Summer Storms, Drift, & Cure

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Summer Storms

As a farmer, I check KY Mesonet and weather apps as often as most people check social media. May was unusually dry (less than 2”) and warm, but June has been unseasonably wet (almost 12”) and mild. It was a good call to tuck our peppers, tomatoes, basil, and summer lettuce under the protection of the tunnels, because disease loves the wet and cool, However, some of our other crops haven’t fared so well. Half of our remaining carrots and potatoes have rotted in the ground.

Healthy carrots

Healthy carrots

Rotten carrots

Rotten carrots

I just finished listening to a great book, Water In Plain Sight, and the author illustrates how the “if you don’t like the weather, just wait five minutes” will come to be more like five months. The swings between deluge and drought will become longer and more intense. The mitigating factor of whether or not the farms of the not-so-distant future will be able to weather these conditions is organic matter, or soil carbon. It goes deep into how soil carbon can not only mediate between erosion and water-logging, but also hold onto water when the environment is hot and dry. Most of the book is dedicated to how our current agriculture is both the largest contributor to climate change… and has the potential to be it’s best and most lasting solution. Spoiler alert, organic no-till will be a significant part of it. So will cows (the author also wrote Cows Save the Planet). However, like with the carrots above, it takes more than not tilling and a little compost, it takes several seasons of intense observation.

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Drifted

These should be bushy, foot-and-a-half tall, blossoming bean plants. But, for the third consecutive year, we’ve been drifted (likely 2,4-D/glyphosate). One of the reasons why we moved to southern Allen County was an effort to minimize herbicide drift, it being beef country down here, but it doesn’t seem to be working as well as we’d hoped. Unfortunately, our albeit-later-than-usual first planting of beans is not going to grow out of it. Fortunately, it was only the beans, and could have been far worse. So, we’ll pull the beans, plant a cover crop of buckwheat, and resow them elsewhere in the garden for a late crop.

Being drifted is quite an emotional experience. Our livelihood is already subject to several factors over which we have little to no control (and are becoming less predictable with each season, see Summer Storms). Add the negligence of other farmers to the list. Given the nature of volatization of these herbicides, there is no way of knowing where it came from. Not only did we suffer economic damage, but it is in the air we breathe. We talk a lot about property rights as farmers, but what about responsibilities? Chemicals don’t respect property lines.

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the Cure

No, I don’t claim to know what to do about the negative effects of the current state of agriculture (see: Drifted). Despite conventional wisdom, the solution, indeed the cure, is not more technology (mechanical, chemical, or genetic), it’s a better understanding of soil biology. There is a growing—already overwhelming—body of evidence to support regenerative agriculture and it’s ability to not only grow more food—yes, enough to feed the world—but also restore farmland. The tools are there, already in the soil, should we choose to work with them rather than against. The information on how to grow better is out there, too, some of it on a website/podcast we created with Jesse Frost of Rough Draft Farmstead, No-Till Growers. Regenerative and no-till farming are even getting main-stream attention. However, there are still significant cultural challenges. How do we convince other farmers it is worth the work/cost, especially when it takes several years to see results? How do we economically support farmers during transitions to better practices? And how do we make sure communities are fed and engaged in the meantime? The tools are there, but how to we support their use? By the way, CSA members, you’re doing more than your fair share, and we really appreciate y’all for it.

For CSA Members: Week 9

Here’s what you can expect in the share for the upcoming week:

  • The last of the greens until Fall, probably kale

  • Cabbage

  • Carrots

  • Scallions

  • Potatoes

  • Bell peppers

  • Squash & zucchini

  • A big ol’ heirloom tomato

The peppers are really beginning to size up. Instead of picking most of them green, because we’re impatient, we’re going to do our best to wait until most of them ripen to their true color, when they’re also more flavorful and nutritious. We’re about a week or two away from having a consistent supply of tomatoes for everyone. The Summer lettuce is growing amazingly fast, we hope to keep up our replanting schedule, and should be ready in two to three weeks. We may also experience a bit of a break in our squash/zucchini as the next succession catches up from the last round of rain (we’re also trying to not burn everyone out on it), cucumbers too.

No inspiring recipe for the week, but we did find a really cool free app to help you with the produce in your CSA. We’ve clicked through it and, though it needs a little work in the seasonal availability department (it doesn’t really account for season extension in high-tunnels and greenhouses), there are great tips for storing and cooking your fresh veg.

Last, we’re already crop planning, doing soil tests, and ordering seeds and soil amendments for Fall and Winter. In addition, our annual infrastructure payment is coming sooner than expected—we assumed it came due on the day the loan was approved, but surprise, it is due the first day of the quarter we received it—and we’re about to upgrade our irrigation capacity in expectation of a hot and dry Fall. Oh, and baby is due in two weeks! Needless to say, we’ve got a lot going on. If you are sure you’re going to continue into the Winter CSA season (November through April) and would like to make a contribution toward your membership, be it a month or the whole season, we’ll give you a 10% early bird (err… baby?) discount.

Take Care,
Jackson

Ps. Our friend Anastasia will be womanning the booth this Saturday and Jordan will be returning the following Tuesday. From there, I’ll be taking over market and CSA drop for the foreseeable future. See you then!