kohlrabi have been seeded to replace the lost crops. Our trial crop of Brussels Sprouts are readying themselves for transplant, and the winter squashes and pumpkins are on the verge of germination.
We estimate at this time that our first deliveries will be the last week of June or the first week of July. We will, of course, extend the season on the other end, into November as needed to complete the number of weeks of harvest promised. Copake, we may share our one surviving June crop of spinach, and a few other odds and ends, and of course if any of you would like to travel up to visit us you would be welcome to some spinach as well. This will also effect the contents of the Berry Share, as strawberries are only available in June, and we will work to replace them with fruit such as peaches, wild Maine blueberries, or raspberries as available.
Thank you for hanging in there with us through this difficult time.
Jen, Jon, and Sammy
Lindsey and Big Sam and their farm dogs Andy, Schlomo, and Piglet